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Carla's Christmas Carols

4.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Audio CD, November 3, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Christmas music has been an enthusiasm of Carla Bley's for decades, and both traditional and non-traditional seasonal pieces are here subjected to her offbeat wit and idiosyncratic arranging skills. The material includes her inimitable arrangements of Christmas classics and a brace of Carla's own pieces - "Jesus Maria" (first recorded by Jimmy Giuffre back in 1961), and, giving the devil his due, "Hell's Bells". Carla's Christmas Carols was recorded in La Buissonne Studios in the South of France after a whirlwind tour of Europe at the end of 2008, and folds in two pieces from that tour (recorded live in Berlin). The pleasure that the musicians find in the material is unmistakable and, perhaps particularly after a glass of mulled wine, contagious.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. O Tannenbaum
  2. Away In A Manger
  3. The Christmas Song
  4. Ring Christmas Bells
  5. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Part One, Part two
  6. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
  7. Hell's Bells
  8. Jesus Maria
  9. Jingle Bells
  10. O Holy Night
  11. Joy To The World


Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 3, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM Records
  • ASIN: B002PJS38U
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,273 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher Johnson on December 8, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Carla Bley has a remarkable musical sensibility, and brings together a wonderful ensemble here that's as comfortable serving up warm chorale-like brass arrangements as it is bursting into solo on top of a swinging jazz bass line (often in the same song). The arrangements are creative masterpieces - at once lyrical and humorous - with rich, unexpected chord voicings that will reward serious listeners without alienating the mainstream. The jazz world has always had a special connection with Christmas music - from Dexter Gordon's emotional take on Mel Torme's "Christmas Song" to Vince Guaraldi's lonely "Christmas Time is Here". The best tunes of the genre contain warmth, playfulness, and always a hint of sadness at the passing of time. This record so full of personality will sit well next to the classics of the idiom. It's a fantastic album.
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Format: Audio CD
Confession time: My ire for Christmas music reached an all time high earlier this decade. My busy job at the time during the holiday season was a contribution factor. The local radio station that my boss played around the clock was no help either. Each November/December, it would be the same renditions/recordings of the same songs done by the same people. Not only was it stifling music (Leo Kottke, one of my favorite guitarists, insists that you can't do anything new with a Christmas carol anymore), but there was no variation in the playlists. And it was like that for seven days a week. Put that together with cranky customers on the phone, I thought my blood veins would rupture.

One day recently I find out that Carla Bley has released a Christmas album, and I am torn. On one hand, Carla Bley is an artist; a composer, a musician who doesn't just roll out of bed and release yuletide crap to earn money. On the other hand, it's Christmas music. I decide to try it. And I like it.

One thing that I especially get is Bley taking liberties with melodies. For instance on "Away In A Manger," the note that matches the word "his" in the line "no crib for his bed" is flatted. That's awesome. If I tried to pull that off at a Christmas party, I would get dirty looks. The way she screws with the harmony of "O Tannenbaum" is equally cool.

Her combination of piano and brass ensemble adds a welcome blur of styles. Sometimes it sounds jazzy, other times it sounds like classical chamber as you can hear on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

And Carla includes her own "Jesus Maria." Christmas music is saved.
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By Leseratte on November 27, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Great recording. Emotional, but without getting sentimental. With love to the classic christmas melodies, but at the same time with delicate irony. Wonderful. Especially "Holy Night" on the electric bass is brilliant.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a sophisticated, heartfelt Christmas recording. The Brass Quintet is superb and the instrumental arrangements are lively and interesting throughout. This recording has quickly joined the select group of my favorite Christmas CDs.
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Love this album. She is an incredible arranger and composer and the jazz is perfect for any event- background at a dinner for two or party for 30! I never tire of the music (as most holiday albums get boring!) and continue to listen to it now- and it's february!
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Format: Audio CD
On the one hand, there are far too many Christmas albums that do nothing new with the musical heritage (and often fall into sappiness). On the other, too many fall into mere novelty while straining to bring something new. Carla Bley, an accomplished composer, manages to offer interesting new takes on familiar material. Her respect for the tradition shines through, even while she gets playful in that particular Carla Bley manner. Recommended as a possible bridge between those who love the familiar and those who can get a little tired of the old chestnuts.
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