The Classical Jazz Quartet – Christmas (2002)

FrontCover1.jpgOkay, let´s start with another collection of Christmas albums:

As high-concept jazz groups go, few have been as fun, laid-back, and boisterous as the Classical Jazz Quartet. Taking classical compositions and transforming them into upbeat jazz anthems, the group isn’t afraid to make drastically unique changes to the music they cover. The group first came together when bassist Ron Carter contacted pianist Kenny Barron to work together. Discussing the prospect of covering Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and drummer Lewis Nash were soon called in and the group decided to go ahead with the project. Released in 2001, their rendition of the classic Christmas ballet was a playful reinvention that swung hard and fun. A year later, The Classical Jazz Quartet Plays Bach did the same for the 17th century baroque composer. (by Bradley Torreano)

The Classical Jazz Quartet recorded a series of sessions utilizing Bob Belden’s arrangements of classical music, though this session draws primarily from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. The cast of musicians, including pianist Kenny Barron, vibraphonist and marimba player Stefon Harris, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Lewis Nash, is never less than impressive, though the album production and, occasionally, Belden’s charts don’t always serve their considerable talent. Handel’s famous Hallelujah from The Messiah is a promising start, though it is strangely and suddenly truncated by a rapid fadeout just over the five-minute mark.

CJQ03

Better is the extended workout of J.S. Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, which gives the musicians a chance to stretch out. The remainder of the album is devoted to music from The Nutcracker Suite, which duplicates the music heard on The Classical Jazz Quartet Play Tchaikovsky, meaning that those already owning that CD aren’t likely to purchase this release for just two new tracks. “The Swingin’ Nut” (Overture Miniature) is a bluesy chart that gets stuck in a boring vamp instead of developing upon its famous theme as a source for improvisation. But the remainder of Belden’s arrangements inspire top-notch performances, especially the playful “Blues à la Russe” (Russian Dance Trepack) and the delicious bossa nova treatment of “Mirlitonova” (Dance of the Reeds). Highly recommended for listening, at any time of year. (by Ken Dryden,)

BackCover

Personnel:
Kenny Barron (piano)
Ron Carter (bass)
Stefon Harris (vibraphone, marimba)
Lewis Nash (drums)

CJQ02

Tracklist:

01. Hallelujah From “The Messiah” (Händel) 5.25
02 Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring (Bach) 8.40
03 Overture Miniature From “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky) 6.28
04 March From “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky) 4.50
05 Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy From “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky) 6.54
06 Russian Dance Trepack From “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky) 5.59
07 Dance Of The Reeds From “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky) 6.54
08 Waltz Of The Flowers From “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky) 7.24

CJQ01.jpg

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