Review By Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
Spyro Gyra, the veteran New York based jazz, presents a musical gem this holiday season with A Night Before Christmas. It's sure to be a holiday favorite for new and old fans alike as it delivers sophisticated yet accessible, complex yet melodic jazz renditions of traditional holiday favorites.
"O Tannenbaum" opens with a short, but compelling layered intro. Jay Beckenstein introduces the melody on saxophone in his distinctive style and Tom Schuman answers on piano. Together they develop a musical conversation that is carried on by Julio Fernandez's acoustic guitar solo. The energy builds quickly as Tom Schuman riffs up and down the piano, but just as quickly and expertly, we are brought back to the beginning where Beckenstein maintains the melody through to the end. There are some truly beautiful moments in this piece.
An original holiday tune, "It Won't Feel Like Christmas", is performed with suave sophistication by Tony Award winning vocalist Christine Ebersole. However, its performance falls a bit short of expectation, as Ebersole plays it safe in her delivery. In contrast the energy and performance of Janis Siegel and Bonny B in "Baby It's Cold Outside" have a sense of dimension and character which brings this song to life.
Spyro Gyra puts a their own twist on evoking the sound of holiday bells with Dave Samuels on the vibes for "Winter Wonderland" and "Carol of the Bells". The interplay between Samuels and Schuman creates a unique and much appreciated atmosphere. Schuman leads "Silent Night" off with a lush intro that hangs in the air like the snow almost out of time but grounded by the bass. Shifting the rhythmic accents in "This Christmas" Spyro Gyra, delivers a mesmerizing version of this traditional piece and Berkenstein's does a fine job of captivating you with his melody line.
A Night Before Christmas is an expertly performed holiday album that conveys the holiday spirit resonating with pure jazz vibes. Its quality mix of instrumental and vocal tracks will provide the season with entertainment for years to come.