Sunday, November 11, 2018

Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band: “West Side Story Reimagined” (2018) CD Review

My interest in West Side Story sprung solely from my interest in Shakespeare. In 2010, I began a rather serious study of Shakespeare’s work, and that included watching as many film adaptations as possible, which of course included the 1961 film version of West Side Story. I have to say that I was not all that impressed by the film (it is a mediocre telling of Romeo And Juliet, better than some – such as that horrid 2013 film – and not as good as others). But I did enjoy a lot of the music. So I was certainly curious about the recent release from Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band, West Side Story Reimagined. Unlike the film, this album really does impress me. This Latin jazz version of the music is excellent, and seriously refreshing, with tremendous energy. I liked the music of West Side Story before; now I love it. This is a two-disc album, recorded live in New York on November 19, 2017. This project was conceived by drummer and musical director Bobby Sanabria, but several different people provided the arrangements for various individual songs. You’ll notice that the numbers are presented in a slightly different order from both the play and the film, and that not all of the songs are included here. One other important thing: some of the proceeds from the sale of this album are being donated to the Jazz Foundation of America’s Puerto Rico Relief Fund.

The first disc opens with a brief introduction, welcoming the band. Then “Prologue” begins with some whistling and snapping, as in the original. But then other percussion comes in, and it becomes an exciting jazz piece, particularly in the second half, which features some fantastic playing. This track is dramatic, thrilling, with each instrument providing a strong voice. There is a spoken intro to “Jet Song,” with the song’s famous opening lines, “When you’re a jet, you’re a jet all the way/From your first cigarette to your last dying day.” Then the song begins with percussion, and is already much better than the original version. Oh man, this version is pumping with life and energy. Throughout the track, the percussion is what drives the music, the percussion is at its heart. I also dig the way the vocals are presented. I should mention that the entire orchestra shouts out lyrics here, rather than having professional vocalists, and that gives it the feel of a band playing out on the streets, which of course is perfect for the material. It’s like the musicians are the gangs of the play’s story. You can hear the back-and-forth in the way different instruments are used, the way different instruments take prominence at various points. This is one of my favorite tracks.

The introduction to “America” is sadly pertinent, when racism is running rampant, when a white supremacist is occupying the White House: “Everything’s all right in America, if you are all white in America” (the line a slight variation of a line from the song). “America” features some excellent work on bass, as well as on piano. Partway through, it seems the track has come to an end, and the audience applauds. But then some percussion leads into a new section, like snake charmers commanding the crowd’s attention. There is more great percussion in “Gee, Officer Krupke.” The first time I listened to this disc, I thought I was crazy, for the music at times reminded me of the theme from Family Guy. But at the end Bobby Sanabria says “Because he’s a family guy.” So hurrah, I’m not crazy! Things turn romantic with “Tonight.” Well, at least for a while. The song goes through more changes from there. “Dance At The Gym” is here presented as two separate pieces – “Gym Scene – Blues/Mambo” and “Gym Scene – Cha Cha Cha.” The first is arranged by saxophonist Danny Rivera, the second by Nate Sparks.

The second disc opens with “Maria,” which begins with a cool section of vocals and percussion, that feels a bit like a celebration. Then the horns come in, providing what would be the song’s vocal line. Halfway through, there is another section with just percussion, a tribal feel, then with some great little touches on horns. Hand claps rise from this, and the percussion grows in volume, and at the same time the pace picks up. I love this track in large part because of that section, but also because of those wonderful bright bursts of horns. There is a very short introduction to “Cool.” This rendition immediately sounds like its title, and it develops a bright, rather happy sound, particularly in the horns, at moments with a big band swing vibe, never getting too far from that sense of cool, and is a whole lot of fun. Then with “The Rumble/Rumba,” things get exciting and wild and intense. The track does settle down slightly for a moment, with that great rhythm fading a bit into the background, but of course it changes again, that rhythm not being able to hold back for long. And listen to those horns! This one too has a section that is just percussion, which I love. This is certainly one of the highlights for me.

