• CD Review: A very old-fashioned Christmas
     | December 06,2013

    There are some things that are, and should remain, traditional in nature. I don’t like my chocolate flavored with salt, my bagels filled with pistachio nuts, or my Christmas music changed. Frankly, a hip hop Christmas, or ‘Bob Dylan Sings Christmas Songs’ just doesn’t cut it with me. If I’m going to have to spend a month surrounded by holiday music let it be the old standards done by musicians who respect the tradition and keep it intact.

    Thus, I am happy to report that for those like me who want to hear Christmas music that is familiar in sound and texture, there is a new CD that fits the bill. “The Magic of Christmas Music by Carp, Irene and Friends” is just the album to help you wrap your presents and digest the ham, turkey or goose dinner on Dec. 25.

    Dick Carpenter (Carp) on saxophone, Irene Robertson on piano, along with drummer George Drew and bassist Jack Von Behren recently released this 13-track album of instrumental music that is easy to listen to and reminiscent of past decades. The interplay here is between Carp and Irene as they trade lead lines with Drew, and Von Behren holding the rhythm solidly and unobtrusively.

    All the great Christmas chestnuts are included: From “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” “Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire” (which is actually titled “The Christmas Song”), “Sleigh Ride,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “Oh There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” “White Christmas,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Blue Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Silver Bells,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and ending with a “Medley of Four Traditional Christmas Songs,” these are the best of the favorites.

    Listening to the CD I fully expected Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney, the cast of the 1954 movie “White Christmas,” to chime in as they settled into their lodge in fictional Pine Tree, Vt. The album has a very 1940s, early 1950s ambiance about it.

    Carp is not a “jazzy” sax player. He keeps the melody front and center, preferring the big band sound as opposed to players like Paul Desmond, who toyed with melodies. Irene, too, is a straight-on pianist with a strong sense of the melodic content of the music. The album has a bit of the Muzak sound to it but that’s OK as the musicians aren’t going for a breakthrough concept here.

    Carp and Irene, to their credit, are both super seniors. She is 91 with 79 years of playing experience. Carp is 79 and plays in three different groups. Drummer Drew is in his late 70s and has been playing for 65 years. Von Behren is the youngster in the group.

    This Barre-based quartet, with help from Adrian Otterman from Orange as recording engineer, has continued to record a solid set of songs as they showed on their first CD, “Forever Young.” Once again they prove that age is no impediment to talent, and that Christmas music can be enjoyable for the many familiar and pleasant melodies that exist in the genre.

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