December 20th, 2009
Edition #550 Previously Next
A Café Jazz Christmas -
A Bacchanalia Unlike Any Other!
… on this our 8th annual A Café Jazz Christmas, we're celebrating all the best in smooth seasonal music. Featured are some modern holiday classics as well as what could very well be some future classics in the making. These include selections by Brian Auger, Terry Disley, Michael Franks, and Chris Rea, while also appearing are Peter White, Jimmy Sommers, Boney James, and Dave Koz. I sincerely hope you'll enjoy our choice in selections and a celebration unlike any other combining the just the right amount of reverie with an equal measure of revelry. So without further delay, let the bacchanalia begin!
The Wexford Carol - Celtic Woman:
Acting as composer/musical director and executive producer respectively, Celtic Woman was a concept conceived of in 2004 by David Downes and Dave Kavanagh. The project brought together a highly talented ensemble, each member a recording artist in her own right, for the purpose of performing traditional and contemporary Celtic-based songs. From the very outset they met with overwhelming success. Their cds and dvds have gone platinum; they've played sold out venues such as the Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall; while their PBS special was a runaway hit. From the 2006 A Christmas Celebration release, we have The Wexford Carol. Based on a 12th century Irish Christmas carol originating from County Wexford, this reverent hymn features the divine vocals of Meav Ni Mhaolchatha!
CD: A Christmas Celebration (2006)
Label: Manhattan Records
Deck the Halls - David Wells:
Hailing from Vienna, West Virginia, David Wells grew up in a musical family and was encouraged to pursue his talents. By 14, he was already dreaming about a career in music. He studied in both Dallas and Tulsa, but moved back to his hometown in the early 90s where he performed on a part-time basis. By the new millennium, Wells felt drawn to a full-time ministry in music - the result was his independently released debut. Citing Louie Armstrong and Herb Alpert as his greatest influences, Wells has issued a string of fine releases. Meanwhile, we have his seasonal single issued a couple of years back featuring keyboardist and label-mate Chris Geith on a long-time holiday classic!
CD: Deck the Halls - Radio Single (2007)
Nonesuch/Ladies' Bramzel - Craig Chaquico:
Grammy-nominated and with 20 gold albums to his credit, in an earlier life, Craig Chaquico made a name for himself as a member of the pop/rock group Jefferson Starship, while in the post-Starship part of his career, Chaquico came to the fore with a slew of contemporary new age and smooth jazz releases. Released in 2005 and being Chaquico's only seasonal release, the cd Holiday seems to fittingly encapsulate many of the finer aspects of both of these phases while creatively striking an innovative chord or two. From that very issue, we have the closing selection on the disc. Based on a 16th century melody, the track Nonesuch/Ladies' Bramzel, features students and a teacher from the Siskiyou Waldorf School in Ashland, Oregon in a harp, vocals, and violin ensemble in which Chaquico plays piano! With traditional lyrics about changing seasons and a medieval timbre, it's a totally unique and particularly captivating round!
CD: Holiday (2005)
Label: Higher Octave Music
|Highlights Hour Two
Christmas is Coming - David Benoit:
A native of Bakersfield, California, David Benoit grew up in The South Bay of near by LA. His formal training included lessons with Arturo Toscanini's pianist and while attending El Camino College, his focus was theory and composition. He also studied orchestration, and then later film scoring at UCLA before embarking on a wide-ranging career. A five-time Grammy nominee, in 1976, Benoit joined Lainie Kazan as Musical Director. He followed that by assuming similar roles with Ann Margaret and Connie Stevens. Then beginning with his solo debut in 1977, Benoit has recorded nearly 30 albums including a couple as The Benoit/Freeman Project, a pair of seasonal releases, one Best of, several soundtrack compilations, and another as a charter member of the Rippingtons. Additionally, for about a dozen or so years, David was involved with creating the music for the series of Charlie Brown TV specials featuring The Peanuts Gang, taking over those duties from the late Vince Guaraldi whom he'd always admired. Always fascinated by the keyboardist's musical dramatizations of the perennial but lovable loser, we have the track Christmas Is Coming. It's a tune that Benoit reprised in 2005 on the tribute album 40 Years - A Charlie Brown Christmas but this version is his original take that appeared on the first of his holiday projects!
Footnote: David Benoit will be honoured with a Lifetime Achievemant award at the American Smooth Jazz Awards in October, 2010!
CD: Remembering Christmas (1996)
Label: GRP Records
Greensleeves - Gregg Karukas:
The "carol" Greensleeves has a lengthy history that dates back to Elizabethan times and according to folklore, the lyrics of the day were neither religious nor were they even respectable. However, the melody itself may be older still. Nearly three centuries passed before Englishman William Chatterton Dix wrote several hymns when recovering from depression and a near-fatal illness. Although passages were used in church services, it wasn't until several years later that composer and organist Sir John Stainer, connected Dix's words to the traditional melody Greensleeves that the beloved carol we know today as What Child is This came into being! In the years since, the names have become synonymous with the selection being recorded thousands of times. Now we add one more interpretation to that number with one the smoothest treatments ever. From what is likely the premier release of this holiday season, Gregg Karukas gives us a great take on this beloved seasonal classic!
CD: The Very Best of Christmas (2009)
Label: Trippin 'n' Rhythm Records
Joy to the World - Thom Rotella:
Growing up in a musical family in Niagara Falls NY, Thom Rotella set his sights on a career in music early on. He underwent some formal training at Ithaca and Berklee, and through a series of events, he developed into a highly regarded sessionist. Looking for a creative outlet, Rotella recorded 3 releases in the late 80s that established him as one of the early favourites in the emerging smooth jazz format. Nonetheless, he had difficulty landing a record deal for a good portion of the 90s, until finally re-emerging in 1996 with a pair of releases. The first saw Rotella regain and in some ways surpass his form from previous years with an issue that yielded the hit single Talk To Me. Meanwhile the second, a seasonal release, revealed quite a different aspect of Rotella's musicality. As he shares in the liner notes, when growing up Christmas was musically always a special time in the Rotella household. These fond reminiscences instill his playing! From that effort we have a totally respectful treatment of the Yuletide classic Joy to the World!
CD: Spirit of the Carols (1996)
|After Hours ~ Exclusive to our Web Site:
|More of ... A Café Jazz Christmas! .... true to the rich tradition we've established over the past few years, we're playing a full hour of sensational 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! Please click on the paw for a complete list of the selections we're playing!