ACME BRASS CO: READ ME
Jingle bell swing
By Derrick Bang/Enterprise entertainment editor
Published Dec 14, 2005 - 10:39:20 CST.
I've done these annual surveys for a long time now, and while I continue to be pleased by many new releases each year, I'm less likely to get excited; after all, we're talking about a finite number of songs, and only so many variations on familiar themes.
Well, the ACME Brass Company's “X-Mas X-ing” (Kampini Records KAB60298) knocked me out.
Producer/arranger/musician Tom Kamp's album is sheer genius: a remarkably inventive concept executed with impressive musicianship. Each of this album's 13 tracks is a familiar Christmas theme that has been interpolated in the manner of a different jazz classic, and/or in the style of a well-known jazz icon.
Thus, the CD opens with “Jingle Duke”: “Jingle Bells” arranged in the familiar style of Duke Ellington's “Take the A-Train,” with nods along the way toward “Satin Doll,” “C-Jam Blues” and a few other bits of Ellingtonia.
“Silent Miles” is a clever blend of “Silent Night” and Miles Davis' “All Blues,” along with nods toward that jazz master's “Four,” “Tune-Up,” “Freddie Freeloader” and others. You'll even catch an echo of “Blue X-Mas,” made famous years ago thanks to Bob Dorough's deliciously caustic vocal.
Kamp wrote all these arrangements himself, and they're brilliant. The results aren't uniformly successful; a few tracks are a bit too busy for their own good - “No More Blue Christmas Bossa” (“Blue Christmas” by way of Kenny Dorham's “Blue Bossa” and Jobim's “Chega De Saudade,” with a nod to Elvis Presley's band style) comes to mind - but by and large veteran jazz fans will be delighted by the game, as they listen carefully and try to extract every little musical quote and reference.
Kamp assembled a good band, as well: Bill Ash and Matt Krempasky on trumpet and flugelhorn, R.J. Kelley on French horn, Dale Turk on bass trombone (to Kamp's trombone), Linda Presgrave with her solid piano chops, Ron Haspo on bass, and Rick Visone on percussion.
"X-Mas X-Ing," The Acme Brass Co. (Kampini)
And now for something completely different ... this Garden State four-brass, three-rhythm band has fun, fun, fun mixing holiday songs and jazz standards -- in the same selection. "Santa Monk" is Monk's "Blue Monk" dancing with "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." "Jingle Duke" somehow meshes "Take the 'A' Train" with "Jingle Bells." "Good King Trane" is a trifecta of "Good King Wencelas," "Giant Steps" and "Impressions." "O" blends "O Holy Night" with "Oh Happy Day." Somehow, these combinations, while odd-sounding on paper, actually sound pretty good, and the brass choir -- trumpet and flugelhorn, trombone and bass trombone -- gives everything a holiday flavor.
-- Zan Stewart
What a blast! You know all of these songs, and you know none of these songs. The Acme Brass is flat-out fun on "X-Mas X-Ing," one of the more innovative holiday CDs to come down the pike.
This instrumental album's greatest strength lies in Tom Kamp's amazing arrangements. Using well-known holiday standards as starting points, Kamp has mixed, blended, and even juxtaposed song fragments and musical styles from other classic standards, creating brand new pieces.
"X-Mas X-Ing" is just full of delightful surprises. There are 42 songs crammed into about an hour, and you must listen closely to catch the various cross-references and asides.
Anyone who enjoys instrumental jazz, a gifted brass ensemble, and holiday music will get a kick out of X-Mas X-Ing. It's almost like getting four albums for the price of one!