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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Twas the Night Before Christmas/Dave Koz

In 1997, jazz saxophonist Dave Koz released a holiday album called December Makes Me Feel This Way. Thirteen tracks are listed on the back of the CD case, but below that in small print is a message that reads: "Hint: It ain't over 'til it's over. 'Twas The Night Before Christmas before we figured out there was more on this here disc!" The final track listed, "Auld Lang Syne," has a running time of 6:55, but Koz's rendition of the traditional New Years' tune only runs 1:51. When that fades out the casual listener might reasonably conclude that the CD is over, but for those too lazy to get up and put on another disc there is a payoff.  After a full minute of dead silence, a hidden selection starts to play: a recitation of Clement C. Moore's 1823 poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas," often referred to as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. The vocal is provided by the late Phil Hartman, the comedian and actor best known for his work on Saturday Night Live and the sitcom NewsRadio, who died under tragic circumstances the year after Koz's album came out. Hartman performs an abridged version of Moore's familiar work in the style of a Beat poet, with jazz accompaniment and the occasional improvised lyric, e.g. When what to my wondering eyes should appear/But a wonderful sleigh and eight groovy reindeer. Koz recorded a new version of the piece for a 2001 follow-up album, A Smooth Jazz Christmas; this time vocal duties were shared by musicians Peter White, David Benoit, Brenda Russell, Rick Braun, and Koz himself.

Merry Christmas!

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