Not Your Usual Christmas CD: Geri Allen's A Child is Born

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I’ve done the KCRW Christmas Day show that replaces Morning Becomes Eclectic (9-12 noon) for three years now.  I enjoy doing it and making it a really eclectic Christmas music mix, staying away from Alvin and the Chipmunks, Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby”, and all the stuff you hear in the mall for weeks on end before the magic day arrives.  Who wants to hear those songs over and over again.  No, I won’t repeat it.

You’d think, then, that I would be eager to get new Christmas music for any future Xmas shows.  Au contraire.  During my recent move, when I had to box up the ungodly number of 23,000 cd’s (and thousands of lp’s too) I was forced by the gods of downsizing to get rid of Christmas records I never used.  I just had waaaaay too many.

I’m not a cynic or a scrooge who say that artists record Christmas albums because they know they’ll sell year after year.  Kind of like the notion that artists are recording lp’s again because they can’t be easily duplicated like cd’s or itunes cuts.

Now that I’ve said all this, here’s a new Christmas cd I’ll be hanging on to:  Geri Allen’s A Child is Born (Motema Music, 2011).  It’s an instrumental cd of piano solo treatments of a bunch of old chestnuts:  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, We Three Kings, Angels We Have Heard on High, you know the drill.

But Geri Allen treats them very differently, putting in cool, impressionist chords you never hear in these songs.  I’ve followed her work ever since Charlie Haden handed me her first cd in the 1980s;  she was an artist to be watched.  I loved her work for Charles Lloyd, an artist famous for the pianists he chooses to grace his fantastic groups (Jarrett, Bobo Stenson, Michel Petrucciani, and now Jason Moran were a few in Lloyd’s stable).

A Child is Born is a refreshing change from all the Christmas music overload we get this time of year.  You should check it out.

Here’s her version of “We Three Kings”

[audio:|titles=06 we three kings 1]