The patriarch of America’s First Family of Jazz enters a new frontier. A New Orleans Christmas Carol (ELM Records, 2011) is the first jazz “LP” for iTunes. This release by the National Endowment for the Arts jazz master is available for iTune users as well as traditional CD players.
Marsalis is helped in this effort by son Jason Marasalis on drums, percussion and vibraphone. Also appearing are bassists Bill Huntington and Peter Harris, vocalists Cynthia Liggins Thomas and Johnaye Kendrick, and vibist Roman Skakun. Most of the tracks are in trio with the Marsalises and either bassist, but a few tracks are in quartet form, with one of the vocalists or with Skakun.
A straightforward, solo piano take on “O Tannenbaum” precedes a lively rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy.” Jason’s marching drum beat sets the pace. A sweeping, 3 4 arrangement of “We Three Kings” doubles as a tribute to fellow pianist McCoy Tyner. Jason’s rim shots punctuate the upbeat melody of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” setting up for his dad’s improvisation.