2014 Holiday Selections
Artist Title Label
Perf
Snd
Type
Jonathan Butler
A Mery Christmas To You
Artistry
5
4
Pop+Jazz
O's Notes: When we get the stack of new Holiday CDs flooding our box in the Fall, it is a mixed blessing as almost everyone takes a shot. We smiled when we opened Jonathan Butler's latest effort A Merry Christmas To You. He doesn't disappoint his fans and those anticipating Santa. JB gets some help from Rick Braun, Dave Koz and Paul Weimer providing the brass on "This Christmas" and "Sleigh Ride", two of many gems. In addition to the traditional  covers, Butler adds two originals! This is an upbeat set with strong vocals, good harmony, some scatting, sweet guitar and a bundle of joy!
Ted Rosenthal
Wonderland Playscape
5
3
Classic
O's Notes: Ted Rosenthal plays piano leading a trio with Noriko Ueda (b) and Tim Horner (d). They put a jazzy spin on ten Holiday classics plus "Snowscape", a Rosenthal original including crisp solos around the horn. Ted stretches out on "The Christmas Song" and the band follows leaving us with a smile. The music swings with seasonal jubilation and could easily satisfy traditional jazz fans during months other than December!
New York Voices
Let It Snow
Five Cent Records
5
4
Pop+Jazz
O's Notes: There is nothing better than sweet harmonies from Christmas Carolers especially when the quartet is the world renowned New York Voices! Even better yet is the support from a full orchestra with lush strings and a rich brass complement! They sing fresh arrangements of thirteen spiritual classics including some lesser-worked songs. This is definitely one for the CD changer this season.
Peggy Dequesnel
All I Ask For Christmas
Joyspring Music
4
4
Ballads
O's Notes: The keys to making a great Holiday recording are song selection (tunes within the grasp of the band/singer) and not drifting too far from the original tunes while imparting a new twist to keep it interesting. Producer, pianist and vocalist Peggy Duquesnel understands this formula and strengthened her case by adding a slamming band that includes Brian Bromberg (b), Joe La Barbara (d), Brian Kilgore (perc) and Jay Leech (g). Realizing that some jazz fans prefer instrumentals, Peggy makes it a 2-Disc set one each for instrumentals (perf: 5) and vocals (perf: 4). Oh yeah, it's pretty good with a little something for everyone!
Nnenna Freelon
Christmas
Brown Boulevard
4
4
Ballads
O's Notes: If you like Nnenna's jazz vocals, you'll enjoy for take on the Holiday classics. Freelon approaches Christmas carols with her characteristic scatting, vocalese and soulful singing. Support comes from the John Brown Big Band, a tight unit that fits well with Nnenna's style. We enjoyed "Christmas Time Is Here", "Silent Night" and especially "Baby It's Cold Outside" with John adding vocals.
Tim Warfield Jazzy Christmas Undaunted Music
4
4
Neobop
O's Notes: Tim Warfield grabbed a few horns and invited some friends to the studio to record some Holiday cheer. Cyrus Chestnut (p), Terell Stafford (t), Stefon Harris (vibes), Rodney Whitaker (b) and Joanna Pascale (vocals) aren't ordinary musicians and just a sampling of the talent jamming on Warfield’s Jazzy Christmas. The standard songs are the structure for a serious jam session. Bring on the eggnog!
Sandy Bainum This Christmas Kritzerland
4
3
Ballads
O's Notes: Everybody loves the Holidays and Sandy is no exception loving the tradition of enjoying Christmas music from Thanksgiving thru New Years Eve. This Christmas is rich in traditions that come from Bainum's memories old and new of celebrating the Christmas season. The accompaniment comes from The Meyers-Sullivan Orchestra under the direction of Lanny Meyers in a grand celebration fit for the stage!
