Bassist Jen Hodge has been a leader in the trad jazz scene of Western Canada and the North West for a decade or more. She made the leap to New York City last fall, poor timing for her, but perhaps good news for Canada where she’s back playing socially distanced live streams and limited seating live shows for now.
She recently released a third studio album, The Girl in the Groove, but because it is Christmas I want to revisit an EP she put out a few years back. You can support one of the young artists making jazz happen, and add a little swing to your Christmas for only $4 on Bandcamp.
The Jen Hodge All-Stars Christmas Treats features four swinging tracks and a host of 15 musicians, ranging in age from 18 to 89. Her goal was a short album with a holiday party feel, and to include as many local musicians as possible. This isn’t a big band, they appear in groups of five or six on each track. The names you are most likely to know are Loyd and Arnt Arntzen.
The first mysterious track, “Il Est Né, Le Divin Enfant”, is a Bechet inspired creole/Caribbean feeling romp. If you are unfamiliar with that title you could get to the second track, a wailing “God Bless Thee Merry Gentlemen”, without realizing it was a Christmas record. “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” starts off with some nice guitar finger work, soon joined by a high trumpet before the band joins in with a solid jazz rhythm.
“Santa Clause Blues” made the rounds during the classic blues craze of the early 20s. I’ve recently heard several original recordings of it in the Red Hot Jazz Archive. It’s the only vocal track on the album, and it was nice to hear the lyrics clearly without the acoustic era recording crackle. She gives the tune a more familiar popular jazz era voicing which increases the Christmas feel.
Four great tracks to accompany an upbeat Christmas mood, with seriously good jazz interchanges. Pick up Christmas Treats on Bandcamp for the holiday, and while your their check out Jen Hodges new full length album.