Featured Album: Happy Holidays From Many Lands by The Mastersounds

The Mastersounds - Happy Holiday

The Mastersounds
Happy Holiday
World Pacific Stereo-1280
(1959)

Side One:

1 Arre, Borriquita (Spanish Traditional) 2:26
2 Pobre Gitanilla (Spanish Traditional) 5:20
3 Deck The Halls (English Traditional) 3:25
4 Bells For Charla (Buddy Montgomery) 5:24
5 Caroling, Caroling (Traditional) 2:36

Side Two:

1 Noel Nouvelet (French Traditional) 4:54
2 Campone Di Natale (Italian Traditional) 3:01
3 Jingle Bells (American Traditional) 3:00
4 Medley 9:08
White Christmas / The Christmas Song / Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer / Oh Tannenbaum / We Wish You
A Merry Christmas

Liner Notes

Lives there a music listener with ears so dead that never at Christmastime has he said TURN OFF THE RADIO!

What is done—year in and year out— to the beautiful holiday songs in a mistaken effort to celebrate the spirit of the occasion is almost enough to make a misogynist out of Santa Claus himself. It was no accident that Stan Freberg’s satire on the whole scene was such a success.

In direct contradiction to that over-sentimentality, over-commerciality and simple over-playing of a few holiday songs, many musicians have tried to resurrect some of the more lovely melodies from other times and other places which are traditionally associated with this time of year.

Buddy Montgomery started thinking about an album such as this a long time ago. Like everyone else, he was sick of the constant banging away at a few tunes, and he was sick of the fact there was so little attention paid to the actual musical possibilities of the performance of the numbers.

So he set about finding some new Christmas tunes, some new holiday tunes and then treating them as musically as he could. “We like to try to get a little beauty into everything we do anyway,” he says.

Actually, the songs themselves aren’t new, although Buddy has one of his own compositions on it, “Bells For Charla,” which is almost brand spanking new having made only one previous appearance on record and that so brief as to be almost inconsequential.

“I think it would be possible to bring out many tunes from all over the world for an album like this,” Buddy says. “There are so many pretty tunes from the traditional holiday season that we never hear in this country. There are enough numbers to go on indefinitely. We want to treat them all with reverence but not get too deeply religious in tone. We really don’t give any of the numbers a full jazz treatment and on this album, you might say that ‘Jingle Bells’ is about as close as We come to a rousing jazz tune.”

This is true, of course, but what Buddy doesn’t say is that The Mastersounds have managed to create that rare amalgam of musical talents in which the basic treatment of anything they do, no matter how melodic it is, is still jazz in the sense that it stems from jazz and is melodic in a jazz way.

Some of the tunes here. are given a sort of folk music feeling — “Poor Little Gypsy” for one. Others have the rollicking, sleighriding, snowballing festive spirit. “jingle Bells” is a good one for that. And in still others, there is that grand use of melody and harmony to make fragile, shimmering sounds that are a continual delight to the ear in an out-of-the-Christmas season.

The. tunes for the album were selected and arranged by Buddy Montgomery. That is not to say the rest of the group didn’t contribute. They did. As each number was brought to rehearsal and played and re-played, there would be little changes and accents and re-phrasings as each man found that his part would be more natural if altered slightly. It might be merely the question of using tom toms instead of a cymbal for an accent; it might be a held chord on the piano or a pause in the bass line. The rest of the group would make a suggestion, they would then try it out and either keep it or discard it or it might suggest still another change.

The album reflects the love of beauty and the deep concern with its application in music that is the basic motivating force behind Buddy Montgomery’s thinking. For me, this is the kind of music that has no time limitations. When I hear “Jingle Bells” played like this, I can hear it just as well on Easter Morning as on New Year’s Day. And even though “Rudolph, The Red Nose Reindeer” and “White Christmas,” as well as the other tunes in the Epilogue, are strictly associated with that period of the year, I go back again to Trummy Young and “It Ain’t What You Do etc, etc, etc.” This is surely true in jazz, perhaps more than anywhere else.

For what The Mastersounds have done here is much, much more than a holiday album; it is a collection of beautiful songs played with a rich texture of sound that will make them palatable on any day of the year.

— Ralph J. Gleason, Editor of JAZZ and Times-Mirror Syndicated columnist whose RHYTHM SECTION appears in such newspapers as The New York Journal-American, the Indianapolis Star and the San Francisco Chronicle.

A Richard Bock Production
Cover design by Ted Poiser

The Mastersounds

From the King

This one from 1959 is really interesting. The band consists of several of Wes Montgomery’s brothers, who were all excellent musicians in their own rights. And, taking an international approach, it includes a fair number of lesser known tunes, and so may not have all of the nostalgia inherent in so much Christmas music, which is by design, their wanting to avoid music that would be too ‘square’.

The mono version of this album has been floating around the collectors’ world for a few years, but when I found out there was a stereo version I focused on procuring a copy. I finally snagged this one over the summer and recorded it right away. For me the stereo just opens up the sound so much more and gives it a richness that the mono version lacks.

I debated for a while how to credit the title of the album. While the front cover shows “Happy Holidays From Many Lands”, the back, spine, and record label all show “Happy Holiday”. But several discographies, record guides, and an old Cashbox magazine from 1959 all refer to it by the former, so that’s what we’re going with.

My hope is that at some point this will see a real remastering and re-release, but until then, enjoy this.

The King of Jingaling

Download here.

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