Tony Craddock Jr. – Christmas In The Air

Nov. 9, 2011

The debut album from saxophonist Tony Craddock Jr., Christmas In The Air, is as interesting as the saxophonist himself. The Cornell University graduate received his exposure to the world of smooth jazz from an atypical source: The Weather Channel’s “Local on the 8s” program. Why there? The young man, now residing in northern Virginia and pursuing a Master’s in Public Health, has a passion for meteorology (his chief focus at Cornell). Having met and chatted with the saxman, who is extremely respectful, courteous, and clearly intelligent, it is also immediately obvious that he is a well-rounded young man with solid and varied interests.

The depth of his perception and innovative nature can be clearly found in this recording of many of our beloved Christmas tunes, which he recreates in many ways to place a very impressive signature on them. A case in point is his interpretation of the classic “Deck the Halls,” which has the kind of jazzy twist that will surely place it among the more creative versions we’ve heard. Another remarkably creative cover can be found on “Silent Night” with strong spiritual vocals by one Aaron Banks. This version has a bossa nova-like feel while not losing a bit of the sanctity of the very moving piece. With Banks’ vocals, this is a diverse combination that is certain to make one take serious notice.

It is always refreshing to listen to music that is well-conceived, even if it consists of covers (which can be the most difficult to reproduce in a stand-out way without an abundance of creativity and imagination). Craddock puts such a nice touch of each of these and really makes you feel as though this is a production of all-original material. “O Tannebaum” is presented in such a clear and original fashion, shuttling between an air of jazz to blues and employing the use of great instrumental phrasing, that the arrangement makes hearing it once again such a pleasurable experience – and Craddock does create listening experiences. Ever heard “The First Noel” with a strings and funky slap bass effect?? Yes, I think you get my point…and, as mentioned earlier, the spiritual nature of the tune remains intact and as beautiful as ever.

Christmas In The Air is a truly marvelous holiday find for your music collection but, more importantly, Craddock firmly establishes his credentials as a producer, arranger, and artist in an undisputable manner. Kudos to the young man – Ronald Jackson