We get into somewhat cheesy territory with “One Hand, One Heart,” the duet that is the marriage ceremony for Maria and Tony. But even this one has moments that are exciting, particularly toward the end with the flute. That’s followed by “Somewhere,” this version having a lot of energy and action. But the part I really love is when the electric violin comes in. There is a spoken introduction to the finale: “In these troubled times that we live in, where we disrespect each other at the drop of a hat, when family members don’t talk to each other for years and years, where even in the closest of marriages the most banal and trivial things explode into anger, and when our government doesn’t even respect its citizens on an island that it calls a territory of the United States, Maestro Bernstein, he certainly had the answer. In this world of violence, hate and ignorance, what will do? We will make even more beautiful music, more beautiful theatre, more beautiful poetry, more beautiful art and more beautiful dance.” Ah, a nice, positive message for these dark days. After “Epilogue/Finale,” the CD concludes with band introductions as the audience applauds.

CD Track List

Disc 1
  1. Intro
  2. Prologue
  3. Intro Jet Song
  4. Jet Song
  5. Intro America
  6. America
  7. Gee, Officer Krupke Intro
  8. Gee, Officer Krupke
  9. Tonight
  10. Gym Scene – Blues/Mambo
  11. Gym Scene – Cha Cha Cha
Disc 2
  1. Maria
  2. Intro Cool
  3. Cool
  4. The Rumble/Rumba
  5. One Hand, One Heart
  6. Somewhere
  7. Intro Epilogue/Finale
  8. Epilogue/Finale
  9. Outro
West Side Story Reimagined was released on July 20, 2018.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Hot Buttered Rum: “Lonesome Panoramic” (2018) CD Review

There was some good news coming out of the midterm elections, but things are still frightening, with more mass shootings and with a president who is totally unhinged and happily immersing himself in fascism, his followers having become more rabid and demented, permanently detached from the reality I thought we had all agreed upon years ago. But then events and politics tend to make us all feel untethered and powerless, and we desperately need to feel part of a community again, part of something good. Bluegrass music helps bring us back to Earth. It has that power, that vibe. It seems to urge us to come together, to remind us of some goodness that might otherwise seem dormant or dead. We need this music now. And Hot Buttered Rum’s recent release, Lonesome Panoramic, helps us keep in mind that life is bigger than the horrid, temporary mess we find ourselves in. This isn’t strictly bluegrass (hardly strictly bluegrass, right?), the musicians moving easily through several musical worlds, combining sounds as they see fit, and it all works so well. The band has been together for more than fifteen years now, and their longevity shows in the delicious jams and flow of the music on this release. The album features all original material, with some special guests joining the band on certain tracks.

The album opens with “You Can Tell,” and straight off, this is just what I need, some real music played with joy. There is a short instrumental introduction, and it makes me think of some wonderful times I’ve spent in Irish pubs with good people, dancing and drinking. This is a delightful, cheerful love song written by Erik Yates. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Yeah, you can tell/Just by looking at me/The way I’m looking at you/Girl, it ain’t hard to see/That my heart’s beating double/And I never could hide it all that well/Baby, you can tell.” Then, in “Sittin’ Here Alone,” they sing “I’m sittin’ here alone/I’m sittin’ here wondering/Just when I’ll know what’s coming my way/Will I find peace here before me/Will I find peace my dying day.” Those are lyrics I think a lot of folks can relate to these days. This track features some really nice work on fiddle, which is helping to raise my spirits. “Sittin’ Here Alone” was written by guitarist Nat Keefe.

