The Dreamers/John Zorn (Composer): A Dreamers Christmas

Track List

>Winter Wonderland
>Christmas Time Is Here
>Santa's Workshop
>Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
>Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
>Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
>Magical Sleigh Ride
>Christmas Song, The

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

"From John Zorn you might expect a scabrous or somehow disruptive attitude toward Christmas records, but he’s made a legit one as puppet master of the Dreamers, a band that skates on styles — Marc Ribot on guitar, Kenny Wollesen on vibraphone, Jamie Saft on keyboards, Trevor Dunn on bass and Joey Baron on drums. (Cyro Baptista plays percussion, and Mike Patton sings in a Nat King Cole-ish baritone on “The Christmas Song,” a very understated piece of satire.) They mostly play it straight, in the spirit of Vince Guaraldi, except for some intense postbop moments and some light art-brut noise. Mr. Zorn’s involvement extends to “arranged and produced by,” and composing one jam tune, “Magical Sleigh Ride.” But “presenting” rather than appearing on your own albums is a mood-music tradition, and Jackie Gleason might have dug this one." -The New York Times

Album Notes

Personnel: Mike Patton (vocals); Marc Ribot (guitars); Jamie Saft (keyboards); Kenny Wollesen (vibraphone, glockenspiel, chimes); Trevor Dunn (acoustic bass, electric bass); Joey Baron (drums); Cyro Baptista (percussion).

Recording information: EastSide Sound, NYC (03/2011-04/2011).

Arranger: John Zorn .

Even John Zorn fans have a right to cast a wary eye at the cover of A Dreamer's Christmas, given the bandleader. That said, the title describes exactly what is in the grooves. Zorn re-recruited the cabal who created the stellar albums The Gift in 2001 and Dreamers in 2008 -- and who have worked separately and in various configurations on many of his recordings. In many ways, this set feels like a tribute to Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas classic, though with one exception: it sounds nothing like it. There are seven "traditional" Christmas tunes (pop standards, really) played by Marc Ribot, Cyro Baptista, Jamie Saft, Kenny Wollesen, Trevor Dunn, and Joey Baron. Mike Patton makes a (very straight) guest appearance on "The Christmas Song." Zorn also wrote a couple of tunes for the set as well -- "Santa's Workshop" and "Magical Sleigh Ride." The former has a series of Latin rhythms played by Baptista on various kinds of percussion -- including bells -- with Wollesen's vibes and Dunn's bassline creating a kind of gauzy flow of texture and exotica melody until Ribot's fine guitar solo layers in a surf feel. The latter begins more mysteriously and introspectively, with Ribot's guitar effects and Dunn's bass up front while Baptista's Brazilian percussion highlights their interplay. When Wollesen's vibes and Saft's Rhodes enter the picture, it becomes a complex, atmospheric, Caribbean-flavored jazz tune. It's one of the set's true highlights. The Guaraldi reference actually makes itself heard on "Christmastime Is Here," in a piano-driven jazz arrangement, and gorgeous right-hand solos on the melody throughout are accented by Baron's shimmering brushes and chord voicings by Ribot. A Dreamer's Christmas is one of those holiday records -- once you hear it, you'll be reaching for it every season. ~ Thom Jurek


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