There are Christmas albums of all sorts out there. From ones by the Jingle Cats to Justin Bieber, holiday albums are all the rage this time of year. As people put up their trees and decorations, it’s common for a little bit of musical cheer to float through the speakers and mingle with the eggnog.
Lucky for you, dear readers, the days of confining yourselves to the glittery wares of Kenny G’s Miracles or Christmas on Death Row are gladly over. And as much as the shopping malls try to shove the festive spirit in your ears with repeated carols and Mariah Carey tracks, you can soak in the sounds of these holiday records this season and put a hip spin on Christmas.
Now obviously there have been some cool Christmas jazz records before, including offerings by Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald and Dave Brubeck. These new holiday records feature uniquely modern twists on familiar carols and standards, bringing Christmas around with a little bit of extra spice.
Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack – A Very Gypsy Christmas
Recorded live, this record features jazz guitar virtuoso Doug Munro and a band that many jazz cats will love. Ken Peplowski (clarinet), Cyrille-Aimee Daudel (vocals), Howie Bujese (violin), Michael Goetz (bass), and Ernie Pugliese (guitar) conspire to bring about gypsy jazz-inspired Christmas carols.
Fans of Django Reinhardt’s work will dig what Munro is up to, with 15 cuts of classic Christmas stuff getting some serious reworking. Munro doesn’t play with the melodies much, but he does jazz up traditionals like “Let It Snow” and “We Three Kings” with his distinctive style.
A Very Gypsy Christmas kicks off with “Sleigh Ride.” Peplowski adds clarinet inflections as the track trots off in the snow. Munro draws a vivacious solo over Pugliese’s sound time-keeping. “Green Sleeves,” the romanesca, gets a slower treatment that draws out the traditional folk song’s more haunting qualities. Bujese’s violin is a welcome touch.
Munro has released some 11 albums as a leader and has been in over 60 recordings as a sideman, arranger and producer. He also has over 75 original published compositions to his name. He’s no slouch in the guitar department, either, bringing a subtle but sturdy essence to every note he plucks and chord he strums. Munro is an incredibly balanced player, too, and knows when to step back in the arrangement to bring its full feeling to bear.