Christmas albums now arrive in every genre — jazz, new age, country — but jam band? Other than Jorma Kaukonen’s 1996 Christmas album, not so much. That may start to change with Michael Falzarano and Extended Family’s A Kaleidoscope Christmas, a collection of original and classic yuletide songs led by the singer and guitarist known for his stints in Hot Tuna and the New Riders of the Purple Sage.
Thanks to those connections, this is a Christmas album that features guitarist Kaukonen and Falzarano’s other Hot Tuna bandmate, co-founder and bassist Jack Casady, along with the likes of former Jefferson Starship keyboardist Pete Sears and guitarist Jeff Mattson (of Dark Star Orchestra and Phil Lesh & Friends renown). And that’s hardly the most unconventional aspect of it. You’ve probably never heard as many guitar solos on a holiday tune as on “Jingle Bells Jingle Jam,” and you can probably guess what “4:20, 12/24” is about.
Then there’s “The Eggnog Shuffle,” an instrumental featuring Kaukonen and Casady. With its spry acoustic guitar picking and jaunty Western-swing fiddle (the latter courtesy of Jason Crosby from Robdert Randolph’s Family Band), the song isn’t conventionally Christmas either — unless one imagines a holiday party at Bob Wills’ house in the Forties. But it has a joyful yuletide spring in its step, and we could use some of that after the year we’ve all been through.
Why the title? “I was looking to come up with a fun name that would work for the song, so I decided to name it after one of the more famous holiday drinks, and added shuffle to the name,” Falzarano says. “I just felt it had a nice ring to it and captured the spirit of the song. That said, I’m not sure I’ve ever had eggnog and it’s not a really a shuffle! But it seems to work.” It works for us, too.