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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Marcus Johnson – FLO Series Includes Acid Jazzy Chill, Romance, and Standards

Marcus Johnson is presenting three new recordings under the brand FLO – For the Love Of.

FLO: Standards covers classics like “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Body and Soul,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Goodbye Port Pie Hat” and features Johnson, Bobby Lyle, Michael Price, and drummer Lenny Robinson.

Like FLO: Standards, the title of FLO: Romance speaks for itself. It includes a number of Johnson compositions and performances by Johnson and vocal stylings of Frank McComb, Keith Ailer, Alyson Williams, Stoney Ellis, and YahZarah.

The subtitle for FLO: Chill is “lounge vibes and dance grooves with the right touch of jazz.” That got my attention. Johnson adds electronica elements to his music creating some interesting sounds. Some of it falls in the acid jazz category. I’ve already added “Another Planet” to the Radio playlist and it won’t be the last cut I pull from this release.

Get more information on the FLO recordings on MySpace. Discs are available only at Circuit City but you can sample and buy digital versions at iTunes:

FLO: Chill | FLO: Romance | FLO: Standards

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

Larry Grenadier on New Recordings by Rebecca Martin and Francisco Méla

I’m catching up on press releases and other email (way, way behind). I just read two separate messages with two things in common – bassist Larry Grenadier and family.

Grenadier plays on The Growing Season, the latest from his wife of over ten years, singer Rebecca Martin. This is a special and personal recording, inspired by their almost-three year old son. Martin says, “The experience of becoming a mother is very cocoon-like. The new feelings of love, the life changes and responsibilities have transformed me completely. What is important and what isn’t is now crystal clear, and it’s made the room for me to go deeper into my truth in my life and my work.” Helping convey the intimate expressions are Kurt Rosenwinkel (who also produced) and Brian Blade. Listen to samples at or iTunes.

Cuban-born drummer Francisco Mela’s second recording as a leader is also his first live one. The title is Cirio, named after and inspired by his father. He can’t go wrong with the band of this recording: Jason Moran, Lionel Loueke, Mark Turner and Larry Grenadier. The press releases states that “Together they make music informed by the rhythms of Mela’s homeland, while also going beyond into adventurous modern jazz.” Cirio is available now.

New Kim Pensyl In October

It’s been over 15 years since I’ve gotten a new Kim Pensyl recording (the excellent Eyes of Wonder). He kind of dropped off my radar. I heard he switched to trumpet but whatever label(s) he was on never did any sort of media push that I saw. He’s back, and on piano/keyboards, with When Katie Smiles on October 26. It’s a contemporary jazz recording, with a guitar/bass/drum/percussion band support.

“As on all my albums, When Katie Smiles is about communicating feelings born of my life experiences. This makes each album something very personal, emotional and expressive, but it also makes me a bit apprehensive since I put myself in such a vulnerable position by sharing my feelings so openly. However, the chance to communicate deeply with listeners is certainly worth the risk. It creates a bond of understanding that I treasure,” explains Pensyl. “My music is a positive light, deeply committed, and is offered with sincerity in the hope it will bring joy to others by sharing part of my life.”