[12 December 2007]
Mostly instrumental and brimming with unique holiday confections cooked up, Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra drops some flavor in your ear and some soul in your stocking with A Very Ping Pong Christmas: Funky Treats From Santa’s Bag. No ping pong balls were hurt, much less used during the making of this album, relying upon Shawn Lee’s unexpected instrumentation and kicky configurations to carry out this trippy holiday fantasy. Along the way, Lee acts as Parson Brown, marrying an inspired twist of Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” to the holiday classic “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. Not the only fresh take on traditional favorites, A Very Ping Pong Christmas also features a scratch n’ sitar-laden take on “The Little Drummer Boy”, sprinkling it with baritone sax, the sonic equivalent of colored sugar on Christmas-shaped cookies. Squealing horns interwoven with guitar-wonk psychadelia gives Lee’s version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” enough street cred to sound like the soundtrack to some long lost, ‘70s Christmas-themed blaxploitation flick. Fun and funked-out to the gills, Lee’s Yuletide effort merits year round replay value, not just during the holidays. While still recognizable as the usual arsenal of Christmas classics, Lee’s reworkings aren’t overtly identifiable as something strictly seasonal. Offering up something for fans of funk, jazz, and jam-session styles, these genres are expertly blended into a category-defying sound. Each piece is head-bobbingly good, invoking a holiday feel without overflowing that proverbial cup of cheer and saturating each track with an overdose of seasonal sentiment.