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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Rhino 8122-79914-6




1. Winter Wonderland
2. Hark The Herald Angels Sing
3. White Christmas
4. Interlude: By My Christmas Tree
5. Carol Of The Bells
6. O Come All Ye Faithful
7. The Christmas Song
8. Iíll Be Home For Christmas
9. Gloria in Excelsis
10. Christmas Time Is Here
11. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
12. Some Children See Him
13. The Little Christmas Tree
14. Untitled bonus

Al Jarreau - Vocals, background vocals
Larry Williams - Keyboards, flute, clarinet, tenor sax, bells, sleigh bells (tracks 1, 3, 5-7, 10, 11, 13)
Chris Walker - Bass, vocals, background vocals (tracks 1, 3, 5-7, 9)
Mark Simmons - Drums (tracks 1, 3, 5-7, 9)
Michael O'Neill - Electric guitar, nylon-string guitar (tracks 1, 6, 9)
Lenny Castro - Percussion (tracks 1-3, 9, 13)
Joe Turano - Tenor sax, piano, sleigh bells, background vocals (tracks 1, 4, 5, 10-12)
Larry Turtle - The Stick (track 2)
Dan Higgins - Flutes, pennywhistle, clarinet (tracks 2, 11)
Phil Ayling - Oboe (track 3)
Dave Carpenter - Bass (tracks 5, 11, 13)
Larry Goldings - Organ (tracks 7, 9)
Ross Bolton, - Guitar (track 7)
Jerry Hey - Flugelhorn (track 7)
Take 6 (Claude McKnight, Mark Kibble, David Thomas, Joey Kibble, Cedric Dent, Alvin Chea - Vocals (track 8)
Alyncia Mack, Montina Cooper - Background vocals (track 9)
David Witham - Fender Rhodes (track 10)
Michael Thompson - Electric guitar, acoustic guitar (track 10)
Bob Wilson - Drums (track 11)
Ramon Stagnaro - Nylon-string guitar (track 13)

The Christmas CDs continue to arrive with predictable frequency. Perhaps we can excuse Al Jarreau for adding yet another one to the pile, as he hasn't made a Christmas album before. His previous recordings have brought him seven Grammy awards - for pop, jazz and R & B. This indicates the way that Jarreau straddles various genres. Being a jazz fan, I prefer him in jazz mode - my favourite album of his being Look to the Rainbow, recorded live in 1977 and well worth seeking out.

That album is a showcase for his vocal dexterity and some of the same characteristics are audible on this Christmas offering. Al Jarreau still has that inimitable catch in his voice and he makes notes swirl and quaver. But Al doesn't try to jazz up the songs: he is content simply to add his individual inflections to them. As with other Christmas albums, the material militates against very much improvisation, because many of the songs are so well-known and somehow fixed in people's minds.

However, Jarreau manages to choose some unhackneyed songs among the familiar carols. And he injects some jazziness into Winter Wonderland which, being a secular song, is more amenable to change. He even funks up Gloria in Excelsis, which is not the ancient hymn but a composition by Jarreau in collaboration with Larry Williams. Yet on most tracks the richly-orchestrated backings and celestial choirs prevent much freedom. So, like the Nils Lundgren album I have recently reviewed, this CD appears under "Jazz" because it is by a jazz performer, rather than because it contains a lot of jazz. Nevertheless it is a pleasing seasonal contribution and may add to your Christmas cheer.

Tony Augarde





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