Don Lanphere's Year 'Round Christmas arrived in my mailbox a few days ago as a delightful surprise. I had requested a different holiday release, and this pleasurable CD came along as an unexpected companion. I'm certainly glad it did.
Lanphere, a beloved jazz great who played with legends like Charlie Parker and Artie Shaw, was known as the "Seattle Jazz Grandpop." Sadly, the artist passed away in October 2003, but the fine music of this well-known saxophonist and educator lives on.
This album is, for the most part, gentle instrumental jazz with lovely improvisational flourishes; three tracks do have vocals (James Caddell and Kelly Harland). Lanphere is joined by six other musicians on the trumpet (Jonathan Pugh), keyboards (Marc Seales), bass (Chuck Deardorf), Dean Hodges (drums), trombone (Jeff Hay), and guitar (Michael Powers). The overall effect is both mellow and life-affirming.
My favorite track here is probably the playful "Jingle Bells." The instruments honestly seem to be conversing with each other, chatting back and forth in a musically seamless (and fascinating) way. The solo keyboard improvisation on "Deck the Hall" is also extremely cool, and the sax work on "O Holy Night" is oh-so-sweet. The most jumpin' piece on the album is the final cut, "Let It Snow, Let It Snow," and it's a very fun close.
Thank you, Don Lanphere. Year 'Round Christmas is a holiday gift that will have you in our thoughts for many seasons to come.