Oregon-based jazz group Pink Martini have over the years become one of my favourite groups. Every CD release of theirs brings fresh surprises, as the musical magpies fuse influences from Europe, the mid-East, America and the far East.
They have just released their first album of Christmas songs and, as you’d expect, it’s an eclectic mix. Along traditional songs – White Christmas, Little Drummer Boy, We Three Kings, Santa Baby – are some songs from around the globe. The Ukrainian ‘Carol of the Bells’, Shchedryk, is perhaps the best known. It is joined by a Chinese New Year song, Congratulations and Hebrew prayer song Elohai N’tzor.
Even the more well-known songs are given a twist. Silent Night being sung in both German in English is nothing new, perhaps, but it is given a verse in Arabic. We Three Kings is given an Africa-inspired makeover, and the whole album concludes with Auld Lang Syne performed to a Samba tempo and with lyrics in English, French and Arabic.
It’s a little demented in places, but also extremely beautiful in others – and a cut above the usual Christmas albums which churn out bland covers of the usual standards.