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On This Quiet Night by Hazel Walker & Graham Howes

It’s wonderful to see Hazel Walker’s return to the recording studio. It’s been too long! We loved her debut album and reviewed it in these pages almost five years ago. As on her original CD, Walker is surrounded by some of Toronto’s prime jazz figures. In fact, this new project is dedicated to the memory of one of the city’s legends, the late trombonist/arranger Ron Collier.

On This Quiet Night features the sassy singer in the company of her regular pianist Graham Howes, who also shares the vocals on a few tracks. The pair offer a burning scat rendition of "Sleigh Ride" and I’ve never heard a better version. It swings perfectly. Howes is a popular pianist who comes from a 30 year career in TV and as a bandleader in hotels around southern Ontario. His arranging skills are put to good use on the Christmas session.

Hazel Walker’s delivery of the "Huron Carol" is touchingly beautiful and offers a nice sax solo by Mike Murley. The "Huron Carol" is a holiday tradition in Canada. The singer belts out a swinging version of "Deck The Halls." No holiday album is complete without Mel Tormé’s "The Christmas Song" and Walker sings it with feeling. Howe’s piano passages add a nice touch to the old favorite.

Do we have a favorite? Actually, we have three. The oldest melody on the CD is the 16th century "What Child Is This" and it’s delivered instrumentally by Graham Howes and Neil Swainson. Another is the previously mentioned "Huron Carol" featuring Walker. Finally, the rollicking reading of "Sleigh Ride" tops our picks. In passing, I’d like to mention the delightful cover artwork signed merely as Viktoria.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Hazel Walker & Graham Howes
  • CD Title: On This Quiet Night
  • Genre: Holiday Jazz
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Gossamer Wings Music
  • Tracks: Winter Wonderland, We Three Kings, Huron Carol, Deck The Halls, The Christmas Song, On This Quiet Night, My Favorite Things, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, What Child Is This, Sleigh Ride, Silent Night.
  • Musicians: Hazel Walker (vocals), Graham Howes (piano, vocals), Mike Murley (sax), Neil Swainson (string bass), Steve Heathcote (drums).
  • Rating: Four Stars
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