Carla’s Christmas Carols
Carla Bley with Steve Swallow and the Partyka Brass Quintet
ECM/Watt CD WATT 35
I’m somewhat finicky about holiday music, banishing it from the house until as close to Christmas as can be managed. Don’t get me wrong. I adore a well-crafted re-imagining of seasonal chestnuts by an esteemed classical, jazz, or pop artist. But so many truly wretched retreads are blared at one in public. Indeed, it’s understandable when some folks sum up holiday music as merely another facet of crass commercialism.
Happily, this year there’s musical rescue at hand. Pianist, composer and arranger Carla Bley has joined forces with esteemed bassist Steve Swallow and the Partyka Brass Quintet to serve up a zesty disc of jazz-inflected holiday cheer. Carla’s Christmas Carols combines elegant contemporary jazz renditions of carols such as “Away in the Manger” and “O Tannenbaum” with clever takes on holiday favorites such as Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song” and the irrepressible “Jingle Bells.” Bley also contributes a couple of sleekly-scored originals to the proceedings, and arranges all of the tunes with characteristic taste and imaginative flair.
Carla’s Christmas Carols proves an ideal way to enjoy holiday favorites anew without ever feeling like too much saccharine’s been slipped into the punchbowl.