Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Writing this on an English Christmas Eve makes it worth reflecting on how seasonal songs are such a huge part of the holiday experience. Whether it be pop and folk, rock and country or soul and funk there is a Christmas tune to whet every musical appetite. But sometimes, when the partying is over, when the embers of the fire are burning low in the grate and that last glass of Christmas cheer has engendered warm feelings of friends, family and celebrations gone by, something special is called for. In this context there can be none better than Ken Navarro’s 1996 album Christmas Cheer. It’s an exquisite collection of Christmas music played with a contemporary jazz twist that nevertheless remains grounded in the magic of this special season. Released immediately before his seminal CD Smooth Sensation, Navarro demonstrates huge focus and respect for his subject by simply yet stunning use of acoustic guitar supported only but significantly by consistently excellent acoustic piano from regular contributor Jay Rowe.
There is something deliciously comforting about the sparklingly traditional way in which Navarro delivers timeless classics such as ‘Silent Night’, ‘Angels We Have Heard On High’, ‘We Three Kings’ and ‘Hark The Herald Angels’. Each, in its own way, evokes images of flickering fireside flames and crisp white snow while more contemporary but equally delightful is ‘Skating On Central Park’. Originally from John Lewis’s score of the hard hitting 1959 ‘film noir’, Odds Against Tomorrow, it quite simply has Christmas dripping from every note. Navarro’s stellar version of the Mel Torme modern day classic ‘The Christmas Song’ provides a master class in how less can undoubtedly be more and also memorable is the reflective, mellow way in which he approaches the David Sanborn track ‘Rain On Christmas’.
Despite Navarro’s lovely interpretations of ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ and his subtly jazzy ‘O Christmas Tree’ the best track on the album is ‘Skating On The C & O Canal’, (Chesapeake and Ohio). The tune is wonderful not only for the fact that it is a Navarro original but also because it is an outstanding example of contemporary jazz for anytime of the year.
If you are tired of the frenzy that Christmas has come to represent then why not take some time out to chill to Christmas Cheer by Ken Navarro. If this year it’s too late to do so, go to www.kennavarro.com for more information on how to purchase the CD ready for Christmas 2007!Posted by Denis Poole at December 24, 2006 7:49 PM