On a Yuletide voyage to the source of joy, American ensemble venture off the beaten track.
With this collective’s Eastern slant, one would expect Scott Jeffers to try and stylistically return popular canticles to the lullaby of Christianity – yet, strangely, taken by the holiday spirit, the Arizonan violinist doesn’t steer his vessel towards Levant on the group’s only album that may be perceived as a mistletoe-scented misstep. Pleasant as it is, the platter is too varied as to seem somewhat incoherent in terms of genre as it zigzags across Europe and Asia, via the Mediterranean region, in a futile attempt to ignite the listener’s emotions with familiar tunes – and still stirring one’s psyche in the end.
Best of all are the freshest piece on offer, Jeffers’ own acoustic hymn “Child Of The Light” that captures his reserved rapture and quiet awe so perfectly – enough to let this quasi-baroque ballad radiate peace and happiness – and “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel” that has progressive raga painted all over Scott’s spacious, spaced-out drone and wail. These songs contrast the twang of “The First Noel” whose wordless desert vibe feels mesmeric, unlike the sirtaki rendering “Hark The Herald” humorous, if incongruous season-wise. And there’s nothing wrong with coating opener “We Three Kings” in Celtic colors, although the perennial loses its usual solemnity when dissolved in the vocalist’s exuberant delivery while the arrangement’s finely detailed filigree elevates the evergreen to celestial realm.
Elsewhere, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol Of The Bells” emerge possessed with chamber elegance and folksy vigor in equal measure, and “Joy To The World” sounds quite defiant, sending the transparent “What Child is This” down Anatolian route, and “Angels We Have Heard On High” further on oriental ways. The result is slightly disorienting yet as an experiment this album serves its exhilarating purpose.