As promised in early December, the Rifftides staff will not load these pages with jazz takes on Christmas music, traditional or otherwise. We noted that there would be exceptions.
Today’s exception is “England’s Carol,” John Lewis’s orchestral variations on the traditional English Carol “God Bless Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” Lewis (pictured) and the Modern Jazz Quartet included the piece in their repertoire, and he expanded on it in his 1958 European Windows album with members of the Stuttgart Symphony. Percy Health and Connie Kay, the MJQ’s bassist and drummer, played on the date. As soloists for the piece, Lewis chose the English baritone saxophonist Ronnie Ross and the Czech flutist Gerald Weinkopf. Your responses to this in previous Christmas seasons made us think that perhaps you would enjoy hearing it again.
European Windows exists in a CD reissue that also contains Lewis’s ensemble writing in another classic album, The Modern Jazz Society Presents A Concert of Contemporary Music. Soloists include J.J. Johnson, Stan Getz, Lucky Thompson, Tony Scott and Billy Bauer.