Warren Hill,
A Warren Hill Christmas
(Narada, 2002)

A Warren Hill Christmas is a perfect album for a Christmas party of single twenty- and thirty-somethings. It's entirely instrumental, upbeat and sexy. It keeps a pretty even pace that would lend itself perfectly to a conversation's background while providing a sense of titillation. (You don't believe me? Check out "Santa Baby" and see if you don't want to slip a sable under someone's tree.)

Warren Hill's smooth style comes across plain as day in this selection of familiar Christmas tunes. His saxophone infuses a subtle energy into formerly tired tunes such as "Frosty the Snowman" and "White Christmas." His version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" replaces the melancholy of the original with a light sensual groove. "Jingle Bells" is hardly recognizable, but in a good way. Hill shows he doesn't just do smooth jazz, but provides a bit of fusion jazz while jingling.

The only downside to this album is the accompaniment to Hill's saxophone. In some songs, the piano, guitars and percussion provide a great framework (e.g., "The Christmas Song"), but in many tracks the accompaniment distracts attention from the sax. For example, in "The Little Drummer Boy," the piano and percussion try to take over the song and nearly suffocate the saxophone's sound. I appreciate a variety of instruments, but usually the star of the show should keep center stage.

You don't need to be a hardcore jazz enthusiast or a dyed-in-the-wool Christmas fanatic to enjoy this album. A Warren Hill Christmas has something to offer for nearly everyone. His new takes on old tunes are a great musical outlet for the holidays.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 7 December 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.