Dean Fraser’s full Christmas project
Dean Fraser is not afraid to tell anyone that he is no fan of Christmas. However, being a musician, he is a great admirer of the classic songs that help make the season joyous.
Reggae’s premier saxophonist puts a Rastafarian feel to some of those standards on Nyabinghi Christmas, his first Yuletide album, which was released on November 20 by Tad’s International Records.
DEAN FRASER’S FULL CHRISTMAS PROJECT
The rolling drums of Congo Billy, Hector Lewis (of Chronixx’ band), and Feluke complement Fraser’s distinctive horn phrasings on the 16-song set.
Fraser’s 45-year career has encompassed all facets of Jamaican music — from roots-reggae to lovers rock and dancehall. He has done tribute albums to Bob Marley and Dennis Brown, but never a full Christmas project.
“I wouldn’t say Christmas is my favourite time of di year. Only thing I love about Christmas is di songs… they are well-written and worth listening,” he said.
The chunky ‘hornsman’ and his team put a ‘binghi’ flavour to When A Child is Born, Long Time Ago, and Jose Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad, as well as Jamaican folk songs like Christmas A Cum (llamma) and Santa Ketch Up Inna Mango Tree.
Bassist Mikey Fletcher, his colleague from the 809 Band, and hot guitarist Lamont Savory, also played on Nyabinghi Christmas. The sessions were some of the last for Feluke, a talented percussionist who died in September from colon cancer.
Work on the album started last year. Production continued despite the challenges of COVID-19 and while Fraser was on a break from duties as musical director with Tarrus Riley.
Christmas albums and songs are not rare to reggae. Inner Circle and Jacob Miller, guitarist Dwight Pinkney, saxophonist Tony Greene, and singer Carlene Davis, have all recorded well-received holiday efforts.
Fraser is pleased with breaking new ground with Nyabinghi Christmas which he says is an Afro-Jamaican take on a European celebration. In his opinion, similar music should be done for other rituals and events.
“Whether it be christenings, weddings, anniversaries it should be Jamaican. We should record our music for all these things,” he said.