Jazz renditions of classical compositions go way back -- even before jazz, actually, when the procedure was called "ragging the classics." Tchaikovsky has been friendly territory for jazz players from the start with his great self-contained tunes. The Classical Jazz Quartet -- Kenny Barron on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Stefon Harris on vibraphone and marimba, and Lewis Nash on drums -- takes up where the Modern Jazz Quartet of the 1950s left off. This disc was originally released as The Nutcracker Suite; it now reappears as part of a series of CJQ discs, each devoted to a different composer. This entire disc is based on Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, whose famous tunes each serve as a basis for a variety of post-bop modern jazz improvisations. Tchaikovsky works as well for this purpose as would popular song melodies (for several of which his music has already served as the source, anyhow). A special pleasure is the vibraphone "Dance of the Mirlitons," (here titled "Mirlitonova"), in which Harris comes to the fore with a strong evocation of the style of Milt Jackson of the Modern Jazz Quartet. With the caveat for classical purists that this is a jazz disc rather than a jazz-flavored performance of Tchaikovsky, this is fusion music that anyone can enjoy at holiday time.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim