By Debbie Gardner
GREATER SPRINGFIELD – It’s the sounds of the season with a Latin twist. Just in time for the holidays, Amherst-based musician Jose Gonzalez and his group, Criollo Clasico Trio, have released a new CD, “World Christmas.”
A compilation of original pieces and the band’s interpretations of traditional holiday instrumentals from around the globe, “World Christmas” also features Gonzalez in an original duet with Miami-based Cuban songstress Krystal Alexis.
“We didn’t want to do another album that was just standards,” Gonzalez said of the new CD, which was produced entirely in the Pioneer Valley. “We decided we wanted to include our own feelings about the season and express our own musical ideas and the best thing would be a mix, not everything new and not everything that people would have heard.”
For example, the first song on the CD – the group’s third holiday album and the first with music in English – features a song Gonzalez originally wrote for his students to perform during the 24 years he was a music teacher at Lt. Clayre P. Sullivan Elementary School in Holyoke.
Called “Today I Sing,” it’s a ballad of “hope and peace and things we are hoping for during the season,” according to Gonzalez, who added that audience reactions to the band’s initial live performance of the song with Alexis sparked the decision to produce a new holiday CD.
He said another track from the CD, “Latin Christmas,” was picked up by AT&T to accompany holiday advertising on the Spanish page of the company’s website.
“We think that song will be around for a long time,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a salsa tune, very danceable and it has English lyrics.”
Gonzalez’s third favorite track, “Sing, Sing, Sing,” is, he said, “a kind of Feliz Navidad [performed] rock style.”
Other tracks include some Caribbean-style dance tunes in Spanish with Christmas lyrics, and several traditional holiday instrumentals including “Greensleeves,” “Celtic Dream,” “Catalan Folk Song” and a new piece, “Calle del Cristo,” a Latin/Flamenco style tune written by Gonzalez and Criollo Clasico.
“We wanted something that we could perform anywhere in the world,” Gonzalez said of the works on “World Christmas,” which also features his adult sons Renee on drums and Amhed on flute, percussion and guitar.
“They were born into a musical family and now they are professional musicians,” he added.
Gonzalez, who studied classical guitar and percussion at the University of Puerto Rico and has himself performed professionally in the U. S. and Latin America, noted that “World Christmas”– the group’s 16th CD – is truly a “family affair.”
To hear sample tracks from “World Christmas,” visit www.cdbaby.com/cd/josegonzalezandcriollocl
and search under “World Christmas Criollo Clasico Trio.”