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A New Album for your Christmas CD Stack

December 15, 2014

I haven’t reviewed albums for some time on this site but one crossed my desk recently that I feel seasonally inspired to write about.

It’s a wonderful new Christmas album by Victoria’s own Bob Watts Trio recorded in the sanctuary of St. Philip Anglican Church in Oak Bay and featuring the piano work of the sublime and fiery Pablo Cardenas.

Many of you will know that drummer Watts moved to Victoria a few years ago from Winnipeg (although he still spends a lot of time there for business and music) and established a monthly jazz vespers series at St. Philip. During his tenure at the church he’s worked with the likes of Karl Roessingh, Joey Smith, Rob Cheramy, Tony Genge, Bruce Meikle and Tom Vickery.

Watts most often appears with Cardenas and bassist Ross Macdonald in a trio and indeed they are the personnel on Jazz for Christmas 2.

Before you say, ‘do we really need another jazz Christmas album?’ you should know there’s something unique about this one and its companion Jazz for Christmas 1, recorded in Winnipeg in 2010. According to Watts, these are the only two jazz albums around devoted strictly to interpreting Christmas carols.

That’s right, all the other jazz seasonal albums – there must be thousands of them – offer the odd carol but mostly feature arrangements of popular Christmas songs like that old Mel Tormé classic – you know the one I mean.

This new album includes a deeply blue and soulful Silent Night, a lively jazz waltz version of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and a fast-swinging Good Christian People Rejoice which burns along at 220 bpm – a tempo which apparently left Watts exclaiming an unprintable and unreleasable (but humorously appropriate) “Holy s–” when they made it through what turned out to be a gem of a first take.

You’ll want this one on top of your Christmas CD stack. The tunes may be familiar but the arrangements are fresh, original, and deeply swinging.

Albums can be purchased directly from Watts by email vw528@yahoo.ca or ordered through McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.

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