Nagel-Heyer has gone back to material already issued to compile this volume of Christmas music. The label also tapped the vaults of the Sackville label and, by doing so, the musicianship of Ralph Sutton, Milt Hinton, and Jim Galloway is made available through this CD. The album features a program of 12 tunes culled from popular music that happens to have Christmas as its theme, including traditional Christmas tunes and a couple of religious Christmas songs.
If there is a star of this program, it is sax playerGalloway. He makes the baritone sax swing on "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer," a track he shares with ageless pianist Jay McShann. On soprano, Galloway teams up with veteran pianist Ralph Sutton as part of the Sackville All Stars for a ballad treatment of "Winter Wonderland." The other two members of this group are bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Gus Johnson. Galloway somehow makes his soprano sound like Johnny Hodges' alto on this cut. A truly lovely performance. Another sax player of note is Harry Allen who, working with trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, turns the traditional "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" into a swinging bop piece. Running the risk of being accused of disrespect (if not blasphemy), the tune loses none of its glory as a rejoicing of the coming of the Christ child. Blues, gospel, and jazz singer Jan Harrington leads a German-based group on "Christmas in New Orleans," played in the traditional style of that city. The one "serious" cut is "Silent Night," reverently sung (in German and English) by Chris Murrell after a long piano intro by Bobby Irving.
As this album and others before it have demonstrated, Christmas music and jazz arrangements can go very well together when in the hands of performers who understand the meaning of the music and the season it celebrates. Recommended.