Luckily for me, the splendid string bassist / singer / creative catalyst Jen Hodge is of a forgiving disposition, or else I would be nervous about reviewing her splendid EP, CHRISTMAS TREATS, on December 29. But my semester ended a week ago, and it took intensive therapy to get the student essays and grading out of my system.
So here I am, a week and more too late. BUT the good news is that the music — if you were to play it for someone who didn’t know it was Official Holiday Music — is simply gratifying hot melodic jazz, with surprising twists.
Here’s a sample — music that will be especially appropriate when the January credit card statement, all teeth and eyes, emerges:
CHRISTMAS TREATS features four tracks — including SANTA CLAUS BLUES, they are a Bechet-inspired IL EST NE, LE DIVIN ENFANT; JOLLY OLD SAINT NICHOLAS; GOD REST YE, MERRY GENTLEMEN. And they rock — the overall effect is hot lyricism with beautiful melodic statements and just the right blend of rocking collective improvisation.
Jen is very proud of the lineup — each track features musicians from Western Canada’s hot jazz scene, their ages from 18 to 89, including Jen herself, Brad Shigeta, Lloyd Arntzen, Sky Lambourne, Arnt Arntzen, Nick James, Aaron Levinson, Dave Taylor, Ben Henriques, Bonnie Northgraves, Kayden Gordon, Joseph Abbott, Don Ogilvie, Josh Roberts, Kelby MacNayr. Some of these names were completely new to me, but the music is convincing throughout.
Nothing on this diminutive but affecting disc is formulaic: neat arranging touches uplift without being overly clever: duets and duels between two of the same instruments; interludes for horns without rhythm within a performance — and a consistently swinging result. You didn’t hear anything this good at the mall, and this music will still be very tasty when all the ornaments are packed away.
May your happiness increase!