I’ll Be Home For Christmas

4th Dec 2020

December 4th, 2020
Alys Jazz

I’ll Be Home for Christmas, the new album from acclaimed British pianist Gabriel Latchin, imagines well-known festive songs through the eyes of his musical idols. 

How might Cedar Walton have approached The Christmas Song? What would Ahmad Jamal have done with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”?

But despite the theme, “it’s a jazz album first and foremost” explains Gabriel, “with a hard-swinging piano trio.” 

Gabriel Latchin Christmas Album

“impeccable… the clarity of his lines evoking something of Hank Jones or Tommy Flanagan” Jazzwise Magazine

“A thing of beauty” Chris Philips, Jazz FM
“A delight from start to finish” Dave Gelly, The Observer
“Gabriel is an excellent musician and one hell of a nice guy”Christian McBride

If the response to his debut album The Moon and I  is anything to go by, they do it pretty well. That 2019 release has amassed 9 million Spotify streams and established Latchin as a firm favourite on the straight-ahead jazz scene both in the UK and internationally.

He’s become an in-demand sideman too, highlighted by a call from Christian McBride recently, who booked him for a gig at London’s Wigmore Hall.  

Gabriel – with his long-standing rhythm section of Josh Morrison (Stacey Kent, Dave O’Higgins) and Dario Di Lecce (George Garzone) – first performed this repertoire at a sold-out show at Pizza Express Jazz Club, London, in December 2019. 

Due to popular demand, and with Latchin appreciating the magic of Christmas all the more since becoming a father to three young children, the trio have now taken the material into the studio to document this programme of new arrangements of classic holiday favourites.

“Many of these festive songs were written in the 1930s and ‘40s, the same era as the classic jazz standards themselves” explains Gabriel. “I have no doubt that many of these beautiful melodies would be enjoyed year round were Christmas not in the title.”

I’ll Be Home For Christmas (liner notes)

The celebration of Christmas has a timeless and unwavering connection to music. The rich history linking them goes back many centuries and is ever evolving: new songs are continually being added to the canon. The beloved music of this winter festival is deeply linked to our social and family traditions, whilst also reflecting the changing cultural tapestry of our times. Speaking personally, becoming a father has brought the magic of the season to the fore, and is one of the reasons I wished to make this album. 

As a jazz musician, my choice of Christmas repertoire, unsurprisingly, tends towards the American Songbook-style tunes that have proven to be perfect vehicles for improvisation for generations. In fact, many of these festive songs were written in the 1930s and ‘40s, the same era as the classic jazz standards themselves, and by some of the same composers. I have no doubt that melodies as beautiful as “The Christmas Song” or “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” would be enjoyed year round were Christmas not in the title. To this selection I have added two perennial carols that are personal favourites of mine, and one original composition, a dedication to friendship.

If Christmas is the principal narrative of this record, then the subtext would be my approach to each song. I set myself the exciting challenge of presenting these well-known tunes through the eyes of my musical idols. For example, how might Bill Evans approach “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”? What would Ahmad Jamal do with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”? Others include Herbie Hancock, Phineas Newborn, Barry Harris, Cedar Walton and Thelonious Monk. 

The extent to which this was successful remains for the listener to decide. The influence of the masters of the jazz piano tradition upon my own playing is overt. But, the shades of their music that appear here come from a place of honesty, love and deep study, and I cannot help but be a product of all the music that I have absorbed over the years. 

There are many people to thank for helping me to realise this album. Firstly, the wonderful musicians with whom I’m fortunate to work, Josh and Dario.

Their contribution to this music goes well beyond the record date. Special thanks also to Simon Hendry, Sue Edwards, George Woodger, Sam Braysher and everyone else involved along the way. 

Most importantly, of course, thank you to my loving wife, Brigid, without whose support and encouragement this record would have remained merely an idea. Finally, I would like to dedicate this album to our three young children, Arthur, Oscar and Mairi. May their days be merry and bright.

Track listing: 

  1. Winter Wonderland (04.33)
  2. Jingle Bells (05.23)
  3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town (04.10)
  4. I’ll Be Home For Christmas (03.35)
  5. A Toast To Friends (05.09)
  6. The Christmas Song (05.31)
  7. White Christmas (04.15)
  8. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman (04.40)
  9. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (05.35)
  10. Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer (04.23)
  11. Silent Night (04.23)

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