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Christmas Break: Relaxing Jazz for the Holidays (Telarc)

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Holiday jazz albums have tended to emphasize the mellow ever since the '60s, when John Coltrane set Christmas trees ablaze with an epic free-jazz interpretation of the Von Trapp classic "My Favorite Things." And while Telarc's new collection Christmas Break: Relaxing Jazz for the Holidays sure feels smooth, it's far from dull.

Piano great Dave Brubeck offers up gentle renditions of "Silent Night," "Jingle Bells," and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," featuring baritone saxman Gerry Mulligan. Then again, there should be no need to trot out yet another version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," but singer Jeanie Bryson's sparkling take actually justifies its existence. Even better is the segue from Mel Torme's sandy "Christmas Time Is Here" to Jim Hall's acoustic guitar instrumental "O Tannenbaum." As with the rest of this disc, it flows like spiked eggnog.

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