Megan McClannan Reardon Dreams of Christmas LML Music
4
3
Ballads
O's Notes: Megan shares her joy for the Christmas Holidays on Dreams of Christmas. There are a dozen songs arranged to suit Reardon's mood and spirit. Producer Joseph Itaya (p) and Kevin Nash (g) provide support without intruding on this sweet set of classics that Megan makes her own.
Manhattan Brass Holiday Manhattan Brass
3
4
Big Band
O's Notes: RJ Kelley (horn), Ann Ellsworth (horn), Michael Seltzer (tb), David Taylor (tb), Wayne du Main (t) and Lewis Soloff (t) are collectively Manhattan Brass. Holiday started as a few charts arranged by Carla Bley on tour with Lew Soloff several years ago. Enter arranger Jack Walrath with five more selection and the concept became reality. The band is as dynamic as ever and the arrangements are indeed unique. The overall sound is somewhere between Celtic and New Orleans, owing to the instrumentation. It is not your ordinary Christmas CD.
Deanna Reuben
Christmas Is Here
Deanna Reuben
3
4
Ballads
O's Notes: Christmas Is Here is a swinging set of Holiday cheer featuring vocalist Deena Reuben in front of a tight quintet led by producer and pianist Jason Long. Deanna's warm vocals are well suited for a warm fire especially when paired with the rich tenor sax of Larry McKenna. Among the best are "Winter Wonderland/Let It Snow" and "Baby It's Cold Outside" with guest vocalist Barry Ciabattoni.
Jan Daley There's Nothing Like Christmas Log Records
3
3
Ballads
O's Notes: Jan's Holiday take includes waltzes, warm ballads and a sampling of the usual Christmas goodies. She sings with a lot of passion supported by a complete orchestra with a lush string section. David Cohen (p), Misha Segal (p), Craig Garfinkle (g), Nate Light (b) and Avi Sills (d) anchor the rhythm section. Daley's arrangements are fresh keeping listeners engaged.
Miguel de Leon
Navidad Miguel de Leon
3
3
Latin
O's Notes: Miguel de León treasures the Christmas Holidays and the associated spiritual celebration. He pours his passion into eighteen classics. He sings mostly in Spanish with sleigh bells ringing all the way through. It is a festive set.
Tianna Hall & Chris Cortez
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Justin Time
3
3
Bebop
O's Notes: Noel is a traditional set of Christmas songs featuring vocalist Tianna Hall and guitarist Chris Cortez. Good musicians surround them and the Houston area team comes together to celebrate. The program includes nine selections highlighted by "Santa Baby", "The Christmas Song" and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town".
Natalie Toro
Just In Time For Christmas
Natalie Toro
3
3
Ballads
O's Notes: Natalie Toro sings classic Holiday songs in popular style. She gets help from Ryan Kelly on "Baby It's Cold Outside" and Jon Secada on "I'll Be Home For Christmas". The flutes on "The Christmas Song" give it a Celtic feeling while the beats are lively for "Once Upon A Christmas Song". These songs have appeal to a broad audience.
Robert Davi
New York City Christmas
Vallelonga
3
3
Ballads
O's Notes: Robert sings a set of five different versions of Nick Vallelonga's "New York City Christmas". We liked the radio edit and instrumental versions best. A true New Yorker may play this one repeatedly especially the Karoake version that challenges your memory of the words!.
Izzy Chait Holiday Nights Hitchcock Media
2
4
Ballads
O's Notes: Veteran jazz vocalist Izzy Chait brings us a live recording of Holiday music titled Holiday Nights. They push an R&B groove with the inclusion of "Mercy Mercy Mercy" and some rock 'n roll on the "Dylan Medley" in a sampling of pop tunes scattered among the Christmas classics. This one will resonate with Izzy's fan base.
Tom Culver
I Love the Holidays
Rhombus
2
3
Ballads
O's Notes: This is a limited edition sampler from Rhombus Records featuring four vocal selections from Tom Culver. "The First Snow", It's Christmas Time In Brazil", "Are You Going Away for the Holidays?" and the title track are good are the four selections included. Brief and focused on favorites.
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