Recorded live, this record features jazz guitar virtuoso Doug Munro and a band that many jazz cats will love. Ken Peplowski (clarinet), Cyrille-Aimee Daudel (vocals), Howie Bujese (violin), Michael Goetz (bass), and Ernie Pugliese (guitar) conspire to bring about gypsy jazz-inspired Christmas carols.
Fans of Django Reinhardt’s work will dig what Munro is up to, with 15 cuts of classic Christmas stuff getting some serious reworking. Munro doesn’t play with the melodies much, but he does jazz up traditionals like “Let It Snow” and “We Three Kings” with his distinctive style.
A Very Gypsy Christmas kicks off with “Sleigh Ride.” Peplowski adds clarinet inflections as the track trots off in the snow. Munro draws a vivacious solo over Pugliese’s sound time-keeping. “Green Sleeves,” the romanesca, gets a slower treatment that draws out the traditional folk song’s more haunting qualities. Bujese’s violin is a welcome touch.
Munro has released some 11 albums as a leader and has been in over 60 recordings as a sideman, arranger and producer. He also has over 75 original published compositions to his name. He’s no slouch in the guitar department, either, bringing a subtle but sturdy essence to every note he plucks and chord he strums. Munro is an incredibly balanced player, too, and knows when to step back in the arrangement to bring its full feeling to bear.
My favourite carol, “Silent Night,” is treated with the delicateness it deserves. Once more Bujese’s violin hits the perfect notes, singing over graceful guitar strumming. The arrangement is aptly calm and Munro’s solo is beautifully discreet.
For a touch of something different this Christmas, A Very Gypsy Christmas may well be the ticket. It has tender spirit but still swings, fuelling dreams as much as grooves.
Article originally published as part of Music Reviews: Christmas with Doug Munro, David Ian and Elisabeth Lohninger at Blogcritics.org