Yuletide Music Roundup for 2019

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Sadiki Pierre (left) and Elasea Douglas of the duo Acute Inflections have a new holiday album titled In December.

(Photo: Courtesy of Artist)

New Orleans Jazz Band of Cologne
Santa
Claus Is Coming To Town
(K&K
Verlagsanstalt)

The German, Belgian and Dutch members of the New Orleans Jazz Band of Cologne, founded six decades ago as the Maryland Jazz Band, find their passion in New Orleans traditional jazz. The septet’s second Christmas effort, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, maintains the level of energy necessary to keep nostalgia away. The album chronicles their concert last December at Germany’s grand Bad Homburg Castle. A round-robin of decent solos is the order of the day, with something a little extra coming on “Christmas Song” from clarinetist John Defferary, once a student of Barney Bigard.

BUY IT NOW: New Orleans Jazz Band of Cologne

Brynn Stanley
Classic
Christmas
(SonoPath)

Talented singer Brynn Stanley projects unstudied rapport with the melodies and messages of the 10 songs comprising her album Classic Christmas. She interprets the lyrics with authentic expression; the pure tones and shadings of her appealing voice invite return listens to Brook Benton’s “This Time Of The Year” and the Tony Bennett-identified “I Love The Winter Weather,” as well as the rest of the program. Supported by a big band led by arranger/co-producer Tony Guerrero or a combo, sometimes strings and a vocal group, Stanley makes sure her singing elevates the human spirit. Fun stocking stuffer: The lighthearted fizz of the original tune “Selfie With Santa” evokes 1960s pop.

BUY IT NOW: Brynn Stanley

Chet Atkins
The Complete RCA Victor & Columbia Christmas Recordings

(Real Gone Music)

For a Christmas country album that stands apart from the glut of vacuous pop-country titles released lately, look no farther than Chet Atkins’ The Complete RCA Victor & Columbia Christmas Recordings. This two-disc compilation consists of the guitarist’s two holiday albums (1961’s Christmas With Chet Atkins and 1983’s East Tennessee Christmas), along with all the other Yuletide tunes he recorded for the two major labels between 1953 and 1995. Atkins, a chief architect of the “Nashville sound,” was a musician of imposing gifts, capable of revitalizing the most tired of these tracks without succumbing to the sentimentality of the singers who appear on some tracks. His affinity for jazz spontaneity can be detected here and there. Those after-hours jazz jams in which he participated at a Printer’s Alley club in Nashville in the 1950s stood him in good stead.

Peter Curtis
Christmas With Your Jewish Boyfriend
(Bella Barktalk)

Classically trained jazz guitarist/college professor Peter Curtis added an interesting twist to his first entry into the Christmas music genre. Christmas With Your Jewish Boyfriend features his renditions of a dozen Christmas standards composed by Jewish tunesmiths. Curtis stimulates rather than spoon-feeds the listener, displaying a nimble imagination, a controlled verve and an impeccable technique that allows ideas to flow around the well-known melodies of, to name three, “Winter Wonderland” (music by Felix Barnard), ”Christmas Time Is Here” (lyrics by Lee Mendelson) and “White Christmas” (music and lyrics by Irving Berlin). The album closes with Curtis gamely singing his own “Christmas With Your Jewish Boyfriend,” a gentle spoof reminiscent of comic Allan Sherman (1924–73).

Josh Rouse
The Holiday Sounds Of Josh Rouse

(Yep Roc)

Indie rock singer-songwriter Josh Rouse joins the festive fray in a sly way with The Holiday Sounds Of Josh Rouse. Over the past 10 years, he had written a tune or two about the holiday season and just recently decided to contact colleagues in Nashville to join him in recording nine of those compositions. All have merit; no throwaways in the bunch. Feelings of longing and dislocation at Christmas, usually informed by a playful, pointed sense of irony, are enlivened by his distinctive singing voice. (A native Nebraskan, he lived in Spain for about 15 years; now, he has settled in Nashville). “Red Suit” finds Rouse humanizing Santa, and “Lights Of Town” is his shuffling meditation on the emotions generated on New Year’s Eve. Besides the lyrics, the only traditional tip-off that this is Christmas music is the presence of Brad Jones’ vibraphone, which sometimes simulates holiday bells. Fans can enjoy this album all year long.

Kristin Korb
That Time Of Year

(Storyville)

Released last year in Europe and now out in North America, Denmark-based Kristin Korb’s That Time Of Year pulls off the trick of sounding simultaneously new and traditional. A skilled bassist and a gifted singer, she imparts warmth to her interpretations of 13 holiday songs (some well-known, some not). The program is centered on tunes she favored as a girl growing up in Montana. Highlights include her renditions of the Lou Rawls-identified “Christmas Will Really Be Christmas” and Dave Frishberg’s “Snowbound.” Seasonal exuberance comes from harmonica player Mathias Heise, along with pianist Magnus Hjorth and drummer Snorre Kirk.

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