On “Country Tunes & Love Songs,” the vocals have something of that smooth 1970s sound, a comforting sound. “I’ve been dreaming/Country tunes and love songs/Wish that I could sing them all to you/When I try to write ‘em down/Never can remember/I rack my brain and see if I can/Come up with something new.” This one was composed by Nat Keefe, Kellen Coffis and Jamie Coffis. Kellen and Jamie also provide some vocals on this track. That’s followed by “How Short The Song,” a mellower song with a beautifully sad folk sound. This is one of my personal favorites, with its gorgeous and haunting feel. “Help is what you needed/Help is what you got/Hell is a distance/Between what’s here and what’s not/Another night, another dawn/How short the song.” The line that stands out in “Treasure Island Blues” is “You don’t know what lonesome is ‘til your lonesome goes away.” An interesting line. The vocals are delivered with spirit, with energy. This track also has a nice groove, with some wonderful work on bass. Then “Never Got Married” bursts in with a delightful force, and is one of those fast-paced bluegrass tunes that never fail to raise my spirits. Yes, it is another of my favorites.

The Rainbow Girls (Erin Chapin, Caitlin Gowdey and Vanessa May) join the band on vocals for the beautiful and compelling “The Spirits Still Come,” another of the disc’s highlights. Listen to the way the fiddle is used in this song, at one point sounding like some haunted voice from the heavens, raining down from some eerie, violent cloud. That’s followed by “Sleeping Giants.” I’m digging that bass line, and the way the banjo kind of dances above it. This song borrows a line from Emmylou Harris’ “Deeper Well”: “You’ve got to look for the water from a deeper well.” Then “Leaving Dallas” has some bright sounds, and I can understand the excitement in the line “Finally leaving Dallas.” Dallas is a place I have no interest in visiting whatsoever. That’s followed by “When That Lonesome Feeling Comes,” which has a wonderful combination of gospel and bluegrass vibes. You might very well find yourself singing along to this one. And it has a joyful jam toward the end. I love this song. Then “Mighty Fine” has a cheerful vibe and a fun groove. It takes a turn halfway through to become an interesting jam. There is some fantastic playing here. “The One That Everybody Knows” is a somewhat mellower number with its own nice jam featuring some good stuff on banjo. The disc then ends with “The Deep End,” a warm and wonderful folk song that develops a catchy groove and is yet another of the disc’s highlights. “Well, I was thinking of the deep end/And thinking I’d be working hard like a tug boat/But as soon as I got into the water/All I really had to do was float.” This one was written by Nat Keefe, Erik Yates, Dan Lebowitz and Zach Gill. Dan Lebowitz plays electric guitar and Zach Gill is on keys; both also provide some vocals.

CD Track List
  1. You Can Tell
  2. Sittin’ Here Alone
  3. Country Tunes & Love Songs
  4. How Short The Song
  5. Treasure Island Blues
  6. Never Got Married
  7. The Spirits Still Come
  8. Sleeping Giants
  9. Leaving Dallas
  10. When That Lonesome Feeling Comes
  11. Mighty Fine
  12. The One That Everybody Knows
  13. The Deep End 
Lonesome Panoramic was released on July 20, 2018.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Love Canon: “Cover Story: A Journey Through Music’s Greatest Decade” (2018) CD Review

My friends and I grew up in the 1980s. Some of those friends maintain to this day that it was the best decade – for films, for music, for fun. I disagree about the films. The 1970s are far and away the best decade for movies, no question. As for music, there was a lot of great stuff in the 1980s, and a lot of shit. Love Canon has picked some of the better music from the decade for the new album, Cover Story: A Journey Through Music’s Greatest Decade. Though, the decade in question isn’t exactly the 1980s (more on that in a bit). Love Canon is made up of Jesse Harper on guitar and vocals, Adam Larrabee on banjo and vocals, Darrell Muller on bass and vocals, Andy Thacker on mandolin and vocals, and Jay Starling on resonator guitar and vocals. And, yes, the first time I glanced at the CD, I misread the band’s name as Love Cannon, like some enormous erection euphemism. But it’s Love Canon, like the principles of love, or like the sum of someone’s work in the field of romance and kindness, which is much better. Several special guests (including Mark Erelli and Jerry Douglas) join the band on various tracks.

