Dec 7, 2011
I called Geri Allen's A Child is Born the best Christmas Jazz CD of 2011, but the Marcus Roberts Trio's Celebrating Christmas Cel is right on its heels, and is no doubt the most fun Christmas jazz CD. This is a band that knows how to have a good time. Jason Marsalis (yup, that family again) is a wonderful drummer, and Rodney Jordan is emerging as a top bass player. But its Roberts who turns this into a party, creating new arrangements that take famiolar tunes new places. Whether its a New Orleans falvored "Little Drummer Boy", a moody "We Three Kings" or a rag-like "Joy to the World", Roberts is able to capture the holday spirit without every resorting to cliche or losing his jazz sensibilities.
Click here to hear my favorite from the CD, "Winter Wonderland". Written in 1934 by Felix Bernard (music) and Richard B. Smith (lyrics), it supposedly was written while smith was confined to the West Mountain Sanitarium in Scranton, PA for tuberculosis. The original recording was by Richard Himberand his Hotel Ritz-Carlton Orchestra on RCA Bluebird Records that year; the band included the soon to be famous Artie Shaw,
Interestingly, the original bridge, about a couple who decide to get married by Parson Brown, was supposedly considered inappropriate for children. A 1953 version of the sheet music replaced that verse with what we now think of as the thrid verse:
meadow we can build a snowman,
and pretend that he's a circus clown.
We'll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman,
until the other kiddies knock 'im down!