Seriously, how hard must it be to craft a creative album of Christmas and winter holiday music? Craig makes it seem almost easy. At first listening, you are struck by how much of this music isn’t Christmas-y at all. It’s blues. It’s jazz. It’s New Age. It’s classic Chaquico, in other words, but with an even more playful, vibrant, fun-loving edge. This was Craig’s last recorded album with the Higher Octave recording team, and maybe there was some impending sense of loss involved. Higher Octave would be sold by Virgin Music and end up being downsized into near oblivion by its new owner, UMG/Vivendi, where it’s now part of the Blue Note label.
Fortunately, you can listen to nearly all of Craig’s solo work on Amazon Music Unlimited, whose 3-month free trial would be a perfect holiday gift idea for those members of your family who love holiday music but may want to wait a few weeks (or longer) before committing to a music streaming service in 2021.
As always, Craig partners with Ozzie Ahlers, whose childhood winter picture in a full-body snowsuit is almost worth the cost of the album, period. Baby Yoda has nothing on this kid!
While there are a few classic tunes here, like “Jingle Bells,” “White Christmas,” and “Silent Night,” I’d say that these songs are 75% original Chaquico compositions with long guitar solos, and 25% traditional melodies. It compares well with Jingle All the Way by Béla Fleck and the Flecktones in terms of mixing an original sound with a songbook of conventional Christmas delights.
Play this album a few times, and you’ll start to see the light. It honors the sentiment of the Christmas season while broadening its appeal beyond the classical musical canon. Very few artists would have the courage and creativity to pull this off. Craig does it brilliantly!