The Bob Watts Trio invites audiences on a wild Christmas ride to launch Jazz for Christmas 2.
“It’s just I’ve done jazz vespers at St. Philip’s 40 times, and the jazz vespers is all about sacred music … we’ve tried to maintain that standard. It’s sacred-based,” said Watts.
Watts is a veteran of the jazz scenes in both Victoria and Winnipeg. He created the monthly Jazz Vespers series at St. Philip Church in Oak Bay playing with notable Victoria musicians Joey Smith, Bruce Meikle, Tom Vickery, Karel Roessingh, Rob Cheramy and Tony Genge.
He’s the drummer, with Pablo Cardenas on piano and Ross Macdonald on bass – a team for over a year now.
The original Jazz for Christmas (2010) was the first of its kind, said Watts. It featured the purest of traditional holiday songs, such as Good King Wenceslas, reinterpreted as jazz standards.
“The first one was a pile of standard, standard, Christmas carols because I love Christmas carols,” he said. “These are still traditional Christmas carols. People know them and they love them but they don’t hear them in this kind of format. It was amazing because it was a runaway success,” he said.
Then along came Cardenas and Macdonald.
Macdonald is a Victoria bassist whose musical skills have taken him around the world, playing music in Dubai at the Burj al Arab and cruising on the world’s only residence ship, The World. He currently plays the bass full time with the Naden Band.
Cardenas leads the West Coast Cuban Allstars and the Pablo Cardenas Afro-Latin Band. Since arriving in Canada from Cuba in 2010, he has been teaching and performed with Gergana Velinova, Adonis Puentes, Maureen Washington, Phil Dyer, Damian Graham, Sara Vardy and Miguelito Valdes. His Project Fusion recently performed at the Victoria Jazz Festival 2012.
And he keeps the other two on their toes.
“He’s a joy to play with but you’ve got to be sharp,” Watts said.
“We play these songs and we play the melody so people know what the song is … When Pablo looks at his hands and smiles, it’s over, because Pablo’s about to launch you on a musical ride. He knows exactly where he’s going because he brings you back to the beginning. But you have to hang on for the ride.”
Jazz for Christmas 2 launches during the monthly jazz vespers for December at St. Philip where the CD was recorded live over a 36-hour period.
They whittled down a list of 35 carols for the album to: Deck the Halls, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, Away In A Manger, Good Christian People Rejoice, Silent Night, Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy, Brightest and Best, Long Time Ago In Bethlehem and includes the bonus track, Hymn to Freedom.
The CD launch concert is Sunday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Philip Anglican Church, 2928 Eastdowne Rd. Admission by donation, both CDs will be available for purchase.
Visit stphilipvictoria.ca/event-items/jazz-vespers-2/ for more information and a sample of the music.