Tired of those bland Christmas jazz records that fail to capture the emotion and fervor of the season? Looking for an album that puts heart and soul into this momentous holiday? Then look no further than this album by Etta Jones and Houston Person (neither of whom are on all cuts) and other musicians who also not only want to play these songs for their holiday value, but for their musical value as well. With Jones' blues- and R&B-inflected vocal delivery, coupled with the sensuous and passionate sax of Person, this CD turns out to be one of the more attractive jazz Christmas albums extant. Instead of a sugar-coated version of the king of all Christmas pop tunes, "White Christmas," Jones and the trio of Horace Ott, Wilbur Bascomb, and Cecil Brooks III take this tune down a gently swinging lane. Peter Martin Weiss' bass and Stan Hope's piano are featured on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and demonstrate that even a religious Christmas carol offers improvisational opportunities without detracting from the carol's solemn message. With Randy Johnson's rangy guitar kicking it off, Jones knocks the stuffings out of "Merry Christmas Baby" with her blues-soaked delivery, as the front line of Bill Easley and Johnny Coles make this a true jazz offering whose theme just happens to be a Yuletide one. But the album's pièce de résistance is Jones' rendition, complete with catch in the voice, of one of the saddest, most forlorn of all Christmas tunes, "I'll Be Home for Christmas" from World War II. This is one of those albums where it's best to listen with heavily spiked egg nog or another favorite alcoholic bracer.
AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan
feat: Stan Hope