It’s probably a good bet that master jazz guitarist and all-around Renaissance Man John Basile played his share of Christmas music while touring throughout his lengthy career with everyone from Count Basie and Peggy Lee to Rosemary Clooney and Michael Brecker. And surely he heard it wafting from on high while also serving as a radiology administrator, pro boxing judge and music educator and clinician.
All that would give him plenty of time to absorb the classics and find a new way to spin/re-imagine them on Silent Night, a collection that takes him into the next 15 years of his eclectic recording career. His special gift is pairing his keenly melodic and celebrated improvisational virtuosity with dynamic MIDI guitar technology, fashioning fascinating, rhythmically varied grooves and textures against his “live” nylon and electric guitars.
Starting with a percussively hypnotic speed waltz romp through “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” and an easy rolling yet snappy and sassy dual guitar conversation on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” he creates a rich soundscape-driven journey where he infuses dynamic Latin spice into everything from bebop (“Toyland”) to soulful urban-style jazz (“Silver Bells,” “Christmastime is Here”).
Basile also showcases his compelling compositional skills on the lone original, the cozy and meditative “Lulladay.” While the MIDI textures fascinate, the heart and soul of everything is Basile’s crisp, fluid lines that make this one of 2019’s great jazz holiday adventures.