A jazzy twist on holiday classics

September 18th, 2015 10:17 pm

First Posted: 12/9/2013

Just in time for the holidays, “Jazz Noel,” the new CD/DVD set by Clarks Summit Pastor Bill Carter and the Presbybop Christmas Eve Band, is being released.

The discs capture a band that has been performing every Christmas Eve since 1999. The ensemble is led by Carter, pianist and founder of the Presbybop Quartet. He is also pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Clarks Summit, which annually features the band in its 11 p.m. jazz service on Christmas Eve.

The DVD/CD package jazzes up traditional Christmas favorites such as “Joy to the World,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and “Silent Night,” performed by Carter and other band members: Mike Carbone, saxophone; Tony Marino, bass; and Marko Marcinko, drums; with special guests Jeff Stockham, trumpet/flugelhorn, and Warren Cooper, vocals/percussion. All selections are traditional Christmas carols with arrangements by Carter.

The album was recorded on Dec. 11, 2012 for a live audience at WVIA Studios in Pittston.

“When the angels sing, and all Earth echoes it, we catch the dance. We get caught up in the sound, and the joy is given to us as a gift,” Carter said.

Carter said the Christmas Eve Band came together specifically for the holiday jazz service at First Presbyterian Church.

“These are some nearby friends who help me ignite the late-night celebration at my church,” Carter said. “People are quickly defrosted by the energetic joy of this music. It’s my favorite night of the year.”

Carter feels the annual repertoire is familiar enough to keep the fans coming back but unique enough to keep them interested.

“The music changes every time we play it,” Carter said. “Not only do we get to hear the tunes we know, but we see it reinvented right in front of us. That’s what jazz is all about.”

He added that the band performs a brand new piece every year. This year, they will do their own interpretation of “Carol of the Bells.”

The band had an audience of about 100 people for the recording session at WVIA and gets a consistent following of all faiths and all ages that flocks to the Christmas Eve service at First Presbyterian Church.

“The people who come to hear us on Christmas Eve might not be in church any other time of the year, but they come for this,” Carter said. “Christmas music transcends religious differences.”

He added that those who come to the service want to stay.

“Nobody leaves,” he said. And when they do, “Everybody departs transformed. Nobody’s the same after they leave. That’s what a lot of people are hungry for.”

Like the fans, Carter said he too is transformed by the service.

“Of all the worship services that I lead, this one fills my soul unlike any other,” he said. “Something about this particular band, that particular night changes me.”

Carter predicted the Christmas Eve jazz service will be around for years to come. He said, “There’s no reason to stop.”

“Jazz Noel” is $19.99 and available online at cdbaby.com or presbybop.com. It also is available at First Presbyterian Church (300 School St., Clarks Summit).