I got into Billy Joel in my childhood, and bought every one of his albums (on cassette). I always dug the instrumental that Love Canon chooses to open the album, “Prelude (Angry Young Man).” It has quite a different feel with these acoustic instruments, but works surprisingly well. This tune came out in 1976, so it seems the decade in question is 1976-1986 (not 1980-1989), which makes sense, as I’ve long maintained that pop music went wrong in 1986. (As a side note, I stopped buying Billy Joel albums when he put out that awful song “We Didn’t Start The Fire.”) Anyway, “Prelude” is an excellent choice to begin this album, and this version is fun. The 1980s saw the release of a lot of fun music, still the best stuff to dance to at clubs. One artist who put out several great songs in that decade is Howard Jones. I saw him in concert (long after the 1980s), and danced my ass off. Love Canon certainly taps into that sense of fun with a wonderful rendition of “Things Can Only Get Better,” while also exploring the song’s serious side, perhaps the bluegrass instruments helping to highlight the song’s positive and comforting message. And I completely love that jam toward the end. This song features Alex Hargreaves on fiddle, and Sam Wilson on backing vocals. “Things Can Only Get Better” is from 1985, as is the song that follows it, Mr. Mister’s “Kyrie” (here titled “Kyrie Eleison”). I was never a big Mr. Mister fan, but I like this version of the song, in part because of two special guests – Jerry Douglas on dobro, and Mike Barnett on fiddle. This version has something of 1970s easygoing vibe.

I saw Paul Simon open for Nelson Mandela in Boston (yeah, an interesting bill that also included Livingston Taylor and Michelle Shocked). It was in 1990, four years after the release of Graceland, but still in that period when Paul Simon was using a lot of strong rhythms. Anyway, “Graceland” is a wonderful song, and Love Canon does an excellent job with it, the vocals having a similar sound to Paul’s original. Aoife O’Donovan joins the band on vocals, and Michael Cleveland provides some excellent stuff on fiddle. The band jams on it at the end, which is great. That’s followed by “Islands In The Stream.” It wasn’t all that cool when I was growing up to like either Kenny Rogers or Dolly Parton, but I loved them both, and totally enjoyed “Islands In The Stream,” no matter how cheesy it might have been. The song was written by The Bee Gees, which would have made it even less cool in the eyes of my peers had they known. Love Canon embraces the cheesy aspect of it, sure, but also stresses the joy and cheer of it. Lauren Balthrop joins them on vocals, and does an excellent job. Plus, there is a horn section. So there.

Okay, this decade that they’re speaking of seems to be longer than most, because they also do Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence,” which was released in 1990. This is an interesting choice, and it features more good work by Alex Hargreaves on fiddle. Colin Killalea joins the group on guitar and backing vocals. Then Mark Erelli joins them on lead vocals on “Solsbury Hill,” which was released in 1977 and is probably still my favorite Peter Gabriel song. Something about it still manages to bring tears to my eyes sometimes, but also makes me feel good. Love Canon presents it here as part of a medley with an original song, “Icecaps Of Pentatonia” (stretching the decade even more), an instrumental number. Then getting back to the 1980s, Love Canon delivers a cool rendition of Squeeze’s “Tempted,” featuring Erik Krasno on vocals and electric guitar, Daniel Clarke on piano, and Alex Hargreaves on fiddle. The disc concludes with an excellent version of REM’s “Driver 8,” which features Keller Williams on lead vocals. I remember this song getting a lot of airplay when it came out, that it was the song that turned a lot of folks onto REM (those who somehow missed “Radio Free Europe” a couple of years earlier). It was a song that seemed to herald a change in music. I love what Love Canon does with it, particularly that opening section. Mike Barnett plays fiddle on this track.

