Christmas Moods 2
The simplicity of the first Christmas begs for simple songs when it's celebrated today. It sometimes begs for originality, too, as one familiar carol after another floats through our worlds from shopping malls and radio stations. In Christmas Moods Vol. II, George Sawyn has given us deceptively simple songs, all but one with new arrangements by George himself. Even the exception is an improvisation done with fellow musician Jon Novi. Whether the delightfully reflective Coventry Carol, the sweet purity of Silent Night, the rollicking Deck the Halls or the almost rakish Up On the Housetop, George has taken familiar tunes and put his own stamp upon them, allowing the melodies to float in and out between their expected territories and a parallel universe of melody and harmony. Listeners will experience the "aha!" of recognition, followed quickly by the "wow!" of Sawyn's creative meanderings. In this album, George has combined his experience as a seasoned Chicago musician, with the comfortable, laid-back sounds he's always loved and that have been encouraged by his recently-begun love affair with Door County, Wis., the "hometown" he says he's always been looking for. In Christmas Moods Vol. II, George plays guitar his way, letting it take the spotlight as the enchanting solo instrument it can be when strings are more than strummed, they're coaxed individually to sing. The following comes from George's own CD liner notes: 1) Angels We Have Heard On High - an improvisation on this song, recorded step by step, a little at a time, using 3 different guitars: acoustic classical, acoustic steel string, and electric jazz guitar. 2) The Coventry Carol - improvisations and reharmonizations of this beautiful old holiday song. 3) Deck The Halls - originally included on the first "Christmas Moods" CD; this alternate version uses the same computer looped percussion track made up entirely with sounds produced on guitars, but two completely different guitar tracks. 4) On The River Jordan - originally included on the "Happy Holidays" CD of Ukrainian holiday music. This version uses the same "string trio" synthesizer tracks, but has newly recorded guitar parts. 5) Angels We Have Heard On High - this is a completely unrehearsed improvisation on the song by me on guitar, and Jon Novi on piano. This recording was done by Jon in his home studio, and is included on this CD with his permission. 6) We Three Kings - this is the version originally included on the first "Christmas Moods" CD. Remixed, and slightly extended at the end. 7) O Tannenbaum - I had experimented with several recordings of this song, and was originally going to do a long version with several reharmonizations, improvisations, and variations on the themes of this song. I then decided to keep this one simple, and used only two of the variations I came up with in my explorations. 8) Up On The Housetop - very similar to the version on the first "Christmas Moods" CD, but completely re-recorded. As I have said on several other CDs, my playing generally favors the soft and mellow, but occasionally, something rowdy comes out. I also used a Garage Band drum loop, originally only for a metronome, but decided to leave it in the final version. 9) Silent Night - one acoustic classical guitar, accompanied by wind chimes, which change chords with the song. The wind chimes were generated by a computer program called "Mind Chimes," written by guitarist Andrew York. About George: George Sawyn comes from a family in which music was just taken for granted. Everyone played an instrument or sang-melody or harmony-with the kind of talent that looks effortless. Nevertheless, George spent five years taking piano lessons and then, motivated by peer pressure and rock 'n' roll, he switched to guitar. There he found his forte, and a love for a whole universe of musical styles, including jazz, country, folk, ethnic and classical. He began working professionally in 1972, combining his talents with that of some of the Chicago area's finest musicians, working with large bands and small groups. Most recently, he has added regular performances in Door County, Wis., where he's had more scope for experimenting with his improvisational pieces-music not just BY George, but also FROM George, from that musical core that's his alone.