18 December: The Soulful Strings: The Little Drummer Boy

Published December 18, 2020

This might very well be my favourite track in this year's Advent Calendar. I've featured The Soulful Strings previously, souling-up that old Christmas perennial 'Sleigh Ride'. Today's jazz-soul-y selection comes from the same 1968 album, The Magic Of Christmas, wherein arranger Richard Evans reimagines Christmas music with, for the most part, fab results.

So, who is Richard Evans? According to Gene Sculatti's liner notes for the 2015 reissue of the album, "black-pop scholars often cite [Evans] as 'the creator of the Cadet Records sound'," and he worked with acts such as Ramsey Lewis and Marlena Shaw. As is so often the case with albums where talented arrangers get free rein, as opposed to having to conform to what's expected of a pop record, you can almost sense the liberation and the playfulness here. Cadet was an imprint of the famous Chicago-based label Chess Records, and if the existence of this imprint is what it took for this Christmas album to be created, then perhaps there is a god after all.

Listen to 'The Little Drummer Boy' here.

Or listen on Spotify, where I've created a playlist for this year's Advent Calendar.







Arranger Richard Evans' take on the music of Christmas is, for the most part, simply fab.