December 23, 2008

Spyro Gyra -- A Night Before Christmas

Veteran contemporary jazz group Spyro Gyra is parading its signature form on some of the most splendid and admired traditional Christmas classics, as well as more modern holiday compositions, on its latest, A Night Before Christmas. This memorable collection features, of course, the masterful sax work of musical powerhouse Jay Beckenstein, as well as the genius of all of the other shining stars in this immortal union that we’ve enjoyed for decades in varying forms of membership.

From the telling sax on “O Tannebaum” to the bluesy, crystal clear vocals of Christine Ebersol on “It Won’t Feel Like Christmas” to so many of the traditional tunes transformed here by the magic of this group’s interpretations, this is one of those albums you can proudly add to your library, dig out year after year, and hear for the very first time every time.

Everything Beckenstein and his group has ever embarked upon smacks of meticulous and painstaking attention to detail while ensuring that it’s an enjoyable experience not just for fans, but for the group itself. A Night Before Christmas is no exception.

If I had to single out my favorites here, I’d have to include all of the bluesier cuts like the aforementioned “It Won’t Feel Like Christmas,” as well as “Christmas Time Is Here,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (I’ve always so loved this piece with its cool dialogue!), and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Of course, the handling of the older, more traditional cuts like “Winter Wonderland,” “The First Noel,” and “The Christmas Song” is certainly replete with that extraordinarily smooth style and manner claimed solely by Spyro Gyra. Speaking of "The Christmas Song," this is an absolutely appropriate finale, highlighted by colorful drummer Bonny B's ever-buoyant vocals--including just marvelous scat work!

This is Spyro Gyra. Plain and simple. For those of us who live in the colder climates and experience the winter season, nothing says Christmas like a warm offering from one of the true smooth/contemporary jazz mainstays. To those in warmer climates, this one will add that touch of coolness when and where needed. In either case, grab this one, either get nestled near the fireplace, or just hang out enjoying the warm sun, and have yourself a merry little Christmas!

Posted by Ronald Jackson at December 23, 2008 5:43 PM