Merry Ole Soul (Blue Note Classic Vinyl Series)
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Pianist Duke Pearson’s too-little-known holiday gem Merry Ole Soul was the sole Christmas album of the classic Blue Note era, and it remains a highly enjoyable treat for jazz fans and Christmas music lovers alike with its first-ever vinyl reissue.
Recorded in 1969, the album featured the pianist, producer, and Blue Note stalwart in a trio with Bob Cranshaw on bass and Mickey Roker on drums. Adding percussion to several tracks on the album was Airto Moreira, who was shuttling between Pearson’s date and sessions for Miles Davis’ seminal fusion classic Bitches Brew on the very same day.
The opening track “Sleigh Ride” is one of the highlights of the set, with the jovial tune given a hip vamp that finds Pearson gliding between piano and the chiming celeste. The album also features other festive favorites including “Jingle Bells,” “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” and “Little Drummer Boy,” deeply soulful renditions of “Silent Night” and the spiritual “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” and a gorgeous ballad performance of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” before closing with a sublime solo piano version of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
New Jersey, February 21, 1969