Christmas music has been an enthusiasm of the great American pianist and composer Carla Bley's for decades - and here at last is a Carla Bley Christmas album! Not surprisingly, the traditional and non-traditional pieces are subjected to her offbeat wit and idiosyncratic arranging skills.
The originality of the approach brings to mind Charles Ives's "Old Songs Deranged", but the pieces are played with love. The pleasure that the musicians - Carla, bassist Steve Swallow and the Partyka Brass Quintet - find in the material is unmistakable and, particularly after a glass or two of mulled wine, contagious.
Selections include "O Tannenbaum", "Away in a Manger", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", "Jingle Bells", "O Holy Night" and "Joy To the World", plus Mel Tormé's "The Christmas Song" and a brace of Carla's own pieces - "Jesus Maria" (first recorded by Jimmy Giuffre back in 1961), and, giving the devil his due, "Hell's Bells".
The album is issued in a period when Carla is much in the news internationally. Her last WATT/ECM disc 'Appearing Nightly' won the Recording of the Year prize from the US-based Jazz Journalists Association in June. This was followed in September by the German Jazz Trophy 2009, a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Personnel: Carla Bley (piano, celeste), Steve Swallow (bass, chimes), Partyka Brass Quintet: Tobias Weidinger (trumpet, flugelhorn (lead), glockenspiel), Axel Schlosser (trumpet, flugelhorn (soloist), chimes), Christine Chapman (horn), Adrian Mears (trombone), Ed Partyka (bass trombone, tuba)