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Carols That Swing

November 29, 2011

I’m sitting at my computer getting into the Christmas spirit despite the grey November weather thanks to a fine CD that has just landed on my desk.

Jazz for Christmas, featuring the Winnipeg version of the Bob Watts Trio (Bob Watts, drums; Bert Johnson, piano; Bob ‘Moose’ Jackson, bass) is different than most seasonal CD’s in that the group has ignored the usual candidates (Let It Snow, The Christmas Song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, etc.) in favour of nine traditional carols.

In their press release they claim this is the only jazz CD out there with such a repertoire.

Whether that’s true or not, they’ve made these tunes – everything from God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen to What Child Is This – swing.

The familiar melodies are there, beautifully rendered, but what makes the recording soar is the superb improvisational work of Bert Johnson, a young Winnipeg pianist who completed his Masters in Music (jazz piano) in 2009 at the University of Manitoba and now teaches at the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Art.

The good news is you don’t have to travel to the frozen prairie to catch this material live.  In fact you can hear it this Sunday, December 4 (7:30 pm) at St. Phillips Anglican Church in Oak Bay, where Watts, with the Victoria version of his group, has been offering monthly jazz vespers concerts for over a year.

Tom Vickery takes the piano seat this week and is sure to serve up his own tasteful renderings of these charts backed by the solid work of Watts on drums and Ross MacDonald on bass.

I can’t think of a better way to ease into the Christmas season. And you should be able to snag the CD at the concert as well to carry you right through December.

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