It's no secret that Sting is a serious man, so it's only logical that his holiday album – his first new music since the Police reunion, not that it really matters – is a serious endeavor, thank you. No niceties for him, no comforts of carols; he favors formal over familiar, writing madrigals, not ditties. It is music made by someone who lives in a castle, which isn't necessarily such a bad thing: the austerity is genuine, not affected, and the cerebral nature of the album is fascinating, albeit mildly so, as this is as sleepy as it is thoughtful. And it's that thoughtfulness that does distinguish If on a Winter's Night…; no other Christmas album exists in the head like this. It's a holiday album for people who have never wanted to hear a holiday album, let alone own one.
This is an album of modern commercial, radio friendly, finely crafted rock n roll / country tunes. Do not expect wild sounding rockabilly or a pastiche of 50’s rock n roll. Bo and his team have cleverly put together a collection that while it remains steeped in the roots of the rock n roll genre it gathers influence from all of the many and varied elements that make up the 50+ year history of this music. Then they add a dash of modern sounding country, sixties pop, etc stir and shake it all together and produce a sound that is highly listenable with songs that sound fresh and firmly of the now. Kicking off with the strong Hangin’ On, an instantly catchy country rock tune the album then tears into I Like It Like That, a straight out rock n roll number with a catchy sing along car radio chorus and a great guitar sound.
In 1982 pianist Dave Brubeck welcomed clarinetist Bill Smith (who he had played with back in his octet days in the late '40s) as a permanent member of his Quartet along with drummer Randy Jones and Chris Brubeck on electric bass and occasional bass trombone. This album features the new Quartet at the Concord Jazz Festival playing what would become their typical mixture of songs: three Brubeck compositions ("Benjamin," "Koto Song" and "Softly, William, Softly"), a standard ("Black and Blue") and yet another remake of "Take Five." These are fine performances.