December 23rd, 2007
Edition #464 Previously Next
Sixth Annual: A Café
With a mighty "Ho Ho Ho, direct from studio B" we launch the sixth installment of our yearly review of all the best in smooth seasonal music! Featured are great renditions of a few holiday classics as well as a few modern classics in the making, selections such as those from Terry Disley and Chris Rea. We've included past favourites by Russ Freeman and Rauder & Hobbs; fresh takes on traditional favourites by Brian Auger & Dotsero; while also appearing are Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Kenny G, Peter White, The Pointer Sisters, and Boney James. I hope you'll enjoy the music we've selected and a celebration unlike any other. So let the bacchanalia begin!
What Child Is This - Phil Sheeran:
The story behind this Christmas classic sees an amalgam of words and music from two disparate worlds. Greensleeves, the melody, has a long history that dates to Elizabethan times. Apparently, the first licensing occurred in 1580 under slightly different titles, one to Richard Jones included … Lady Greene Sleeve, while the other by Edward White, had … Ladie Greene Sleeves. Included were lyrics that were not at all religious, nor indeed were they even respectable, however, the tune is probably older still. Unsubstantiated reports have it that Henry VIII may have written the song for Anne Bolin while Henry's daughter Queen Elizabeth is said to have danced to its strains. Shakespeare mentions it in The Merry Wives of Windsor while traitors were hung as hired musicians gloomily played its measure.
| Almost three centuries later, Englishman William Chatterton
Dix was stricken by a near-fatal illness when he was 29. He remained bedridden
for many months and suffered deep depression. During this time, Dix often
reflected & examined his faith, and thru reading The Bible & the works
of various theologians, Dix discovered the power that allowed him to change
his life. Shortly after recovering, he wrote several hymns including The
Manger Throne, which in time came to be recognized as his most inspired
work. Passages were used in church services and eventually it appeared
in print in both England & abroad. However, it wasn't until several years
later that fellow compatriot, composer and organist Sir John Stainer,
selected three stanzas from The Manger Throne and connected Dix's words
to the traditional melody Greensleeves that the beloved carol came into
In the years since, the names Greensleeves and What Child Is This? have become synonymous with the selection being recorded thousands of times and becoming one of the most readily identifiable songs of the season. Indeed, the melody freely lends itself to interpretation and as some indication, we've included no less than four versions on this very program! First up is Phil Sheeran with a refined and reflective adaptation from the first of his Christmas collections. In addition to Sheeran's delicate guitar work, Richard Warner chips in on alto flute to further enhance the matchless mood of reverence!
CD: I'll Be Home for Christmas (1996)
Label: Passage Records
Site: Phil Sheeran
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Dave Koz:
About the music....
Over the past 50 or so years, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas has become one of the most heart warming and instantly recognizable Christmas standards of the day. Initially, though, the tune was far from cheery. It was in 1943, when the team of Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane were hired to write the tunes for the movie musical Meet Me in St. Louis, wherein the selection was immortalised by Judy Garland. However, it was later revealed that Martin solely wrote the song while the lyrics had been substantially "cheered up" at the request of Garland herself - the original dreariness being replaced by images of a more hopeful future. Even so, The Trolley Song from that movie scored an Oscar nomination and in spite of being recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1947, it seemed Merry Little Christmas was destined to languish as a somewhat forgotten show tune. However, in the midst of recording A Jolly Christmas in 1957, Sinatra showed renewed interest requesting that Martin provide a few more cheery changes to the tune so that it's mood might better match the "jolliness" of his new album title and so it was that the line ''Hang a shining star upon the highest bough'' and a few other upbeat alterations came into being. The brighter Sinatra version made the song a perennial favourite and since, it's been recorded literally thousands of times.
(History and lyrics at EW.com.)
This all now brings us to Memories of a Winter's Night, the latest and third seasonal release from Dave Koz - as only Dave could be up to the task of instrumentally capturing the misty-eyed optimism encapsulated by this yuletide classic!
