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Album Review

Banjoist Alison Brown isn't an innovator along the lines of, say, Béla Fleck — she doesn't play a tricked-out electric instrument or go off on electro-jazz fusion excursions. What she plays is mostly fairly straight-ahead modern jazz with elements of traditional American and British Isles music threaded through it. What makes her playing unique is its blend of chromatic sophistication and melodic inventiveness. When jazz players take on a Christmas music project, they too frequently use the familiar tunes as launching pads for longwinded, self-indulgent noodling; Brown, on the other hand, uses them as opportunities to create glisteningly lovely new arrangements — some straight and faithful to the original compositions, others more adventurous. Her solos (and those of her band, along with guest fiddler/mandolinist Joe Craven) are creative and interesting, but never devolve into mere showmanship: the rather strange pairing of the Turlough O'Carolan composition "O'Carolan's Farewell" with the Dr. Seuss classic "Welcome Christmas" seems bizarre in concept but sounds great in practice; the same goes for Brown's mash-up of "Carol of the Bells" and "We Three Kings." This disc also features an unusual and very lovely 4/4 arrangement of "Silver Bells," which is normally a waltz, and a solidly swinging take on "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" The band finally stretches out with some extended soloing on a samba arrangement of "The Little Drummer Boy," which is followed at the end of the program by a hidden children's vocal arrangement of "Christmas Don't Be Late" (popularized by Alvin & the Chipmunks). No one who likes Christmas music will be able to resist the charms of this album.

Customer Reviews

Merry Xmas

Just stumbled upon this album...I have seen this group perform several times at Merlefest. Evergreen is loaded with very talented musicians. The piano player is phenomenal...be sure to check him out in the quartet's other albums. Alison is a very gifted composer and instrumentalist. If only the Christmas season was here...I'll be buying several of these tunes soon. So far, my favorite sample is Skating/Feliz Navidad.

Best Christmas Collection Ever!!!!

Since the time when major merchants decided to bring Christmas music to us in mid August, I've joined the ranks of those who wanted to jab a sharp stick in both ears by November 1st. This collection of Christmas classics - delivered in the unique style only the Alison Brown could deliver has turned my attitude completely around! Thank you Alison! Merry Christmas everyone!

Terrific Christmas collection

Great songs and musicians. Especially loved "O'Carolan/Welcome Christmas" and "Christmas Time is Here" with the University School of Nashville Middle School Chorale (and it has nothing to do with my daughter being one of the chorale members).

Biography

Born: August 7, 1962 in Hartford, CT

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Progressive bluegrass banjoist Alison Brown made her name not only as a virtuosic instrumentalist, but as an accomplished, jazz-influenced composer, a combination that earned plenty of comparisons to Béla Fleck and David Grisman. Brown began playing the banjo before reaching her teens and developed quickly, winning numerous contests and even getting a chance to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. She was also an excellent student, and temporarily left music to attend Harvard University; following graduation,...
Full Bio
Evergreen, Alison Brown Quartet
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