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Jingle All the Way

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Album Review

Grammy-winning banjo "fusionist" Béla Fleck and his Flecktones may be the most qualified collective to inject some life into the notoriously monotonous "holiday music" scene, and Jingle All the Way (one would think that an innovator like Fleck could come up with a more creative "Christmas" album title, or at least one that doesn't directly reference a 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy), doesn't disappoint. All of the standards are here ("Sleigh Ride," "Silent Night," "Twelve Days of Christmas"), but they're filtered through the skewed prism of an outfit capable of just about anything from klezmer, to classical to Tuvan throat singing — the latter is provided by the internationally acclaimed Alash Ensemble. It's not all wacky though, as Fleck, Victor Wooten, Jeff Coffin, and Future Man prove reverent when needed, especially on a cover of Joni Mitchell's "River" and the Vince Guaraldi classics "Linus and Lucy" and "Christmas Time Is Here." Jingle All the Way, despite its groaner of a title and questionable "frontman in Santa hat with eggnog" photo, is anything but predictable.

Customer Reviews

Non-stop playing since I got this album...

Seriously, this is probably the BEST dang album I've ever heard. I can't take it out of the CD player in my car! It just kinda stuck to me, soon as I heard it, I IMMEDIATELY loved it; every single song, a masterpiece! I especially like the Tuvan throat-singers on the album... The only English on the entire album is in the "12 Days of Christmas." ^_^ Okay, enough gushing. If you are gonna buy a Béla Fleck and the Flecktones album, this should be the first one on your list!

Favorite holiday music antidote

This album is extraordinary, in all senses of that term. It is stunning, as music, as performance, and as a remarkable demonstration of how to take all-too-familiar pieces and give them resurrection into a whole new type of life. At times, there is joyful humor in the presentation that makes me break out in smiles, sometimes even irrepressible laughter. There are many deeply moving elements, too, and the musicianship is absolutely delightful. This album out to be in every ethnomusicologist’s library. Where else will you get a throat singing version of Jingle Bells, accompanied by banjo?!

When all those sappy holiday soundtracks begin to wear you down, put this on as an antidote. This is one way to resist without having to play the Scrooge.


Born: July 10, 1958 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Premier banjo player Béla Fleck is considered one of the most innovative pickers in the world and has done much to demonstrate the versatility of his instrument, which he uses to play everything from traditional bluegrass to progressive jazz. He was named after composer Béla Bartok and was born in New York City. Around age 15, Fleck became fascinated with the banjo after hearing Flatt & Scruggs' "Ballad of Jed Clampett" and Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell's "Dueling Banjos," and his grandfather...
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