CD: Memories of a Winter's Night (2007)
Label: Capitol Records
Site: Dave Koz
Chinese Dance - The Terry Disley Experience:
The Nutcracker Ballet, based on an adaptation of the E.T.A. Hoffman story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King'', has become arguably the most popular ballet of all time being performed hundreds of times globally and primarily during the Christmas season. The theatrical presentation's overwhelming appeal can be attributed in no small way to the accompanying score, written by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). Many of the movements can be recognized in an instant while being among the most beloved of all classical compositions. The director of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre commissioned both a one-act opera and a ballet in 1891. Completed early the following year and performed under the composer's direction, the suite was first presented on March 19th, prior to the ballet's December 1892 premiere. The suite's popularity was immediate and eclipsed that of the ballet until around the mid-1960s - renewed interest no doubt being stimulated by the suite's inclusion in the 1940 Disney classic Fantasia. We are now very pleased to present the very latest chapter in The Nutcracker Suite saga with a sweet and jazzy interpretation - as the wonderful world of Disley presents The Jazzcracker!
CD: The Jazzcracker & Other Delights (2007)
Label: Disleyworld Music
Site: Terry Disley
|Highlights Hour Two|
Greensleeves (What Child is This?) - Peter White:
Over the past few years, all-star smooth jazz Christmas tours have become quite the rage, one of the most popular of these being the one led by Peter White. White and sax-lady Mindi Abair first joined forces in 2003 while trumpeter Rick Braun made it a trio and a veritable tour de force when he signed on the following year. Spurred by their on-stage synergism, the recently released Peter White Christmas now corals some of their finest carol interpretations. From that collection, which is somewhat of a follow-up to White's 1997 Songs of the Season, we have Peter's second go-round at the holiday classic Greensleeves, and one, which takes a decidedly celebratory approach!
CD: Peter White Christmas (2007)
Label: ARTizen Music Group
Holly & The Ivy - Danny Wright:
The practice of decorating with holly and ivy dates to thousands of years ago. Pagans customarily decorated in winter with ivy fashioned into wreaths long before the birth of Christianity, while the Romans used holly prominently during Saturnalia, a celebration upon which the "holiday" of Christmas is based. Subsequently, the early Christians adopted the combination of holly and ivy as Christmas decorations. Meanwhile, the carol too is thought to have its roots in Pagan times and in that regard, it's unusual to have survived the religious purges of the 1600's. Modern interpretations date back to late 17th-century France, while reports differ on the version that we are familiar with today, some credit Joshua Sylvester while others cite Cecil Sharp.
For his part, pianist Danny Wright handles the piece exquisitely. Having made his debut in 1986 with a project that was marketed to friends and relatives, by 1992, Wright reached Billboard's Top 10 on their Adult Alternative chart, a feat that was duplicated in both of the following years. He's twice been nominated as the best selling artist in his category and now with 27 recordings in his catalogue and millions of albums sold, Wright is considered one of instrumental music's finest performers. From the 2004, An Intimate Christmas and his second collection of seasonal standards, Wright lends his gentle & expressive touch to a holiday masterpiece!
CD: An Intimate Christmas (2004)
Label: ATCO Records
Site: Danny Wright
Skating - Boney James:
San Francisco's Vince Guaraldi had already well-established his jazz credentials thruout the late 50s and early 60s and reached new pinnacles of success with the 1963 Grammy winning Cast Your Fate to the Wind, when presented with the opportunity to work with the creative genius of Charles Schultz on A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Although the special didn't air on network television, Guaraldi immersed himself into his role and somehow the whole became greater than the sum of its parts. The creation of the Linus and Lucy theme in 1964 became one of the signature selections for the Peanuts gang propelling both Guaraldi and Schultz into the stratosphere while laying the foundation for many future projects - including "A Charlie Brown Christmas" which debuted the following year. The special turned the Peanuts players into a television institution while the album went on to become one of the most popular jazz holiday albums of all time with selections such as Red Baron, My Little Drum, Christmas Time is Here, and others.
(Official Vince Guaraldi site.)
We've played various covers of Guaraldi and A Charlie Brown Christmas on past seasonal specials and coincidentally have included The Rippingtons with Red Baron and Rick Braun with My Little Drum on this very program. We now go to Christmas Present, the new and second yuletide release from Boney James for Skating wherein Boney perfectly recreates the magical feel of free-blading thru gently falling flakes on an ice-covered pond!
CD: Christmas Present (2007)
Label: Concord Music Group
Sites: Boney James
|After Hours ~ Exclusive to our Web Site:|
|As has become our custom you're getting a full hour of great uninterrupted seasonal music with no annoying chatter from me whatsoever. So sit back, relax and enjoy our holiday gift to you as A Café Jazz Christmas continues, After Hours style. Just click on the paw for a complete list of the artists, titles, and albums that we're playing!|