Here's a jazz Christmas album as John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and, oh, John and Yoko might have made it. The "tree-o" is drummer Wilson, bassist Paul Sikivie, and reedman Jeff Lederer — about as stripped down and unsentimental a format as you'd guess. From the opening clopping rims and brawny tenor of "Winter Wonderland," you might imagine you've taken a left turn with Sonny Rollins's "Old Cowhand," if it weren't for the loping R&B bass line that soon turns into a straight walk for some fierce and witty Sonny-like blowing. "The Chipmunk Song" is an easy waltz for soprano and three-way chipmunky squawking in the out chorus; Wilson conjoins Ayler's "Angels" with the traditional "Angels We Have Heard on High" for double-time gospel fervor and toy-piano repose; "Christmas Time Is Here" could have come straight out of Kris Kringle Joe Lovano's brawny bag. In "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," the title part goes to a bass clarinet; "Mele Kalikimake" is a clarinet klezmer polka with timpani accents. As for Lennon/Ono, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" is an affecting slow march with sleigh bells. Every year, there's a Christmas album that transcends the format. This year, for me, it's this one.
MATT WILSON'S CHRISTMAS TREE-O | Lily Pad, 1353 Cambridge St, Cambridge | December 10 at 7 pm | $10 | lily-pad.net