Chris Davis - trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion, keyboards / Victor Noriega - piano / Adam Thomas - bass / Julian MacDonough - drums / James Danderfer - clarinet (track 11)
Anyone who knows me knows just how much I truly love the holiday season - the food, the family and friends, fresh snow, the bundling up to go outside then taking off my scarf and gloves once inside a warm dwelling, the presents, the food a couple of more times, and oh yeah…the MUSIC!
One of my most outstanding memories from my boyhood is of me riding in the back seat of my mother's car…going in and out of sleep as she(my mom), my brother JD, and myself trekked from Florida to Louisiana to be with family for the holidays. It was Christmas Eve and the radio stations were spinning non-stop holiday hits including the Donny Hathaway version(the original) of the title cut from this disc, "This Christmas". I was young enough then to be convinced that if I stared out of my window up at the clear starry moonlit sky for long enough then I'd see Santa Clause flying by perhaps en route to my house. Never saw him BUT I've also never shaken that joyous feeling from hearing great music at that time of year. When I decided to make this record I knew that I wanted to capture as much of a festive mood as possible but I also wanted to make sure that the music was simply…great Jazz. Thus eliminating the pre-disposition that this disc could only be enjoyed during the holiday season.
Selecting the material for this date was annoyingly difficult as there are so many amazing tunes from which to choose. And more still, the possibilities of arranging them all. Ultimately I ended up choosing a mix of songs that I remember from the playlist of that Christmas Eve road trip and songs that I've since discovered and have grown to favor. The session strategically opens with a very classic very wistful Db vamp sort of hanging there as if "Frank" is gonna come in swinging, "sleigh bells ring, are you listening?". What's heard instead is a bucket-muted invitation that sets the tone for the next sixty or so minutes. At the end of the disc the(by then) icy mood is aided with some carefully placed upper register piano gliding as well as the introduction of some orchestral instruments including chimes and concert bass drum that help foreshadow the ending of this little musical journey. Some might argue that this CD ends on too much of a cold note while I argue that there is a possibility here to either stop listening at the end of the disc and ride that feeling, OR just start it over again and you're right back into that warm cushy comfy Db vamp! In attempt to not go into too great of detail on each track I'll just say this regarding all of them: these arrangements are meant to cover many different sides of Jazz while reflecting the different moods and emotions a person can have even within the overall hue of love during the holidays. From jubilation to sorrow to appreciation to acceptance and to forgiveness…it's all at the least a small part of what many of us feel at one point or another and it's all dealt with here in these arrangements. Having said all of that, this music is presented here for YOU and you can take it however you'd like. One of my main goals for this project was to capture that "small group/large room" sound that is reminiscent of so many of the great recordings(of all genres) that we all know and love. I love hearing the space around the instruments. I absolutely could not resist taking these well-known songs further "out of the box" than one might expect from a typical Christmas Jazz album and I think my band has done an excellent job of executing what I tried to notate.
Speaking of the band, these guys are simply awesome. I'm glad to have selected the musicians that I did for this record. They each bring 100% of themselves to their parts and they all certainly have an identity here. It was evident in the first rehearsal that this was going to be a fun record. Their preparedness for the session was remarkable! I love Victor's touch and approach which is showcased nicely on "The Christmas Song". Adam's drive and tone is brilliant on such tracks as "Toyland" and "Blue Christmas". Julian's reckless abandon on "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" is perfect while his "hi-hatless" brush work on "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is equally precise! Julian was also provider of the Christmas "spirits" as we had fun demolishing a giant bottle of Jameson over the two day session! It definitely helped us cats in a downtown Vancouver studio in the middle of August get in the mood a bit. Clarinetist James Danderfer makes a brief but meaningful appearance on "Angels We Have Heard On High". I love the way he plays time so when I decided to arrange that tune in 7/4, asking him to play on it was a no brainer, especially since that melody sits beautifully on that instrument. I sincerely hope you accept the music on this disc as just that, music. And hopefully that will make it enjoyable at anytime of year.