Christmas compendiums are becoming something of a tradition, although not quite an annual one, over at Mack Avenue Records with the newly released It’s Christmas on Mack Avenue. It follows their prior release of two volumes of the cleverly titled Jazz Yule Love over recent years. It’s a tradition worth pursuing. Good music can’t help but spice up the joy of the season. And if it gives Mack Avenue artists an opportunity to whet audience appetites for more, who can argue with that.
So, what do you get?
The album mixes mostly familiar fare mixed with a lesser-known piece or two. It opens with trumpeter Sean Jones joined by saxophonist Tia Fuller and pianist Orrin Evans driving their way through “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Fuller follows with a low-key take on the sometimes sappy “Little Drummer Boy,” with Kim Thompson channeling the drummer boy. But then along with such Christmas classics you get the Christian McBride Trio’s boisterous “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto” and the Hot Club of Detroit’s jazz hot version of the Charlie Brown Christmas’ “Skating.”
Vibraphonist Warren Wolf does a more traditional Vince Guaraldi version of “Christmas Time Is Here” and adds some elegant solo work on “Carol of the Bells.” Pianist Aaron Diehl contributes a solo version of “Christmas Star” and then leads bassist David Wong and drummer Quincy Davis through a rhythmically dynamic “Sleigh Ride.” In contrast to their take on the James Brown number “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto,” the Christian McBride Trio does a gorgeous nocturnal “Silent Night.”
And don’t forget the vocalists: Cyrille Aimée’s “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” is introduced with an ironic musical nod to Hawaii that focuses her sun shining vocal. Sachal Vasandani adds a swinging, jumping “Winter Wonderland.” Award-winning Cécile McLorin Salvant closes the album with a reflective, pensive “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
It’s Christmas on Mack Avenue is as happy a celebration of the holiday season as a jazz enthusiast is likely to find under the tree this year.
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