Various Artists

A Mellow Jazz Christmas

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Eight different groups are featured on this Christmas compilation issued by Kind of Blue. An immediate highlight is the Phil Woods Quintet's pulsating treatment of "Sleigh Ride for One" with Brian Lynch battling the alto saxophonist for solo honors. Pianist George Cables, accompanied by bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Victor Lewis, deliver a lush rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Acoustic guitarist Fernando Ramos is the featured soloist in a striking arrangement of "Little Drummer Boy" by the Bob Conti Quartet. The Pete Christlieb/Slyde Hyde Quintet take a fresh look at "White Christmas" by adding a "Killer Joe" like vamp to it, resulting in a smoking performance. Paul Smith's miniature of "Jingle Bells" is humorous, working in a bit of Mozart-like runs. Smooth jazz pianist David Benoit sticks to mainstream jazz with a lively bop setting of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and a bluesy, percussive "O' Tannenbaum." But there are problem tracks. The unusual arrangement of "Silent Night" features Eddie Henderson's rich flugelhorn playing straight-ahead backed by Kevin Hays' distracting synthesizer and a driving rhythm section, neither of which work for the song. The pair of tracks by bassist Stanley Clarke with pianist Patrice Rushen and drummer Ndugu Chancler are disappointing; both "Christmas Time Is Here" and "We Three Kings" sound like mechanical sight readings. Strangely, none of the composers are listed for any of the tunes, most of which are very well known.

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