It’s time I started getting around to writing about the stuff I got for Christmas, don’tcha think? Sure ya do.
I love Wynton Marsalis’ trumpet playing. Have for ages. It’s the tone. His breadth of knowledge and sense of fun (while completely precise) that he brings to what he does. He is always surrounded by superlative players. And it seems like he farts albums. His bands are such a shit-hot units, I swear it seems they could crack out an album in an afternoon’s studio session. How many records has he made, now? 100? 150? 200? Many, many, many, and I seem to really like artists that are prolific as hell (I’m looking at you too, Mr. Pollard). Anyway.
So you should also know that, generally, I hate Christmas music. I’m not a grinch. I just don’t get all sappy at Christmas-time. I am not warmed by insipid carols. At all. Do NOT come to my door, singing. You will not likely get cocoa and a huge thanks. With this in mind, know that I don’t tend to buy Christmas music. Quelle surprise!
Rewind to about three years ago when, for some unknown reason, I was in the Evil Empire (you’ll call it Wal-Mart). Amnesia, probably didn’t know where I was. And I saw this Wynton record for about $8. And I was initially excited. Cheap Wynton CD! But then reason kicked in, and I thought about how much I was likely to actually play the damn thing (given how I feel about Christmas music). So, I left it. No big deal.
Each year, during a fit of Alzheimer-like wandering, I would find myself in that mall-wart and I would visit the CD. It was always there. But I never bought it. It just pleased me to see Wynton. And then this year, I thought to hell with this, I should just buy the damn thing. I mean, I’ve been passively stalking it for three years, so pony up, big boy. If nothing else, it’d add another soldier to my Wynton collection. So I dug through the bin of Christmas CDs. And it wasn’t there. Back at home, I checked the internets… out of print. Oh, Amazon had a copy. $53. Discogs didn’t even list it. Well, shit.
My lovely wife heard the tale (she hears many of my ramblings about music, and is very very very patient with me). I figured that was the end of it, maybe I could check next year and there would have been a box in storage they’d missed and I’d get a copy. Funny how I went from not caring, when it was available, to wanting it when it wasn’t. I’m only human.
As you’ve guessed, my lovely wife found a copy for me as a Christmas gift. She found it on eBay, which is a place I am not allowed to go because I would bankrupt us by buying hard-to-get Guided By Voices vinyls. Anyway, I was thrilled. It felt like a fitting ending. And the CD has a story: apparently, it was originally it was a release for Target, in the US, and came packaged with Bing Crosby’s White Christmas as a 2-fer. Yep, I got the Bing CD too, as these were unopened pristine copies.
And the Wynton CD itself? It’s pretty damn hot. Picture yourself in New Orleans, in some small and sweaty club. On a stage with no extra room to move, Wynton and his merry band of insanely-talented players are ripping through Christmas standards, Dixieland-style. And there you go. There are some sweet vocals from Roberta Gumbel and Don Vappie (who also played guitar and banjo), but by and large this is an instrumental album. People this talented will scare everyone who pretends to be a player.
It’s still Christmas music. I can’t pretend it’s not. But holy hell, the playing here is brilliant. Of course it is. It’s Wynton.
My huge thanks to my lovely wife for making this happen. She knows me so well and she’s so very thoughtful. And patient. Did I mention that?