CD Track List
  1. Prelude (Angry Young Man)
  2. Things Can Only Get Better
  3. Kyrie Eleison
  4. Graceland
  5. Islands In The Stream
  6. Enjoy The Silence
  7. Solsbury Hill/Icecaps Of Pentatonia
  8. Tempted
  9. Driver 8 
Cover Story: A Journey Through Music’s Greatest Decade was released on July 13, 2018.

Dreaming Of Dylan: 115 Dreams About Bob (2018) Book Review

Once I started getting into Bob Dylan on my own (meaning when I branched out from my parents’ copy of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan), one song that stood out for me was “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” from the Bringing It All Back Home album. Up to that point, I hadn’t heard anything quite like it (I was probably 14 at the time). The song’s tale feels like a dream, the way it contains its own strange logic and order of events. The title of the new book from author and singer Mary Lee Kortes clearly makes reference to it. Dreaming Of Dylan: 115 Dreams About Bob is a collection of dreams that various people have had about Bob Dylan. It’s an unusual and cool idea for a book. While I’ve had plenty of Grateful Dead dreams over the years, I don’t think Dylan has ever been present. But he has been for many people. The idea for the book came from Mary Lee Kortes’ own recurring dream about having dinner with the famous songwriter. That is not her only connection to Dylan, of course. She released a live album in which she covered the entire Blood On The Tracks album (which, as I’ve mentioned before, is still my favorite Dylan record).

While a couple of the book’s contributions are from people you are likely aware of (Patti Smith and Jimbo Mathus), most of them are from folks you’ve probably never heard of, people from various parts of the world, and of different professions. Several dreams, as you might guess, involve the dreamer playing music with Dylan. But Dylan isn’t always a musician in these dreams. In some, he is a photographer, a police officer, and even president of the United States. Oh, if only he were the president right now. Speaking of that, some of these dreams must be recent, for at least two of them mention the current bastard occupying the White House. Some of the dreams had me laughing. A contributor from New York writes: “We were somewhere in California, perhaps a coffee shop around Malibu. In the dream we spoke briefly, and he acknowledged my presence as not being too bothersome.” Wonderful! And of course, that strange way that dreams progress is part of many of these tales, with a person in Michigan writing, “Dylan walked up behind me, and I took my shoe off, bent my leg so that the bottom of my foot was facing him, and my foot started singing to him, ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.’” Or this, from an anonymous source: “I look back at Dylan. He’s taking a guitar out of the freezer, and I think, ‘Oh, that’s who that belongs to.’” The book also contains lots of photos and illustrations related to the dreams described in these passages.

I wonder what Bob Dylan will make of this book. It must be a strange sensation, knowing you’re the subject of strangers’ dreams. By the way, the dreams are numbered, but aren’t presented in numerical order. I’m not sure the point of that. What do the numbers then signify? The order in which Mary Lee Kortes received the contributions? Nothing? Is that sort of the point – that, like dreams, the numbers have absolutely no logical significance whatsoever?

Dreaming Of Dylan: 115 Dreams About Bob is scheduled to be released in a hardcover edition on November 13, 2018 through BMG Books.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Mitch Ryder: “Christmas (Take A Ride)” (2018) CD Review

Last year I saw Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels at the Simi Valley Cajun And Blues Music Festival, and they were excellent. Their set was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. And I thought, Mitch Ryder still totally has it, he should put out a new album. And now he has. I didn’t expect it to be a holiday record, but I wasn’t specific in my wish, I guess. And everyone, it seems, has to put out a holiday album at some point. The Monkees just released one. And now we have Mitch Ryder’s Christmas (Take A Ride), the title obviously a play on one of his most famous singles, “Jenny Take A Ride.” And it’s enjoyable. Mitch Ryder gives the songs a classic rock and roll feel, which I love. And he makes some good selections as far as the material goes.

