The pianist’s American songbook-inspired album is an all-year-round keeper
For my money, London-born Gabriel Latchin is the best straight-ahead jazz pianist to appear in the past few years. Polished technique we now take as normal, but there’s a particular crispness in his playing and a lucidity that grips the attention. I was a bit taken aback to learn that Latchin was about to release a Christmas album, but this is no festive quickie. As he points out in the CD notes, the best Christmas songs were mostly the work of American songwriters of the 1930s and 40s, who also produced many of the tunes which are now jazz standards. Perhaps, he thought, it was time to give them the jazz treatment too. And while he was about it, why not give each a flavour of one of his own favourite pianists?
So we have the title number with a touch of Bill Evans, and others giving a nod to Ahmad Jamal, Barry Harris etc. Latchin leaves us to guess most of them. Thelonious Monk is easy, and Herbie Hancock; after that I’m not so sure. But all 11 tracks are a delight to listen to anyway, and not just at Christmas.