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iTunes Review

On Carla’s Christmas Carols, the pianist and composer Carla Bley strikes a nice balance between tradition and innovation. The album features instrumental versions of seasonal tunes that should please both fans of Bley’s considerable arranging skills and lovers of these well-worn songs. She is joined by her frequent collaborator Steve Swallow on electric bass, and the Partyka Brass Quintet, a group led by bass trombone and tuba player Ed Partyka. The sounds of celeste, chimes, and glockenspiel appear here and there, providing the tinkly tones we associate with the winter holiday. Swallow brings his signature lead-style bass playing to a mysterious, Spanish-flavored version of “Away In a Manger.” A two-part version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” evokes the lush orchestrations of Gil Evans. Bley sneaks a couple of originals into the album’s mix, too. “Hell’s Bells” has ringing chimes, swinging solos, walking bass, and a quote from “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” The track segues into “Jesus Maria,” a quiet piece with solo turns by Bley and Swallow. The album closes with live recordings of “O Holy Night” and “Joy to the World.”

Customer Reviews

Just in time for Christmas!

What a lovely collection! Brass music, Christmas carols, and Carla Bley. What other three things in the universe could you combine to get such a delightful result? Carla Bley is the best!

Carla Bley is wonderful

I heard this album on NPR's All Things Considered, and just had to have it!

Carla's Christmas

I learned of this album during an NPR review. Always looking for new Christmas music, I gave it a try. I was blown away by the creative and mellow versions of these jazzy horns and compositions. Jazz is not always my first choice but there is something quite moving about this album--especially God Rest Ye.... and O Holy Night. I can't stop playing it and even my kids have asked what happened to the "old stuff".


Born: May 11, 1938 in Oakland, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Post-bop jazz has produced only a few first-rate composers of larger forms; Carla Bley ranks high among them. Bley possesses an unusually wide compositional range; she combines an acquaintance with and love for jazz in all its forms with great talent and originality. Her music is a peculiarly individual type of hyper-modern jazz. Bley is capable of writing music of great drama and profound humor, often within the confines of the same piece. As an instrumentalist, she makes a fine composer; she plays...
Full Bio
Carla's Christmas Carols, Carla Bley
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