The CD EARLY SNOWFALL just reached my hands (available from WWW.SUMMITRECORDS.COM)
It did as a gift from Kim Pensyl, and there’s nothing like a gift of music to cement a new friendship.
Courtly, clean shaven and trim, Pensyl does not project the kind of image many might associate with jazz musicians. Nor does his music satisfy most wrongheaded notions of what jazz is.
But we’ll have more about that in a moment…
Now, to both qualify and disqualify me, here are a couple of plain facts: 1) I love all kinds of music. 2) I am not a jazz critic.
With that, on the table, as it were, let me be plainspoken and get down to business.
I love this CD.
Would I run out and buy it and add it to my overloaded shelves?
In a heartbeat!
Note that I am not holding back.
There are eleven tracks in the album and about fifty minutes worth of listening. If you order it – and I hope you do – you’ll be treated to off-the-beaten-musical-path renditions of pop standards and traditional tunes: Winter Wonderland, Oh Christmas Tree, Jingle Bells, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Christmas Time is Here Again, I’ll be Home for Christmas, Joy To The World, Hark The Herald Angels Sing, Let It Snow, Silent Night and the song that gives the album its title: Kim Pensyl’s Early Snowfall.
Pensyl, at the keyboard leads the peerless personnel for the recording: Rick VanMatre on saxes and flute, Rusty Burge on vibraphone, Michael Sharte on bass, John Taylor on drums – five musicians with class and musicianship to be reckoned with.
The music, all but the title song familiar to most of us, is given a fresh makeover by the quintet in arrangements by Pensyl that mine unpredictable harmonic twists and turns next to modal gestures. I never knew some of these tunes could sound as if they had been written in the 15th century!
I’ll Be Home for Christmas is delivered free of sentimental sap in a crystal clear session of show-and-tell by flute, vibraphone and reeds.
Joy To The World is stripped of any hip-hip-hurray religious bathos yet keeping its innate spirituality.
Having grown up in Cuba I can assure one and all that it never snows in that part of the world, but, if it did, Jule Styne’s Let It Snow would be a welcome anthem on the island provided it came in this hot version by Pensyl .
Pensyl’s gorgeous Early Snow is a ballad with a singable tune that cries out for words (which it probably has.)
The composer-keyboardist gets the album’s last musical word by casting a magic spell with Silent Night.
The engineering and production by Kim Pensyl and the CD’s classy packaging would make this a perfect Christmas gift for any music lover.
I already got mine.