Christmas in New Orleans Via Cologne

Yup, it sounds weirder than hell, even if talk of hell is best tabled at Christmastime. But never mind: The New Orleans Jazz Band of Cologne’s Santa Claus is Coming to Town is the real swinging thing. Masterfully recorded live in 24/96 “direct 2-Track Stereo digital” by Andreas Otto Grimminger during a concert at Bad Homburg Castle on December 9, 2018, mastered by Grimminger and Josef-Stefan Kindler, and released on what I believe to be the KuK label, the recording finds the seven members of the band in prime form. Swinging in a venue that’s far from a joint in the French Quarter of N’Orleans (both literally and figuratively), these men—who apparently wear suits and not lederhosen, but use your imagination—sound ridiculously authentic.

Well, mostly authentic. Bruno van Acoleyen and Bart Brouwer’s German-inflected fake-gumbo accents, in their performances of “Winter Wonderland” and “Christmas Time in New Orleans,” only add to the fun.

The fun is plentiful. On a recording where horns have bite rather than sting and colors are maximally saturated, the blend of piano, bass, guitar, clarinet, banjo, trumpet and trombone is ideal. The dynamic range isn’t great, mainly because the whole ensemble plays so much of the time, but imagination is plentiful. Anyone who wants to test their system’s resolution is invited to search for the “in time” throat clearing at the beginning of an upbeat “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

Most of the tracks are familiar, including Bob Wells & Mel Tormé’s “Christmas Song” and Walter Rollins & Steve Nelson’s “Frosty the Snow Man,” but there are a few less common ones among the 13 selections. Instrumental combinations vary, with the stereo spread adding interest. This one’s a winner—and it’s available at HD Tracks and Pro Studio Masters at 24/96. It also streams in 16/44.1 FLAC on Tidal and 24/96 FLAC on Qobuz.

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