Other than the title of the album and the names of tunes, there is very little on this recording reminiscent of the holiday spirit. There is, however, some delightfully free blowing throughout from guitarist/leader Craig Owens and his sidepersons, bass clarinetist Michael Unruh and percussionist Janet Cramer. The music moves stealthily between notated sections and improvisation, with the distinctions meaningless. Michael Unruh often takes center stage, with stunningly abstract lines on his horn, and Janet Cramer has particularly good ears and chops. Owens sings on his guitar synthesizer like a trumpet, but ultimately it is his thought-provoking arrangements that make all the difference. Eschewing in-your-face pyrotechnics, the trio focuses instead on color, shading and style. ~ Steve Loewy
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