Mitch Ryder kicks off the album with a good version of “What Christmas Means To Me,” a song written by George Gordy, Anne Gordy Gaye and Allen Story. It’s been recorded by a lot of artists over the years, perhaps the most famous version being that by Stevie Wonder. That’s followed by “Blue Christmas,” one of my favorites. This is a Christmas song that I’ve always liked, and Mitch delivers a nice rendition, with a bit of a country sound in his vocals at moments. We then get a good rock and roll rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” with something of a classic sound. Of course, the version we measure all other rock versions by is Bruce Springsteen’s. This one has a different vibe, not as raw or immediate, but with a fun groove and full sound. That’s followed by another song that Stevie Wonder has recorded, “Someday At Christmas” (this was used as the title track for Wonder’s own holiday album). I really like this song, and Mitch Ryder gives a heartfelt vocal performance. It has a hopeful and sweet sound, perfect for the holiday (and for any day, really). Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Someday at Christmas we'll see a land/With no hungry children, no empty hand/One happy morning people will share/Our world where people care.” I don’t think it will be this year, but maybe one year soon. And the song’s lyrics address this: “Someday all our dreams will come to be/Someday in a world where men are free/Maybe not in time for you and me/But someday at Christmas time.” I love that those lines are both sad and hopeful.

Mitch Ryder also gives us a fun rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock.” Even as a child, I was not a big fan of Christmas music; this song, however, was an exception. I remember enjoying that Bobby Helms recording, and wishing that “Jingle Bell Rock” would just completely replace “Jingle Bells.” That’s followed by one of the best song selections of the album, a cover of The Sonics’ “Santa Claus.” This one comes on strong with a great heavy 1960s rock sound. It’s a song in which Santa Claus is directly addressed, and asked for things. There are several songs that do that, including “Santa Baby” and even The Kinks’ “Father Christmas.” The surprise here is Santa’s response, when asked what he’s going to put under the tree: “And he just said, ‘Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.’” Awesome! And Mitch Ryder is definitely into it; plus, I dig that guitar work. This is probably my favorite track.  Santa Claus, I’ve been waiting so long/Now don’t you, don’t you, don’t you do me wrong.”

I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll say it again: I really hate the song “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I consider it one of the worst songs ever written. A while back I posted an analysis of the song, so I won’t get into the reasons again. What I’ll say is that Mitch Ryder’s rendition here has a 1950s rock and roll atmosphere and sound. That’s followed by “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” another song with a sweetness to it that I really like, and a passionate vocal performance from Mitch Ryder. It was written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry and Phil Spector, and originally recorded by Darlene Love. We then get a version of “Sleigh Ride” that takes basically the same approach as the version by The Ronettes, with that same opening.

“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” is a playful choice, to be sure, as it is a novelty song, and it’s a more recent composition than the album’s other tracks. Mitch Ryder gives it a classic sound, though the song was originally released in the late 1970s. That’s followed by a somewhat goofy and fun rendition of “Let It Snow” (often titled “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”). I don’t think I’ve ever heard a version quite like this one, and it is definitely worth checking out. The album then ends with “Put A Little Love In Your Heart,” a song that is clearly not a holiday song, but one that taps into that sense of compassion that is associated with Christmas. And it’s a good version, working to raise my spirits. This is a song we need right now, and is another of my favorite tracks.

CD Track List
  1. What Christmas Means To Me
  2. Blue Christmas
  3. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
  4. Someday At Christmas
  5. Jingle Bell Rock
  6. Santa Claus
  7. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
  8. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
  9. Sleigh Ride
  10. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
  11. Let It Snow
  12. Put A Little Love In Your Heart
Christmas (Take A Ride) was released on October 26, 2018 on Goldenlane Records, a division of Cleopatra Records. And guess what? Word is Mitch Ryder is recording another album, a non-holiday album with some special guests, and it should be out in the spring or summer. I am excited by this news.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Christopher Hollyday: “Telepathy” (2018) CD Review

Saxophonist Christopher Hollyday got an early start on his jazz recording career, beginning while still in his teens. He released several albums as band leader, and then after 1992’s And I’ll Sing Once More, stopped. He moved from Massachusetts to California and began teaching. Well, he is now back, with his first album as band leader in twenty-six years, and it is a gem. Titled Telepathy, this album finds him delivering his own interpretations of some well-known jazz numbers, including music by Bud Powell and Charlie Parker. Joining him on this release are Gilbert Castellanos on trumpet, Joshua White on piano, Rob Thorsen on bass, and Tyler Kreutel on drums.

