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Chilly Gonzales Turns Yuletide Upside Down with 'A Very Chilly Christmas'


Pianist and songwriter Chilly Gonzales is on the record saying he hates Christmas. In reality, it’s a little more complicated than that.

As a secular Jewish artist, Gonzales (aka Jason Charles Beck) admits to loving Christmas too — reveling in the holiday spirit as an outsider, joining a canon of songwriters before him with his album A Very Chilly Christmas, and an accompanying hourlong special that airs in the United States on Dec. 23.

Gonzales is the classic example of an artist who doesn’t fit into any musical category, and isn’t particularly interested in the idea. From classical to rap, jazz to electronic music, he dwells where his muse takes him; and we get to be provoked and learn along the way. As you'll hear both musically and verbally, he's a deft commununicator, and holds strong opinions.

On the one hand, he’s known for his brilliantly direct Solo Piano series, which suggest a classical sensibility yet distilled for our digital age. On the other hand, he’s a rapper and entertainer of the first degree, and a songwriter for megastars like Feist, Drake, and Daft Punk. He's a stunning improvisor too. So, thinking about him along any binary lines seems too reductive. Gonzales would rather categorize himself as an overgrown child in wonderment of the universe, throwing more than a few tantrums along the way.

On this episode, we dig into his new multimedia stage play and performance A Very Chilly Christmas, three livestream performances airing on Dec. 23. Watch his stop animation film of a David Craig Berman song, “Snow is Falling In Manhattan” featuring Jarvis Cocker and Feist.

Later on, the show veers off the holiday rails as we talk about jazz — excerpting Gonzales’ take on “Take Five,” the Paul Desmond standard, from a recent appearance at the Moers Jazz Festival. He talks about what he learned studying under Canadian jazz legend Oliver Jones, and then calls out “The Jazz Nazis,” purists who have a difficult time “meeting the people where they are.”  

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For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.