By John Barron
originally published on All About Jazz.com
With no shortage of holiday music blasting through shopping malls and restaurants this time of year, it’s easy to understand why some might want to escape the incessant bombardment of the overdone and out-of-date. If one looks hard enough, however, hope for Christmas music burnout can be found. One place to look is Origin Records’ The Cool Season: An Origin Holiday Collection, Vol. 2. With fresh and swinging vitality, trumpeter Thomas Marriott, pianist Bill Anschell, bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop provide an invigorating alternative to the average holiday fare.
The disc’s selections range from familiar, to somewhat obscure, to brand new—Johnson contributes two original pieces. The strength of the session lies in the creative arranging of household melodies. The Vince Guaraldi classic “Christmas Time Is Here” moves along at a brisk 6/8 pulse, contrasting, yet maintaining the spirit of the original. “The Christmas Song” is re-shaped into a dark-tinged, modal frame for Marriott and Anschell to explore patiently.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” swings along nicely, anchored by Johnson’s solid walking bass and Bishop’s in-the-pocket groove. With a laid-back samba feel and a clever reference to “Poinciana,” “Winter Wonderland” lets Marriott stretch out over a dynamic rhythmic flow. Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper” has a soothing Sunday morning church service vibe, emphasized by Johnson’s blues-inflected bass testifying.
Johnson’s lyrical ballad “Winter Solace” gleans soulful offerings from Marriott’s muted trumpet. “Skating,” the bassist’s up-tempo composition, cooks up a little winter warmth with inspired solos by Johnson, Marriott and Anschell.
Amongst the bevy of holiday music choices, The Cool Season stands out as a winner. Yes, the music will work as good-time holiday background for your hipster party guests to enjoy, but it also makes for a satisfying, intent listen—full of top-notch performances and creative arranging. You’ll want to put your feet up and enjoy that second cup of eggnog.
Track listing: Christmas Time Is Here; The Christmas Song; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas; Winter Wonderland; Winter Solace; Pretty Paper; Skating; Sing We Now Of Christmas; Blackberry Winter.
Personnel: Thomas Marriott: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bill Anschell: piano; Jeff Johnson: bass; John Bishop: drums.
Click here to buy the CD.