Various Artists

Justin Time for Christmas, Vol. 3

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The Canadian label Justin Time can always be counted upon to produce a diverse sounding Christmas CD, and this third compilation is no exception. Bassist Dave Young is joined by Cedar Walton and Barry Elmes for a bluesy take of "The Christmas Song while pianist John Stetch's approach to "Christmas Time Is Here" gradually takes a slightly dissonant path, and Oliver Jones, who studied piano with Oscar Peterson's sister, offers a richly textured "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." One of the wildest songs is "We Three Kings," with some adventurous playing by multi-reed player Michael Marcus and the late pianist Jaki Byard. Hugh Ragin leads three other trumpeters in a stunning arrangement of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." Highlights among the vocal tracks include Ranee Lee's intimate reworking of "Santa Baby" with guitarist Richard Ring and percussionist Denis Chiche; Johanne Blouin's relaxed approach to "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen" with a trio led by John Hicks; and Jeri Brown's lovely, very deliberate duet with pianist Milton Sealy of "The Christmas Song." The Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir's unusual interpretation of "Wohl Mir Dass Ich Jesum Habe" (taken from J. S. Bach's cantata "Wachet Auf") will turn heads, though blues guitarist Bryan Lee's tedious "Christmas Blues" seems badly out of place. Overall, this Christmas collection is a very worthwhile investment.

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