For large numbers of people, Nils Landgren’s Christmas albums are now a part of their holiday season, just like advent calendars or mistletoe. Seventeen years ago, trombonist/singer Landgren, one of the brightest stars in the European jazz firmament, brought together so-me of his closest musical companions. To get themselves into the mood for Christmas, they set off on a tour of churches in Sweden and Germany. The album which resulted from that first tour, “Christmas With My Friends” was described by one critic as “the most beautiful of all Christ-mas CDs.” Ever since then, Landgren and his friends have been repeating this special way of celebrating Christmas every other year. That time has come round again: “Christ-mas With My Friends VIII” is ready to take its place among the presents under the tree.

These albums all have a wealth of different moods and colours, and that is what makes them so special, as each musician brings their own highly individual contribution. There is Landgren himself with his unrivalled flexible and velvety-smooth trombone, Jonas Knutsson with his lyrical saxophone playing, Johan Norberg and his folky guitar tone. Here for the first time, we also hear the sonorous bass of Clas Lassbo. Above all, however, it is the vocalists who give each track on the album its own special character, and also complement each other perfectly: the classical soprano singing of Jeanette Köhn, the bittersweet soul of Ida Sand, the radiant clarity of Jessica Pilnäs, the powerful blues of Sharon Dyall and, last but not least, the bright soul of Nils Landgren himself.

The repertoire which Landgren – _and increasingly his friends – _choose is also remarkable for its many colours and for the extensive research work which has gone into finding it. There are carols, Christmas songs from pop and jazz, songs which are played all over the world appear alongside songs unknown outside their countries of origin; there is a range from evergreens to rarities.  

This time, Landgren and his friends have taken the idea of the richness of colour quite literally. “My Christmas is orange,” Landgren says. “I wasn’t keen on presents as a child, but far more interested in the holiday season food. That was what made up my Christmas: My mother Margareta brought a big bag of fresh oranges. I still remember when I peeled the first one, and then enjoyed the smell and the wonderful taste.” That’s why the glowing cover of “Christmas With My Friends VIII” is so…orange.

Listeners are encouraged to associate colours with the tracks on the album. Who wouldn’t be thinking of green with “O Tannenbaum”, for example, especially when it is played, as here, in New Orleans Mardi Gras style. With the hymn-like “In Dulce Jubilo”, which swirls around the classical vocals, it has to be gold. And everyone can imagine their own colours for tunes like the ethereal “Lully, Lalla, Lullay”, the folky “Soon After Christmas” or the jazzy- “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”… just as Johan Norberg has done in his composition “That’s How I Picture Christmas Eve”.

And there is clearly one colour that must not be missing: the colour of jazz: “When we had recorded everything, Ida Sand said: ‘What about Blue Christmas?'” Landgren remembers. And so the album starts with the song by Bill Hayes and Jay Johnson, which gave Elvis Presley his breakthrough to fame, as a wonderfully rolling blues. There are so many colours represented here, and no doubt more will be added when the group tours Germany in December. All that remains is to wish them well: may your days be merry and bright, and may all your christmases be…colourful.

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