“Let’s put Christ back in Christmas” has been a popular cry of those who think the holiday season has gone off the rails, moving from the observance of a religious holy day to “Spendapalooza”. Many of the Christmas jazz recordings we hear at Straight No Chaser tend to be of the secular variety, containing holiday spirit, but not necessarily holiday spirituality.
Will Scruggs’ Song of Simeon: A Christmas Journey is a pleasant change of pace. Scruggs has tapped into his Christian beliefs and love of music to take as he says, “eleven pieces to formulate a layered chronology that illustrates the profound, spiritual mystery of the radical biblical story of the birth of Christ.”
And did I mention that he can swing? Oh, yes. This is reverent music, but it is not staid. The Fellowship includes Scruggs on tenor, soprano and baritone sax; Brian Hogans on piano; Dan Baraszu on guitar; Tommy Sauter on bass; Marlon Patton on drums; and Kinah Boto Ayah on percussion. A Horn Ensemble (Joe Gransden, trumpet; Ryan Whitehead, clarinet; Brian Hogans, alto sax; Norm Ficke, tenor sax; Wes Funderburk, trombone; Travis Cottle, trombone; Lee Watts, bass trombone) supplements the core group wonderfully.
Scruggs has been playing and recording in the US South for years, recording two solo CDs and a Fellowship CD over the past ten years, Beyond his jazz work, he has been tapped for the horn section in bands like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and recorded with the likes of Natalie Cole and Cee-Lo Green.
I spoke with Will about the history of the project and the challenges of arranging familiar holiday tunes to create new works of art. Click here to listen to Podcast 320, including musical selections:
Will Scruggs Fellowship – “Song of Mary – Magnificat”; “T’was in the Moon of Wintertime (The Huron Carol)’ and “Joy to the World” from Song of Simeon: A Christmas Journey. The CD is divided into two sections, “Part I: The Glory” and “Part II: The Light”. The first two tunes come from the initial section, while the familiar “Joy to the World” closes the CD and Part II.
Will Scruggs Fellowship – “Till Your Well Runs Dry” from BlueBari Jam. The first Scruggs Fellowship CD allowed Will more time on Baritone sax; hence the playful CD title. This is my favorite track from that very strong release.