And just when you thought that everyone has recorded a Xmas album by now, here come Earth, Wind & Fire with their “Holiday” CD which is a nod to their 70s heyday disco/soul sound. You can hear “Happy Feelin’s” again as “Happy Seasons”. One of their biggest hits, “September”, becomes “December”. Yes you might want to call it a bit unimaginative but then you’ll get a lot of surprises with little arrangement highlights. The album is worth the prize alone for the background vocals on “Winter Wonderland”.
Former Incognito singer Maysa has released her first ever Christmas album called “A Very Maysa Christmas” which also has some very nice moments like duet partner Will Downing on “This Christmas” or a soulful sax solo from Gerald Albright on “Silver Bells”. The only original tune, written by Maysa herself together with producer Chris Davis, shines out on this solid set.
Michael Feinstein‘s Christmas album with the wonderful pianist Alan Broadbent was previously part of a limited release and out of print for over ten years. It reminds me again of what a brilliant pianist Mr. Broadbent is even though the 15 vocal-piano duos can become a bit samey.
If you want a decent Jazz Christmas album, the folks at Mack Avenue Records have come up with the best compilation in years. It is a showcase of their major artists and features, among others, bassist Christian McBride on several tracks, like on “Silent Night” with his own trio or on an old James Brown holiday classic. Elsewhere, you’ll get a sloooooooooow version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by Cécile McLorin Salvant, a swinging “Let It Snow!” by the jolly Cyrille Aimée, or jazzed-up classics from Tia Fuller and Sean Jones. This is a highly entertaining set.
A bit lackluster is the “Snowflakes & Jazzamatazz” double-disc by Shakatak. Even though they can still convince at their live gigs (last seen late September in Berlin), this collection has an uneven production and not really the coolest keyboard sounds.
The one Christmas track which I really can’t stand anymore is “The Little Drummer Boy” until Anthony Hamilton came around with his soulful “Home For The Holidays” release which has a Gospel/Blues Interlude to the track with amazing vocals and then jumps right into a Motownesque romp which is simply irresistible. The duet with Chaka Khan is the only track which didn’t do it for me on this otherwise recommended album.
Classic holiday songs are once again on the menu for Nils Landgren‘s fourth Christmas With My Friends album which has the sympathetic vocals of Ida Sand, Jeanette Köhn, Jessica Pilnäs and Sharon Dyall on a steady and convincing collection of pieces from Händel, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, and traditional Scandinavian songs.
Very traditional is of course the re-release of Mahalia Jackson‘s Christmas album from 1962 which this year comes together with bonus tracks which were recorded seven years prior to her album with a smaller group of musicians.
And then there is Dave Koz again who has surrounded himself with another big cast of performers for his latest holiday endeavor. Most notably, there is a strong India.Arie track with Trombone Shorty accompanying and a great “This Christmas” by Eric Benét.
A lot of stuff has come in digitally and there is one track which really shines out: “Have A Very Merry Christmas” by Earth, Wind & Fire’s Ralph Johnson features singer/composer Siedah Garrett at her very best. Happy Holidays!