Peace Round: A Christmas Celebration (2003)

Yellowjackets
Peace Round: A Christmas Celebration

Heads Up International  HUCD 3090
Released: 2003

Producer(s): Yellowjackets

Credits

Russell Ferrante, keyboards
Jimmy Haslip, bass
Bob Mintzer, woodwinds
Marcus Baylor, drums
Jean Baylor, vocal (“The First Noel”)

Tracks

  1. Little Drummer Boy 
  2. Silent Night 
  3. Deck The Halls 
  4. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas 
  5. Peace Round 
  6. The First Noel 
  7. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen 
  8. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem 
  9. Winter Wonderland 
  10. In a Silent Night 

What a goodly thing
If the children of the world
Could dwell together
In peace

(Words to an Old English Canon)

A round begins with the statement of a theme by a single voice. As the theme is passed from one voice to the next, what began as a solitary voice, grows into a rich chorus. It is through song that many of our most cherished traditions are passed along. Might it be possible then for a yearning for peace to start with a single melody? It’s heartening to be reminded that there is incredible power in one voice. Let it begin with a song or an idea that is picked up by a neighbor and passed on to a friend. Let that single voice swell into a harmonious chorus that gains strength with each repetition. During this season, rich in tradition, we celebrate the birth of Christ who was the embodiment of peace. We also celebrate the vitality of a single voice joined with that of other¹s to reshape our world. We humbly offer Peace Round as our wish for this and every season. –Yellowjackets

The question has been posed countless times, “When are Yellowjackets going to make a Christmas album?” Although we’d previously contributed songs to three different holiday compilations, GRP Christmas Collection Vol III, Handel’s Messiah, A Soulful Celebration, and He is Christmas by Take Six, we’d never made an entire Christmas recording on our own. We felt this was the right moment as the band has been very busy this year and the chemistry is particularly strong. When we get together to make music, there is little impediment to getting right into the feeling. Additionally, the exhilarating experience of self-producing our 2002 recording, Mint Jam, gave us the confidence and the knowledge to tackle this project.

Recording a Christmas collection poses some unique challenges. One must make these familiar Christmas songs personal but at the same time respect their original intent and the spirit of the season. We felt we could best do this by capturing lyrical and relaxed performances. We also wanted to render the songs as directly as possible with spare use of overdubbing. Therefore most performances are first or second takes and all but two are just the quartet live.

Almost all the songs we’ve chosen are familiar although a few twists and turns have been woven into the arrangements. The only song that may not be as familiar is the title song, Peace Round. This is an old English canon that was a spur of the moment inclusion. After a quick run through of the melody and arrangement, we shut our eyes and let the music take us away. We’re always surprised by what happens when one surrenders to the moment.

There are a couple other items worth noting. Major kudos are due our very own Grammy award winning arranger, Bob Mintzer for taking on the bulk of the arranging duties. Additionally, newest composer in residence, Marcus Baylor and his wife, Jean, were the catalyst for our version of The First Noel. Jean, provides the expressive vocal. Jimmy Haslip contributed his uniquely mysterious and ethereal vision of Oh Little Town of Bethlehem and Russell Ferrante contributed three arrangements. Finally, special thanks to Joe Zawinul and Miles Davis for inspiring, In a Silent Night. We sincerely hope you’ll enjoy our recordings of these beautiful Christmas standards and from our families to yours, a heartfelt wish for peace in this and all seasons.

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