What Others have said about Chris Dawson’s Christmas Album
"A master of stride piano. You've never heard holiday tunes like this before!"
Two-time Grammy winner
“So beautifully played. A lovely album”
Seven-time MVP Award Winner, NARAS
"Marvelous playing. Let's hear it for clarity of line, melodic phrases, tone and touch. Let's hear it for Chris Dawson's beautiful recording!"
Grammy-Award winning Bassist
“Terrific. Poise, clarity and balance. Brings these chestnuts to life. Clean as a whistle!
Four-time Grammy Nominee
"Eloquent. A joy to listen to and a must have Christmas album."
Grammy-nominated Jazz saxophonist
“Beautiful. His touch and tone will make you stop what you are doing.”
Pianist and Professor of Jazz Studies, USC
“Fresh. Delightful. Swings tastefully!”
Author of Jazz On Record
“Harmonically beautiful arrangements. The music is timeless.”
World class Jazz Saxophonist
STRIDING THROUGH CHRISTMAS Liner Notes
Jazz and Christmas songs have long had a mutually beneficial relationship. Recordings of Yuletide favorites allow jazz musicians to reach a wider audience than usual, and their improvisations help to keep the Christmas songs alive, vital and swinging
Chris Dawson has been playing Christmas tunes for years. “I have a lot of fun with them and treat the songs as if they were jazz standards from the 1920s, 30s and 40s by well known composers. I try not to think of these tunes as Christmas songs but as standards that Gershwin, Irving Berlin or Walter Donaldson wrote, asking myself ‘how would I play them?’”
A professional from the age of nine, Chris started out with ragtime, stride piano and swing. In high school he was introduced to the more modern music of Bill Evans, Lennie Tristano, Bud Powell and others. He studied with Cedar Walton at USC, met Alan Broadbent who became an influential mentor, and studied arranging with John Clayton. Since then Chris has been just as at home at classic jazz and swing festivals as in more modern settings. He considers his influences to include Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson, Nat Cole, Hank Jones and Bill Evans but actually plays in his own open-minded style. Like Dick Hyman, Chris can switch effortlessly between styles while still sounding like himself.
Fellow pianist Alan Broadbent has called Chris, "a master and unsung hero of improvised stride piano." Chris’s piano artistry combines prodigious technique with a great capacity to swing. He is equally at home with soulful ballads and racehorse tempos. Hopefully this is just the first in a continuing series of albums that showcase his remarkable talents.
On Striding Through Christmas, Chris Dawson performs fresh versions of 15 Christmas songs. The variety is impressive, as is the consistently high quality of his interpretations. The delightful program begins with a joyful stride rendition of “Jingle Bells,” a song that sounds like a 1920s or New Orleans jazz standard. His thoughtful rendition of “Silent Night” is modernized without losing the essence of the melody. The relaxed swing of “Jolly Old St. Nicholas,” taken at a perfect medium-slow tempo, is worthy of Teddy Wilson. “It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” strides happily, displaying the joy felt by children at the beginning of the Christmas season.
Chris' walking bass line on “O Christmas Tree” really makes the piece swing. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” has rarely cooked at this level, with Chris' light but insistent striding turning this into a romp. Since “What Child Is This” is based on the traditional English hymn “Greensleeves,” he combines them during an introspective treatment. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” often played as a ballad, it treated as a medium-tempo swing standard.
“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (made famous by Gene Autry) is one of the happiest of all Christmas songs. Chris takes it as an uptempo stride showcase. One could certainly imagine Fats Waller (who himself recorded “Swingin' Dem Jingle Bells”) having a lot of fun with this number. In contrast, “Sleigh Ride” is given an interpretation that Bill Evans would have appreciated, utilizing modern chords while still keeping the melody close by. “The Christmas Song” swings tastefully and melodically, while “Away In A Manger” is transformed into a jazz waltz.
Chris at first plays “We Three Kings” in 5/4 time, tipping his hat to the most famous tune in that time signature, and then really stomping with some striding worthy of Donald Lambert (who loved to turn classical themes into hot jazz) and James P. Johnson. A joyful version of “Let It Snow” and a fine exploration of “White Christmas” (which Charlie Parker once played on a radio broadcast) conclude the highly enjoyable outing, the latter combining bebop and stride choruses for the finale.
Striding Through Christmas is masterful, swinging, inventive and fun, making it a delight for listeners all year round.
Author of ten jazz books including The Jazz Singers, Swing, Trumpet Kings, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76