Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas '64 - The Incredible Jimmy Smith

This is the first and only Christmas album released by Jimmy Smith. I kind of decided to review this album because the first time I did this I decided to do a Jimmy McGriff album, oh whom I'd mix up with Jimmy Smith. To be fair they both play the same instrument and genre of music, so not that much of a stretch. I also find it fitting to do this because Rudy van Gelder was the recording engineer on this, and he passed away earlier this year. So while not a proper tribute, it'll hopefully be a fair one to review with his name in the credits. I also want to point out there are some people whom I recognize, like Kenny Burrell, Al Cohn, Art Davis and Billy Hart along with a number of people whom I don't recognize, but have played on records I want to or have heard.
  1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: I really dig the rendition of this track. I mean I do enjoy this song. This is a track that seems to be a quintet (organ/guitar/bass/drums) with a horn section (4 trumpets/1 flugel horn/2 trombones/2 bass trombones/4 french horns/1 tuba) and a percussionist and a harpist. The timpani in the beginning sets the song for a large feeling. Almost the same way Thus Spoke does. The track is a bit odd, and I think would take a few listens to get my first time through. But I do like what I'm hearing, it just might seem a bit over blown. Like there is a very big band feeling to this track. The unfortunate thing though, is I knew how I felt about this arrangement by the ending of the album.
  2. Jingle Bells: Ah we meet again for round number four. This time though, it's only a trio. With Quentin Warren on guitar and Billy Hart on drums. This is much different than the last track and feels much less. Not in a bad way, but less going one. I actually prefer this to that last track. I don't think that was arranged as well as this. This feels nice and is quite enjoyable to be honest, but when it switches orchestra it just doesn't work for me. Like I have no interest.
  3. We Three Kings of Orient Are: Another Christmas song I dig and don't wanna kill myself during. There are moments I like in this big band sort of arrangement, but I'm not completely sold. I think it works a bit better than the opener. I mean I don't think it's really anything that mind blowing, but it's well enough. I do like the organ though, and the band without the orchestra is by far the highlight, but I don't know, I think the 
  4. The Christmas Song: Fuck this song, I think it's so stupid it's called this. Chestnuts really, fuck you. I do like how it feels a bit darker, but I mean this arrangement should have a singer. I mean again, nice organ playing, but I don't want to only enjoy the band. Honestly again, the group works so much better than the orchestra. I like the drums a lot, but I think it blows it once the orchestra comes to the forefront.
  5. White Christmas: This is a decent version of the song. And I do have to say this is nice, I like how the other instruments are in the background. They are accompanying, not in the forefront.
  6. Santa Claus is Coming to Town: This is a cover of a song later covered by Bruce Springsteen. Useless fact of the day. This is a trio version, and it's nice. Finally a track that doesn't feel overblown. This is actually a solid track that I can jive with, I probably won't revisit it, but I do dig it. The guitar sounds good at the ending and I like the fade. This is what I want the album to be like.
  7. Silent Night: I did like the version on Jackie's album. And this is the orchestra again, it's almost like they got him to guest appear on his own album [Jimmy]. I do like the song though, once the pesty orchestra gets out of the way. Keep it that way, because this is a great version of the song. The ending works too.
  8. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: This is a trio track, and is probably the reason it's on the album twice. Once orchestra, one trio and works as a book ending. After the rest of the album, I was looking forward to this. I am very glad to say, this track works quite well. Though it makes me want to do a re arrangement of the first track. Honestly, this track is great. It's not perfect, but the album would have been far better if it was in this vein for most every track.
Overall I have to give this album a 4/10. This was an okay album, while I've come to expect nothing more than a 4 or 5 out of a christmas album, you never know. The album would be a solid 5 or 6 if they'd have stuck with the trio or orchestral accompaniment, not fore front. It's not the worst thing I've heard, just a lot of moments that ruin songs for me or ruin them in the context of enjoyment and a higher score.

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