Jack Wilkins is a bona fide jazz guitar icon, and he displays some mighty fine guitar chops on his instrumental Christmas Jazz Guitar. The term "icon" gets thrown around a lot, but in this case, the word could not be more appropriate. Long associated with Buddy Rich, Wilkins has been a fixture in the NYC jazz community for over 40 years and has backed some of the greatest jazz luminaries around (think Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, and the list goes on and on!). Wilkins is a consummate jazz improviser, and his playing is exquisite.
Christmas Jazz Guitar presents 13 tracks, all holiday classics except for the always beautiful "Barbara Allen," in an all-too-brief (31 minutes) setting. The playing presents a brocade of sound; intricate layers of jazz improvisation weave the loveliest sort of adornment. Many pieces open with relatively straightforward melody/harmony lines before cascading into a more sophisticated, yet always welcoming and accessible, display of jazz brilliance. Although the playing can become intense, the mood remains gentle. Just about every cut qualifies as a "favorite"; that being said, I found "Sleigh Ride" to be especially memorable.
Jazz aficionados should scurry in a hurry to obtain Christmas Jazz Guitar by this acknowledged jazz guitar giant. The album may end far too soon, but it's bliss while it lasts.
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Review "Christmas Jazz Guitar"