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"Out some 6 years now but relevant still as good music is pianist MARK KRAMERís trio playing JAZZ GREETINGS. This is a collection of ten traditional and standard seasonal tunes played with intelligence, creativity and warmth. Omar Hill [perc] and Leslie Burrs [flt] make brief guest appearances and my only complaint is the occasional fade out. Neither the jazz novice nor purist will be upset by the evergreen quality of this recording."
"Mark Kramer shows that piano trio (here augmented on a few tracks) offers a reliable format for transforming holiday songs into Jazz. Maybe itís because pianists have been playing these songs in recital for so long (and probably playing around with them for almost as long) they have a bit more familiarity. Kramer though takes his session one step further than most. His arrangements of the heads ratchet up the rhythms and add spunk to the chords. In his hands Santa Claus sounds in an awful hurry to get to town, maybe even running a red light or two. Jazz Greetings sticks mostly to the usual sacred and secular suspects, adding the dark and moody Hanukkah medley and closing with the aptly ebullient 'March of the Toys.' Everything here is good, though Iím less fond of the flute flavored 'Silent Night,' a tune that seems to defy efforts to rework it. The best tracks are the pop standards, especially 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town' and 'Winter Wonderland.' Kramer has a knack for shaping his improvisations around refractions of the melodies, so heís always reminding the listener what tune heís extemporizing on. These references though are often abstracted, barely the contour of the melody, or a variation on the rhythm, or even just a reiteration of part of the introduction. All this without stinting on the sense of spontaneity. Bassist Charles Fambrough provides a rich as dark chocolate foundation for Kramer, and drummer Jim Millerís kicks and fills elaborate on Kramerís own rhythmic twists."
- Cadence Magazine
"Philly's premiere jazz label puts out its first holiday CD. It's a jaunty stocking stuffer, featuring an elegant trio...
The veteran trio includes pianist Mark Kramer, who has worked with guitarist Jimmy Bruno amd bassist Eddie Gomez, and recorded jazz takes ranging from Broadway shows to the Rolling Stones songbook.
Bassist Charles Fambrough, also a producer, has collaborated with Wynton Marsalis, Art Blakey and Grover Washington Jr., while drummer Jim Miller is a Philly jazz fixture...
The set is suave and dreamy. There's no attempt to simplify or schmaltz up the proceedings...The tunes are full of unexpected harmonies and serve as settings for Kramer's sensibility to roam widely. The traditional 'Deck the Halls' is typical of the trio's intelligent approach. Flutist Leslie Burrs and percussionist Omar Hill also appear."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"It's easy to be jaded by the endless production of Christmas and New Year holiday recordings by jazz artists attempting to cash in on the shopping impulses of this time of year. It's also unfortunate that much of what is produced is simply spruced-up, dispensable noise.
Pianist Mark Kramer's 'Jazz Greetings' is a rare exception. While Kramer does have a predilection towards popular themes, he is a fine jazz musician, and this album is a tasteful collection of traditional holiday songs where the emphasis is on jazz improvisation rather than holiday hype. Together with bassist Charles Fambrough and drummer Jim Miller, along with special guest artists featured on a few tracks, Kramer artfully renders the tunes in a laidback, sensitive manner. Moreover, the recording quality is excellent.
The 'dťjŗ vu' aspect of this CD is that it is uncannily reminiscent of early, classic Bill Evans Village Vanguard trio recordings with Scott LaFaro or Eddie Gomez on bass and mostly Paul Motian on drums. Kramer is a devotee of the late, great Evans, and often works with Gomez. Fambrough and Miller, like Kramer, have Philadelphia roots and connections, and together they artfully recreate the impressionistic style of the Evans trios, with subtlety winning out over flashiness, and the kind of voicings, turns of phrases, and sonorities that made the Evans trios so absorbing and innovative.
This CD offers ideal listening for the peaceful interludes of the holiday season; an excellent choice for those who enjoy laidback and lyrical jazz music."
- All About Jazz.com
"Despite his long involvement in jazz with some of the art form's most recognizable names as well as continuing critical acclaim, Mark Kramer remains undersung...even though he occasionally emerged for various recordings, including his inspiring work with Eddie Gomez since 2001. (Frankly, my favorite is their Jazz Fiddler on the Roof, on which they re-interpreted the overlooked beauty of the Broadway play's score.) Now, those intrepid owners of the Dreambox Media label, which has documented much of the jazz in Philadelphia where Kramer lives since its founding, has released an album of Kramer's versions of holiday favorites.
Having already honored the music from Fiddler on the Roof, Kramer includes a medley of Hanukah songs, too, appealing in their centuries-old simplicity, but allowing for improvisation and harmonic elaboration. Understated and evolving somewhat into a jazz waltz, the medley allows for relaxed holiday listening even as its inherent beauty remains intact through improvisational liberties. Even the gravity of 'Hatikvah' is lightened after the first traditional chorus through loosening of the melodic constraints.
However, nine-tenths of the album consists of presentations of Christmas favorites, re-invented for jazz listeners from their essential rhythmic and harmonic underpinnings. For instance, 'March of the Toys' evolves into a carnival celebration instead as percussionist Omar Hill's hand drumming and use of berimbau and other instruments converts the song at times beyond recognition until Kramer circles back to the melody. 'We Three Kings' becomes a jazz waltz, veering between major and minor keys and allowing for successive choruses of re-investigation and bringing in some Tyner-isms for good measure. 'Deck the Halls' starts with stomping ostinato bass notes as Kramer builds his own version, again with the tension between minor and major root chords, for more than a little degree of excitement. The tension finally resolves into a swinging improvisation, embellished by coruscations of tremolos, which could just as well be any other song based on the same changes.
Kramer glides through the tunes he selects with confident and personalized elan supported by his friends bassist Charles Fambrough and drummer Jim Miller, who provide the rhythmic bed that allows for Kramer's brightly flowing execution of the songs...This time though, the songs undergo transformation into jazz pieces of greater harmonic depth and improvisational imagination than the original melodies would suggest. 'Christmas Time Is Here,' written and originally performed by a jazz pianist as well, changes from an uncomplicated waltz into a straight-four groove that stands on its own merits. 'Silent Night' achieves reassuring calmness when guest musician Leslie Burrs flauts as he is wont to do on other Dreambox Media albums, and then Kramer subtly re-harmonizes the song when he himself solos.
Jazz Greetings offers a satisfying and mature jazz perspective of holiday music that allows for greater appreciation of Kramer..."
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