Saturday, November 25, 2017

Chris Pasin And Friends: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (2017) CD Review

Well, it’s that time of year again. It just can’t be avoided, no matter how much alcohol we drink. Christmas is coming, and I just can’t see a way around it. Can you? Every autumn sees the release of a number of CDs celebrating the holiday. Most are crap. But some are good. A large percentage of the good ones are instrumental albums, and the reason for this is rather obvious: the lyrics to the majority of traditional Christmas songs suck. Trumpet player Chris Pasin and Friends deliver a mostly instrumental collection of holiday songs on Baby It’s Cold Outside. The musicians on this release include Chris Pasin on trumpet and flugelhorn, Armen Donelian on piano, Peter Einhorn on guitar, Ira Coleman on bass, Rich Syracuse on bass, and Jeff Siegel on drums. Joining them on certain tracks is vocalist Patricia Dalton Fennell.

The album opens with one of the songs with vocals – a gentle, late-night rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” This version has a pleasant, nostalgic, relaxed vibe, and is actually quite good. I love those touches on trumpet, as well as that lead section. That’s followed by “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” with the trumpet doing what would be the vocal line. It’s hard to listen to it without hearing in your head the song’s lame lyrics. I prefer the section with piano on lead, when we can forget for a moment what song it is that they’re playing. Ira Coleman and Jeff Siegel get a chance to shine on bass and drums respectively in the second half of the track.

“We Three Kings Of Orient Are” gets a bit loose and features some wonderful and energetic work on trumpet. At moments, you can forget that this is a Christmas song, and those obviously are my favorite moments. There is some really nice stuff on drums here. This track kind of eases out at the end. And then “Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel” begins as a trumpet solo. This is kind of an intriguing rendition, with some pretty stuff on keys. In fact, this track is just piano and trumpet. It ends up being one of my favorite tracks, which might be in part because I’m not as familiar with this one, and so no lyrics are running through my noggin as I listen to it. I can simply enjoy it as a beautiful piece of music.

I love “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” the song used as the title track for this album. It’s not specifically a Christmas song, though by now it is, by virtue of its winter setting, tied (perhaps reluctantly) to the holiday. This track features vocals, of course, delivered as spoken word by Patricia Dalton Fennell and Chris Pasin. Here the roles are reversed, with the woman being the aggressive one. When the roles are reversed like this, the guy often comes across as kind of a dweeb. Right? Unless he’s married or really dislikes the woman or something. Patricia gives some delightful line readings (“I’m not concerned about your brother, dear”). But my favorite part of this rendition is the trumpet, which is the real singer here. “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” features more great work on trumpet, over a cool groove. I really like what Peter Einhorn does on guitar.

Though labeled as “Greensleeves” on the CD case, the song here is actually “What Child Is This?” with vocals by Patricia Dalton Fennell. While I like her voice, this is a song I definitely prefer without the lyrics, or with the original “Greensleeves” lyrics (which have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas). The music is so beautiful. Some of the best Christmas music ever written, however, is by Vince Guaraldi, and it was written for a cartoon. Yup, here Chris Pasin And Friends cover “Christmas Time Is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas, which, by the way, is the best Christmas special ever made. This is a good rendition, perhaps slightly more lively than many versions, but featuring good work on trumpet and guitar. The CD concludes with a really nice instrumental rendition of “The Christmas Song.”

CD Track List
  1. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  2. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
  3. We Three Kings Of Orient Are
  4. Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel
  5. Baby It’s Cold Outside
  6. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
  7. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  8. Greensleeves
  9. Christmas Time Is Here
  10. I’ll Be Home For Christmas
  11. The Christmas Song 
Baby It’s Cold Outside was released on October 6, 2017.

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