Christopher Hollyday opens the album with Freddie Hubbard’s “One Of Another Kind” (for some reason listed as “One Of A Another Kind” on the CD case). It begins with that brief mellow, moody section, but once this tune kicks in, it becomes an incredible whirlwind of jazz bliss, moving at a great pace and featuring some absolutely fantastic and exciting work by Hollyday on saxophone, and then by Gilbert Castellanos on trumpet. The whole thing is kept in motion by Tyler Kreutel on drums and Rob Thorsen on bass. Then the lead by Joshua White on piano flies along beautifully. There is a tremendous amount of joy on this track. It’s followed by Bud Powell’s “Hallucinations.” This one has something of a playful, cheerful vibe, as did Powell’s original version. This is a track that makes me smile each time I listen to it, and it just builds and explodes in wonderful ways. In one section of the track toward the end, both the trumpet and sax deliver great stuff, with drummer Tyler Kreutel filling those moments in between, entering into a delightful conversation with the horns. There is also something playful about the approach to Matt Dennis’ “Everything Happens To Me” (here titled “Everything Happens”), this version much livelier than most.

Christopher Hollyday then mellows things out a bit with a sweet rendition of Vernon Duke’s “Autumn In New York,” his saxophone sounding soulful and full of life. This track also features nice work from Joshua White on piano and Rob Thorsen on bass. I love that lead on bass.  Hollyday brings a fresh, warm energy to “I’ve Got The World On A String,” written by Harold Arlen (the lyrics by Ted Koehler obviously don’t come into play in this version). This track will certainly brighten your day. The disc then concludes with Charlie Parker’s “Segment.” This is an exciting track, coming at you with an intense, bright energy from the start. It then opens up into a splendid multi-limbed dance. The pace is fast, the musicians packing a whole lot of fantastic playing into a five-minute track. A seriously fun way to wrap up the album.

CD Track List
  1. One Of Another Kind
  2. Hallucinations
  3. Everything Happens
  4. Autumn In New York
  5. I’ve Got The World On A String
  6. Segment
Telepathy was released on November 2, 2018. I assume we won’t have to wait another twenty-six years for his next album.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Jake Ehrenreich with The Roger Kellaway Trio: “A Treasury Of Jewish Christmas Songs” (2017/2018) CD Review

I’m always amused when reminded that much of the beloved Christmas music was composed by Jewish songwriters. It’s one of those delightful facts that make the holiday more palatable. And it is particularly significant in these days of rampant racism and anti-Semitism, bigotry that has again turned deadly. I can’t think of a better time for the release of an album titled A Treasury Of Jewish Christmas Songs. People are in need of a reminder of all we have in common, and this release should help provide that. Not that all that was necessarily the purpose in creating this album. As vocalist Jake Ehrenreich mentions in the CD’s liner notes, this project has personal importance to him. As a Jewish child (born to survivors of the Holocaust), he had a secret love affair with Christmas music, and so this project was a long time in the making. The band for this release is Jack Ehrenreich on vocals, Roger Kellaway on piano, Bruce Forman on guitar, Dan Lutz on bass, and Kevin Winard on percussion.

