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Christmas Records, Day 8: New Orleans Christmas

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Phil Smith | 15:56 UK time, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

New Orleans Christmas

Various Artists - New Orleans Christmas (Putumayo, released 2006)

"You see a Dixieland Santa Claus, leading the band / To a good 'ole creole beat..." If you like a bit of gumbo on your (presumably gingerbread) yuletide biscuit, Putumayo's compilation of New Orleans festivity may well please. Featuring some stalwarts of the city's rich musical tradition (Ellis, father of the Marsalis dynasty, appears here with a coolly-swinging piano trio God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen), the highlights of this collection however come courtesy of a younger generation. Trumpeter and singer James Andrews brings a new sound to Louis Armstrong's Christmas in New Orleans, while on hearing New Birth Brass Band's grin-inducing Santa's Second Line you realise all you wanted for Christmas was funk played on a tuba. For the most part, this is uplifting stuff dominated by the characteristic sound of the Dixieland frontline (the interweaving melodic lines of trumpet, trombone and clarinet), shuffling snare-drum swing and call-and-response figures thrown back and forth between lead singer and others in the band. A chance to draw breath comes in the polished ballads from Banu Gibson and Topsy Chapman, which, though tastefully-arranged, sound a bit easy-listening safe, more post-dinner Edam than flaming pudding. Packed with chirruping clarinets and parping trombones, this is a compilation to accompany Christmas Day cheer, but one to avoid during resultant Boxing Day grogginess.


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