In spite of the fact that I’m surrounded by Smooth Jazz day in and out I don’t find a lot of albums in the genre that move me quite the same way New Age does in the Christmas category. There are exceptions Dave Koz is in a great space on his “December Makes Me Feel This Way” CD and Chris Botti follows suit on this very intimate quiet collection.
“December” at times feels like a slow Jazz/New Age CD. It doesn’t jump out at you and that’s a good thing. The album opens with Billy Childs on Fender Rhodes and that unforgettable distinctive Chris Botti trumpet. If Mel Torme was around to tip his hat I’m sure he would. The string arrangement on “The First Noel” brings one back to tradition arrangements and the mood again a delicious crawl.
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is breathtaking – the production is simple just Botti’s trumpet accompanied with guitar and bass. Jimmy Haslip of Yellowjackets fame adds a salsa bassline to “Santa Clause Is Coming To Town” and the breezy “Winter Wonderland” is guaranteed to de-stress anyone hooked on chaos this holiday season.
Botti appropriately recruited Vinnie Colaiuta one of the best drummers in the universe on “Little Drummer Boy” – its feel is a bit traditional yet very fresh and alive. Botti also sings albeit quietly on two tracks the Richard Marx/ Cynthia Rhodes penned “Perfect Day” and on one of my favourite Christmas Classics, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” This is the best Smooth Jazz Christmas out there – you gotta get it! – by John Beaudin
Chris Botti – December (2002) Columbia / Sony