Laurence Juber is a triple threat musician. He is a strong electric lead guitarist,Â personified by his playing days with Wings, a virtuoso acoustic guitar artist, and a notableÂ guitar educator, as personally witnessed when I was on staff with him at the 2000 National Guitar Workshop session at USC. His recently recorded holiday CD, Holidays & Hollynights, showcases his versatility of musical styles on the fretboard, accompanied in a trio setting with Domenic Genova on upright bass and Michael Jochum behind the drums, recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood.
What makes this album perfect is Juber’s ability to showcase his musical chops without overplaying and losing the listener, particularly in the context of a holiday disc in which most are employed as background music for opening gifts or fodder for holiday meals. He achieves this task to perfection without striking any harsh chordal dissonances that may irk the ears of the pedestrian listener.
The Baroque-flavored arrangements of “Deck the Halls” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” shimmer through Juber’s melodic runs, enhanced with the luxury of some single-note variations supported by the rhythm section accompaniment. “Joy to the World” is in a similar ilk until Juber surprises the listener with a bevy of country-style licks swirling around Bach-flavored motifs. “What Child Is This” is an early indicator that the recording will be more than classical musings as he parlays the tune into a liltingÂ 6/8 jazz waltz.
Juber breaks loose on “Blue Christmas,” pulling out someÂ stock bluesy phrases without overplaying and losing the listener. He swings out on “Sleighride” and “Winter Wonderland,” demonstrating his skillful chord melody playing with all the appropriate chord voicings, although “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” takes artistic licence withÂ some tasty harmonic liberties throughout.
Juber impressively struts his stuff on the fretboard with a rollicking boogie woogie take onÂ “Frosty the Snowman” before cooling matters back down with a catchy pop version of “Jingle Bells.” He concludes with a cool bonus track featuring a haunting modalÂ versionÂ of “The Christmas Song,” capping off a delightfu CD with intelligently employed chordal and melodic phrases from all corners of the musical spectrum. It’s a holiday CD you can savor for its musicality along with its dual role as charming background ambiance for those long and winding holiday gatherings.
Laurence Juber will be in San Diego next month, on January 7, at Grassroots Oasis.