In the jazz realm, there has been a very wide variety of Christmas albums to choose from over the years -- some with vocalists and some entirely instrumental, some with big bands and some spotlighting unaccompanied solo guitarists, some very straight-ahead and some venturing into fusion and jazz-funk territory. On Trio West Plays Holiday Songs, one hears a totally straight-ahead hard bop piano trio -- Eldad Zvulun on acoustic piano, Neal Miner or Miles Brown on bass, and group leader/producer Tobias T. Gebb on drums -- turning its attention to a variety of familiar Christmas material. All of the songs on this instrumental album are well known standards, and they range from American pop songs of the 20th century such as "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland" to older European carols like "Silent Night," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (which receives an enjoyably Afro-Cuban-influenced treatment). The only tune on Trio West Plays Holiday Songs that was actually written as a jazz instrumental is Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here" (made famous in CBS 1965 television special A Charlie Brown Christmas), but whether a tune came out of American pop, the European Yuletide tradition, or jazz, all of Trio West's performances on this 2006 date have a hellbent-for-bop mentality. The fact that this disc is Christmas-oriented doesn't mean that Trio West (so named because Gebb grew up on Manhattan's West Side) tones down the bop content at all. Trio West Plays Holiday Songs is not groundbreaking, but it's a respectable disc that will appeal to those who want to hear some unapologetic hard bop around the holidays.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson