Creating a new album of songs to express the well-worn path of December standards is a tall order, but that’s exactly what songwriter William Schermerhorn does incredibly well with this project. On The Hope of Christmas, vocalist Ann Hampton Calloway is enlisted to bring the words Schermerman developed with the help of a bevy of co-writers, including the singer. Other collaborators on the effort include Wesley Whatley, Stephen Fox, Mary Ehlinger, Michael Feinstein and Milton Delugg. The music is wonderful original and contemporary with many capturing the feel of the standards and others bringing an entirely new vibe to the table. It’s soulful. It’s jazzy and it works. Hampton Calloway’s delivery of the tunes is ideal for the project. Guests on the effort include saxophonist Gerald Albright, vocal quartet New York Voices, flutist Hubert Laws, trombonists Steve Wilson and Michael Davis, bassist James Genus, pianist Ted Rosenthal and drummers Sherrie Maricale and Mark Walker, among others. This recording is a welcome addition to the new holiday music collection.
Click to listen to a clip of “Christmas Isn’t Christmas At All”:
Tracks: On Union Street (A Christmas Toast), The Hope of Christmas, One Star, Discovery, I Believe, I Saw A Sparrow, Santa Doesn’t Like Me, Christmas Isn’t Christmas At All, I Want To Play Santa, What Good Is Being Cranky, My Gift of Thanks, Fly With Angels.
Hammond B3 organist Barbara Dennerlein gives the Christmas songbook a true makeover. Christmas Soul, produced by Nicola Conte, finds Dennerlein transforming the Yuletide standards into soulful and funky new works. Each track is a performance that stands on its own with very inventive improvisational grooves that turns these classics into real toe-tappers. Joining Dennerlein on the production are Magnus Lindgren on saxophone, flutes and clarinet, Luca Alemanno on basses, Abdissa Assefa on percussion, Conte on guitar and Robert Ikitz on drums. Zara McFarlane provides vocals on three tunes on the project. Your holiday party will get a whole lot cooler with this one.
Click to listen to a clip of “Blue Christmas”:
Tracks: Christmas Time, Let it Snow, Blue Christmas, We Three Kings, B’s X-mas Blues, Little Drummer Boy, Sleigh Ride, Christmas Song, Oh Tannenbaum, Silent Night, Chim Chim Cherie, Blue Christmas, White Christmas.
Just when you thought you’d had it with Christmas music, this one from Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra comes along. Joyful Jazz is as good as the name implies. With extremely well-done arrangements and a top of the line ensemble, this big band manages to deliver and a quality productions that is thoroughly enjoyable and anything but old hat. Adding to the specialness of this project is the inclusion of vocal contributions by Freddy Cole and the Maureen Budway. Flugelhorn and Trumpeter Sean Jones, co-director of the orchestra along with wind instrumentalist Mike Tomaro, is featured on several tunes and is outstanding as always. This is one to add to the holiday music repertoire every year.
Click to listen to a clip of “Jingles, The Christmas Cat”:
Tracks: Jingle Bells, Jingles The Christmas Cat, Carol of The Bells, Blue Christmas, A Cradle In Bethlehem, Do You Hear What I Hear?, It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year, White Christmas, Merry Christmas John Coltrane, Snowfall, The Christmas Song, Joy To The World .
Amp Trio, comprised of pianist Addison Frei, bassist Perrin Grace and drummer Matt Young are one outstanding band. M(Y)OurWorld, their second recording, is a fantastic exhibition of the collective’s tremendous talents. The mostly Texas-based unit has a fresh sound centered around original compositions of real depth. Their use of sound and technology takes them beyond being the traditional jazz trio and makes for quite entertaining listening. The group brings an outstanding command of their instruments together with musical telepathy to wonderful effect. Vocalist Tahira Clayton, who joins in for several tunes, is perfect in her contribution to the project. Guitarist Brad Kang, percussionist Drew Zaremba and percussionist Nick Rothouse add much to the quality of this effort as well. This is a band that has the potential break boundaries and reach great heights. Do check them out.
Click to listen to a clip of “Culture”:
Tracks: Riding Periphery, Stand By You, M(Y)our World, Circa, Boundlessly in Balance, Culture, Dallas, Her Way In The Room, Phil’s Bill, Sun Rays.
The music of this recording is about as quixotic and unique as the student film by director David Lynch which inspired the band’s name. Cowboys & Frenchmen is comprised of Ethan Helm on alto sax, flute and clarinet, Owen Broder on alto sax, clarinet and bass clarinet, Chris Ziemba on piano, Ethan O’Reilly on bass and Matt Honor on drums. Rodeo , the fantastic debut outing of this unit is certainly as free-ranging as one of Lynch’s film, but with a solid dose of musical virtuosity. The songs structures, mostly originals with the exception of a Lennon and McCartney cover, are intriguing and make it easy to appreciate the artistry of all the players here. An excellent band that should not be missed.
Click to listen to a clip of “Brode’s Abode”:
Tracks: Jazz Styles, King Barry, A Bridge Inside My Mind, Man of Constant Sorrow, Because, Brode’s Abode, More, Bells of Mindfulness .
On Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar, saxophonist Noah Preminger leads a musical expedition through an interpretation of works by one of his favorite blues singers, Bukka White. The two half-hour-long suites are extended performances by Preminger and his quartet that feel improvised and arranged almost simultaneously. It’s a live recording at the legendary 55 Bar in New York City that feels raw and real. The outstanding lineup of players on the effort also includes Jason Palmer on trumpet, Kim Cass on bass and Ian Froman on drums. If there’s such a thing as “freestyle jazz”, this sounds like it and it is definitely worth checking out .
Click to listen to a clip of “Fixin To Die Blues”:
Joyce Moreno, the celebrated Brazilian vocalist, and Kenny Werner, the heralded New York based pianist blend their talents in this beautiful mood-altering production. Poesia is a wonderful collection of ballads by composers from Brazil, England, Scotland and America, including Dori Caymmi, Noel Coward, Abbey Lincoln and Leonard Bernstein. Moreno delivers the lyrics and feeling wonderfully in her own gentle way, while Werner is hypnotic on the keys. The performances by both artist doesn’t take much effort to appreciate. Though most of the material they record here are standards, the duo also contributes an original work to the mix that fits in very nicely. This is an absolutely magical collaboration.
Click to listen to a clip of “Vehlo Piano”:
Tracks: Second Love Song, É O Amor Outra Vez, Ohla Maria, Estate, Mad About The Boy, Vehlo Piano, throw It Away, Pra Dizer Adeus, Smile, Choro Bandido, Some Other Time, Novelo, The Water is Wide .