Spyro Gyra – A Night Before Christmas

“We’ve always had a yearning to do a record that was kind of a straightahead record – or at least something closer to a straightahead record than what we normally do,” says Spyro Gyra’s Jay Beckenstein. “But it’s always been very difficult to make that work in the context of what we do on most of our records. But a Christmas record was sort of an opportunity to really go someplace a little more subtle, a little more acoustic and more traditional.”

A Night Before Christmas is the first full holiday recording by Spyro Gyra. They had a couple of Christmas songs on two GRP Christmas Collections but this is the recording for those who can’t enough of Santa Gyra. The band selected ten familiar Christmas songs and Beckenstein composed a new song which features Tony Award winning vocalist Christine Ebersole. This isn’t a fully stripped-down version of the band with all acoustic instruments but the straight approach does add some appropriate warmth to the music.

“Christmas has always been a huge part of my life,” Beckenstein says. “It’s a celebration of all the things that are good and redeeming about humanity – compassion, hope, generosity, forgiveness, renewal, family, all those things.”

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Holiday Music Roundup Part 2: Jack Frost and Airborne

Jack Frost and the Christmas Band reached out to me on MySpace. Ivan Valles in the group sent me a couple of MP3s to share with you. If you like what you hear, click the shopping cart button on the player to buy all of the Christmas songs from the band.

Jack Frost & The Christmas Band Vol 1Jack Frost & The Christmas Band Vol 1 – “Jingle Bells”
Jack Frost & The Christmas Band Vol 1Jack Frost & The Christmas Band Vol 1 – “The First Noel”

Airborne, the “musical peacemakers of contemporary jazz,” want to share the Christmas love too. They recorded four songs for you to download for free at their site. You can also listen to samples of their new recording, Winds of Change.

2009 Contemporary Jazz Preview

One constant in the contemporary jazz world is the planning and reliable execution of Heads Up recordings. I just got the list for 2009 and it’s another winner for contemporary jazz fans. I’ll elaborate more in later posts but here’s what’s on the schedule:

Incognito – More Tales Remixed – remixes of songs from the latest Incognito release;
Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Live;
Walter Beasley – Free Your Mind

Joe Zawinul – 75 – two-disc live set;
Pieces of a Dream – Soul Intent;
Mike Stern – New Morning The Paris Concert;
The Bad Plus Joined by Wendy Lewis – For All I Care

Marion Meadows – TBD;
Chuck Loeb – Between 2 Worlds;
Yellowjackets – New Morning The Paris Concert

Candy Dulfer; Hiroshima

Spyro Gyra; Zap Mama; Stanley Clarke/Hiromi/Lenny White

Alexander Zonjic, Andy Narell

Najee; Mike Stern; Joe Zawinul DVD

Take 6 – a new holiday recording

Holiday Music Roundup Part 1: Vocalists

I began looking up the various jazz seasonal recordings when I first learned about the new Christmas recording from Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. I’ve gotten a good number and am breaking them into separate posts. Here are some of the singers who have new holiday recordings out this year.

Al Jarreau – Christmas. An all-new recording on Rhino. From the Rhino site: “Album highlights include Jarreau’s instantly classic takes on beloved tunes including “The Christmas Song,” “Winter Wonderland,” “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Cherished Christmas traditions further come alive with his inspired versions of “Come All Ye Faithful,” “Carol Of The Bells,” “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” and “Gloria In Excelsis,” a sacred song used in the Roman Catholic Mass.”
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Singer Erin Bode has a new Christmas-themed release out titled It’s called A Cold December Night. The only information on it so far comes from the great St. Louis Jazz Notes, which says it’s due in November.

Bob James & Hilary James – Christmas Eyes. I don’t know anything about this other than it’s Bob and his daughter, singer Hilary James, in a Christmas recording produced by Kevin DiSimone (Hilary’s hubby). From the track list, it looks like a mix of familiar carols and original songs.
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Harry Connick, Jr. has recorded a third holiday collection – What A Night! A Christmas Album
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I only know of one Tony Bennett holiday recording where he’s the headliner and that’s amazing considering his long career. A Swingin’ Christmas is new from Tony with Count Basie Big Band.
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September 30 New Releases – Lorber, Take 6, Bernard…

Jeff Lorber – Heard That
Some nice pop-jazz gems; guests include Rex Rideout, trumpeters Rick Braun and Ron King, and Gerald Albright.
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Will Bernard – Blue Plate Special
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Take 6 – The Standard
A good Take 6 recording, enhanced by guest artists George Benson, Al Jarreau, Jon Hendricks, Roy Hargrove, Till Brönner, Aaron Neville, and the late Ella Fitzgerald. “While we sing lyrics that always exemplify our spiritual and moral convictions, what we really are at the core is a jazz vocal group,” says Dave Thomas, a member of the Take 6 lineup since 1985. “So we decided to do an album of jazz standards, a record that will stand up as the jazz vocal album for all time.”
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Jason Miles – 2 Grover With Love
Follow-up to the best-selling tribute to Grover Washington, Jr., To Grover With Love
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Bela Fleck & the Flecktones – Jingle All the Way
read my post on this