‘Tis the season for New World Jazz Project’s third album.
“Christmas Time is Here” was recorded by the South Shore group in March and released earlier this month. The album includes takes on Christmas classics such as “Silent Night” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” gets a touch of reggae, while Mel Tormé’s classic “The Christmas Song” gets an extra dose of soul. “Carol of the Bells,” a Russian folk song, is among bandleader Niall McGuinness’ favorite tracks on the disc.
“I decided to do a Christmas album because jazz doesn’t appeal to a lot to of people, but Christmas jazz makes it a little more digestible, it makes it more consumable,” McGuinness said. “Christmas jazz is its own genre and it’s something people can sink their teeth and eardrums in.”
Recording the disc in spring, long before the holidays, gave the formally trained musician and kindergarten teacher the benefit of time to scrutinize the album.
“The luxury of time has afforded me the ability to present a pretty pristine disc,” he said.
The amount of time the band has been together also benefited the album, McGuinness said. New World Jazz Project has played together in various configurations for 12 years.
“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” he said. “We know the tunes. We know each other. We know each other’s musicalities, and to go in the studio and just track live, everybody playing, that gives the performances more soul.”
Current members of the group include McGuinness (saxophone, flute, percussion), Kyle Rothchild (bass), Eric Finkelstein (drums), George Tavoularis (piano) and Eric Middleton (congas and timbales). Former members Tristan Selzler and Garrett Grow each added piano to several tracks on the Christmas disc.
The band plays a “combination of straight-ahead jazz to smooth jazz, soul jazz to latin jazz,” McGuinness said. “We try to cover all the jazz genres, except for Dixieland.”
The group plays at the Fresh Ketch restaurant in South Lake Tahoe every Friday night.
“Christmas Time is Here” is available at Gaia-Licious, Mad About Music, Shirley’s Hair Studio and the Tahoe Christmas Cabin in South Lake Tahoe, as well as at the group’s performances. Two songs from the disc are also available at https://soundcloud.com/tahoe-blue.