BeBop Christmas Card
The BeBop Christmas card was first conceived in 1995 when Jay Ford and I were playing a brunch gig around Christmas time. It seemed like a good idea, but there was always something else to do. Finally, in the winter of 2000, I said "Alright let's do it!" There are two groups represented here. The quintet (Ford, Hemwall, Rich and Swann) is one that I assembled for a special church service performance. In November of 1999 I was asked to put together an all Ellington program for a service at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Concord, MA. The musicians had all worked with me in various contexts, and some had played with others before, but we had never played as a quintet. Schedules prevented us from assembling for a rehearsal, so I planned the performance in detail and gave every one the music and the details. We met at the church and it was like we had been working as a unit for years. I knew these guys would come through for me here.
The other group is the trio (Ford and Verdugo), with which I worked on a steady basis at Smithwicks Tavern in Lowell, MA. Smithwicks is long gone, but at that time we were playing together every Friday night and had developed a real rapport, and had a chance to run some of the tunes down ahead of the session.
Jazz Christmas albums are something of balancing act. One wants to tap into the sentiments of the season, but avoid sentiment for its own sake. I picked only tunes that I like as tunes and even reached for a couple of obscure things. Since the classics among this set are all pretty well known, I will tell you about the two that are not. "Duermete Nino Lindo" is a folk song that was collected, according to my source, in New Mexico by J. D. Robb. I have also found a variant of this melody that was collected in Arizona. Here is the lyric and a singable translation, presumably by J. D. Robb:
Duermete nino lindo,
en los brazos del amor;
Mientras que duerme y descansa
la pena de mi dolor.
(Chorus, traditional lullaby non-sense syllables)
A la ru, a la me,
A la ru, a la me,
A la ru, a la me,
A la ru, a la ru, a la me.
No temas al rey Herodes
que nada te ha de hacer;
en los brazos de to madre
y ahi nadie to ha de ofender.
Oh sleep, thou holy baby,
With thy head against my breast;
Meanwhile the pangs of my sorrow
Are soothed and put to rest.
Thou need'st not fear King Herod
He will bring no harm to you;
So rest in the arms of your mother
Who sings to you "a la ru."
Tadd Dameron's A Be Bop Carroll, may or may not really be for the Christmas season. It is written on the chord changes of "Mean To Me" which are close in some ways the changes for "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." Perhaps it is a cryptic reference on the part of Dameron, maybe it's all in my own mind, but it fits with the theme of a "BeBop Christmas Card."
The packaging of the "Card" is a paperboard enclosure, like a miniature of the jackets that LPs used to come in. There is a rectangle on the back in which one can write the name of a recipient as well as their own signature, and an envelope is provided for mailing. It really can be used as a Christmas Card.
1. White Christmas, I. Berlin
2. The Christmas Song, M. TormÈ & R. Wells
3. There Is No Christmas Like A Home Christmas, C. Sigman, M. Addy
4. DuÈrmete NiÒo Lindo, traditional from New Mexico
5. Merry Christmas Baby, J. Moore & L. Baxter
6. A Be Bop Carroll, T. Dameron
7. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Martin & Blain
8. I'll Be Home For Christmas, K. Gannon, W. Kent & B. Ram
9. A Child Is Born, T. Jones
10. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve, F. Loesser
Paul Combs, saxes, flute & vocals
Jay Ford, guitar
Don Hemwall, piano
Doug Rich, upright bass (1,2,5,6,8 &10)
Pedro Verdugo, electric bass (3,4,7, & 9)
Stanley C. Swann, III, drums
Recorded 5/7/00, Chris Madsen, engineer; 6/21/00, Brook Batteau, engineer; and mastered by Chris Madsen at Supervox Sound Recording, Boston, MA
Cover art by Peter Panas