Even John Zorn fans have a right to cast a wary eye at the cover of A Dreamer's Christmas, given the bandleader. That said, the title describes exactly what is in the grooves. Zorn re-recruited the cabal who created the stellar albums The Gift in 2001 and Dreamers in 2008 -- and who have worked separately and in various configurations on many of his recordings. In many ways, this set feels like a tribute to Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas classic, though with one exception: it sounds nothing like it. There are seven "traditional" Christmas tunes (pop standards, really) played by Marc Ribot, Cyro Baptista, Jamie Saft, Kenny Wollesen, Trevor Dunn, and Joey Baron. Mike Patton makes a (very straight) guest appearance on "The Christmas Song." Zorn also wrote a couple of tunes for the set as well -- "Santa's Workshop" and "Magical Sleigh Ride." The former has a series of Latin rhythms played by Baptista on various kinds of percussion -- including bells -- with Wollesen's vibes and Dunn's bassline creating a kind of gauzy flow of texture and exotica melody until Ribot's fine guitar solo layers in a surf feel. The latter begins more mysteriously and introspectively, with Ribot's guitar effects and Dunn's bass up front while Baptista's Brazilian percussion highlights their interplay. When Wollesen's vibes and Saft's Rhodes enter the picture, it becomes a complex, atmospheric, Caribbean-flavored jazz tune. It's one of the set's true highlights. The Guaraldi reference actually makes itself heard on "Christmastime Is Here," in a piano-driven jazz arrangement, and gorgeous right-hand solos on the melody throughout are accented by Baron's shimmering brushes and chord voicings by Ribot. A Dreamer's Christmas is one of those holiday records -- once you hear it, you'll be reaching for it every season.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek