Various Artists

A Celebration in Time

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This collection of Christmas carols and holiday favorites features different musical lineups in various combinations. Vocalist Ranee Lee is featured on several tracks with a rhythm section led by pianist Taurey Butler (who also penned the arrangements), offering a snappy "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays," an unusual setting of "What Child Is This?" that alternates between driving bop and slower funk, and an infectious, breezy treatment of "The Christmas Waltz." Pianist Oliver Jones leads a trio in a tantalizing, playful take of "We Three Kings of Orient Are" and a swinging rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," while he performs the deliberate gospel-infused medley of "O Little Town of Bethlehem and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" as a solo. Less successful are the vocal tracks featuring the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir, including a dreadful reggae-flavored arrangement of "Little Drummer Boy" and an overblown "Silent Night." Lee, Jones, and the choir join forces for Oscar Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom" in a plodding arrangement by Bruce Cassidy and Trevor Payne that could have swung harder without the electric organ. This type of approach to making a Christmas album makes it difficult to enjoy the music all the way through due to the disparate styles, though there are some strong performances within this uneven release.

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