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A Cellar Live Christmas by B3 Kings/Bruno Hubert Trio

Over the years, there have been a lot of jazz Christmas albums recorded, but this is one of the best. The session was recorded live in December, 2005 at The Cellar in Vancouver, BC as part of an annual Christmas Eve concert. The participants are club regulars, the Bruno Hubert Trio and the B3 Kings, the groups alternating on each tune.

What makes this CD so special are the creative arrangements by B3 organist Chris Gestrin. He and his fellow musicians make this not just a token Christmas album played in a jazzy style, but tasteful, swinging jazz simply based on holiday classics. Included here are two soulful vocals by B3 Kings drummer Denzal Sinclaire.

The sessions gets off to a romping start with "Jingle Bells," featuring solid improvisations by alto saxman Cory Weeds and guitarist Bill Coon, driven by Sinclaire’s populsive drums. Next, up, Sinclaire takes the first of two vocals, rendering a sweet plaintive quality to "Little Drummer Boy," backed by pianist Hubert and his group, bassist Andre Lachance and drummer Brad Turner.

Another standout-on "O Little Town of Bethlehem, Weeds’ alto combines with Gestrin’s organ for a fast-paced interlude chorus, before Weeds cools thing down at the end. Pianist Hubert gets his turn to shine on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," displaying a subtly swinging style that suggests Bill Evans’ influence. In this, Lachance comes in for a superior solo on bass. The "Merry Gentlemen" never seemed so cool

"Away in the a Manger" is presented as a slow and stately processional with Weeds, Gestrin and Coon gracefully meshing. This is immediately followed with a delightfully swinging "I Saw Three Ships," featuring Hubert’s hot piano and Lachance’s pulsating bass, both propelled by the march rhythm of Turner’s drums. Sinclaire provides another vocal in "We Three Kings," giving the song a plaintive "Nature Boy" quality, before Gestrin’s funky organ arrives on the scene.

Gestrin again excels with his complex arrangement of "Dance O the Sugar Plums," in which his organ, Coon’s Guitar and Weeds' alto blend in front of Turner's steady beat. The finale, "I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus," is a gas. Hubert’s humorous bouncy piano interpretation will certainly leave listeners brimming with yuletide cheer.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: B3 Kings/Bruno Hubert Trio
  • CD Title: A Cellar Live Christmas
  • Genre: Holiday Jazz
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Cellar Live
  • Tracks: Jingle Bells, Little Drummer Bay, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manger, I Saw Three Ships, We Three Kings, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Dance O the Sugar Plums, I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Clause
  • Musicians: B3 Kings: Cory Weeds (alto sax), Bill Coon (guitar), Chris Gestrin (Hammond B3 organ, Denzal Sinclaire (drums, vocals) Bob Hubert Trio: Bob Hubert (piano), Andre Lachance (bass), Brad Turner (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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