After a relative drought last year, the JazzTimes offices were burried in a snowfall of holiday CD releases. Whoopee. While I, Herbie the Crabby Drunken Elf, am a stuffed-green shirt when it comes to Christmas music (sorry, no other religions were represented in the batch of releases JT received), and will fight fiercely to hear Nat Cole’s rendition of “The Christmas Song” in my pointed ears over anything else, I recognize there is some poor soul out there who would like to hear Kirk Whalum’s “The Little (Ghetto) Drummer Boy.” So, in the spirit of holiday giving, I donate to you, the reader, a not unbiased guide to new Christmas CDs. As a free added bonus, Herbie often speaks in the third person.
The Classical Jazz Quartet
Tchaikovsky’s the Nutcracker
Vertical Jazz 5507-2 (51:45)
Like a light beer, this CD goes down easy. Taking its cues from the Modern Jazz Quartet, the Classical Jazz Quartet-vibist Stefon Harris, pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Lewis Nash-plays classically influenced jazz, and it tackles Tchaikovksy’s “Nutcracker” with the MJQ’s subtle flair. Producer Bob Belden has arranged the songs so that the “Nutcracker”‘s themes are mere blips before the improvisation and group interplay take over. Unlike most holiday CDs, CJQ’s Tchaikovsky’s the Nutcracker is something that could be listened to year-round. Why you’d want to listen to the “Nutcracker” year-round, though, is beyond this tiny elf’s admittedly limited comprehension.