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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Review: Spirit of the Season from Hiroshima

Spirit of the Season from HiroshimaEven though Hiroshima had songs on a couple of Windham Hill holiday compilations, Spirit of the Season is the first full holiday release from the band. After listening to this 11-song collection, I’m ready for the sequel. This is an excellent holiday recording and makes me wonder why they haven’t done it before. June Kuramoto’s koto again is the highlight. The distinctiveness of the koto sound makes many of the traditional holiday songs sound like new. June’s expressiveness on “White Christmas” and playfulness on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” demonstrate her mastery of the instrument. The latter song is the best rendition I’ve heard of that song in a long time. Also notable, and appropriate given Hiroshima’s east-meets-west sound, is the use of taiko drums on “Little Drummer Boy.” Two new instrumentals also add to the fun: the atmospheric “Listen (To the Falling Snow)” and the uplifting “Peace On Earth.” The group’s classic “Thousand Cranes” is revisited and is enhanced with a gospel choir.

Overall, Spirit of the Season succeeds in evoking that special feeling of the holiday. It’s perfect for every holiday occasion – decorating your tree, dinner party, or just listening on your own. Even better, tell your friends!