The album opens with “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” a song whose very title shows it to be a ridiculously happy number. There is such joy in Jake Ehrenreich’s vocal delivery; I swear, you can hear the smile on his face. Plus, this rendition has a good groove. I love that instrumental section, which features some delightful work on piano. This has to be one of the best versions of this song I’ve ever heard. “And when you walk down the street/Say hello to friends you know/And everyone you meet.” Ah, imagine if folks did that year round. That’s followed by “The Christmas Waltz,” which has a mellower, more romantic sound, and features some nice work on guitar. This is one I don’t hear as often, but is a sweet song. It was written by Julie Styne and Sammy Cahn. By the way, the liner notes make a point of listing the songwriters’ birth names, which I appreciate. For example, with this song, the liner notes credit the songwriters thus: “Music by Julie Styne (born Julius Kerwin Stein); Lyrics by Sammy Cahn (born Samuel Cohen).”

I have never cared for “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I wrote a critique of the song a while ago; it was meant to be humorous, obviously, but I truly dislike the song. That being said, Jake Ehrenreich gives it a pleasant jazz groove, and the instrumental sections are kind of enjoyable. There is more joy in his rendition of “Winter Wonderland,” and I dig that bass line, which keeps it lively. This version has that added section at the beginning which was in the version by Diana Ross, but as far I know is usually not included: “Over the ground lies a mantle of white/A heaven of diamonds shine down through the night/Two hearts are thrilling/In spite of the chill in the weather/Love knows no season, love knows no clime/Romance can blossom any old time.” This version also contains a little tease of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” at the end.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is far and away the best Christmas television special that ever aired, and a great deal of its appeal is in Vince Guaraldi’s music. Here Jake Ehrenreich covers “Christmas Time Is Here,” with lyrics by Lee Mendelson. This is a beautiful, thoughtful rendition. That’s followed by a fun version of “Home For The Holidays,” with a strong bass line and lots of nice touches on piano. There is a laugh in Jake Ehrenreich’s voice when he sings the line about the traffic being horrific near the end. Ah, does that mean every day here in Los Angeles is a holiday? The next song, “White Christmas,” mentions Los Angeles in its lyrics, in an opening section that I don’t recall hearing in most versions: “The sun is shining, the grass is green/The orange and palm trees sway/There’s never been such a day/In Beverly Hills, L.A./But it’s December the 24th/And I am longing to be up north.” This rendition begins in a mellow place, but soon develops a nice groove. Whenever I hear this song, I can’t help but think of Vance Gilbert’s play on it, riffing “I am dreaming of a white Kwanzaa.”

“A Christmas Love Song” is a gentle, romantic number with an intimate vocal delivery. This is one I wasn’t all that familiar with. It is followed by a lively rendition of “Let It Snow!” (which is usually listed as “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”), featuring some good work on both guitar and piano. I love the joy and excitement in the vocal performance, helping to make this one of my personal favorite tracks. Then “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” has a sweet vibe. That’s followed by a really nice rendition of “Silver Bells.” Interestingly, this track too has an opening section that I don’t remember hearing before: “Christmas makes you feel emotional/It may bring parties or thoughts devotional/Whatever happens or what may be/This is what Christmas time means to me.” I love the late-night, relaxed feel of this song. Yes, it’s peaceful, it’s friendly, it’s everything that Christmas is supposed to be. And it’s another of my favorite tracks. We then get “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” which is certainly up for debate. “It’s the happiest season of all,” we are told. Maybe, maybe not. But this album and Jake Ehrenreich’s delivery might have you convinced. The CD concludes with “The Christmas Song,” which is listed as a bonus track. Apparently, there are two versions of this release, one with this track, the other without (though I can’t find any copies that don’t have the bonus track). Jake Ehrenreich delivers a good, cheerful rendition. “Although it’s been said many times, many ways/Merry Christmas to you.”

CD Track List
  1. A Holly Jolly Christmas
  2. The Christmas Waltz
  3. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
  4. Winter Wonderland
  5. Christmas Time Is Here
  6. Home For The Holidays
  7. White Christmas
  8. A Christmas Love Song
  9. Let It Snow!
  10. I’ll Be Home For Christmas
  11. Silver Bells
  12. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
  13. The Christmas Song 
A Treasury Of Jewish Christmas Songs was released on November 2, 2018. But apparently it was also released in December of 2017.