With a great but flexible core quartet, and added horns and strings, and great arrangements from Brad Williams and David Pierce, Carolyn Lee Jones has delivered just in time for the holidays. Her vocals are sweet and lush, exactly what you want to tug on the heartstrings in these Christmas classics. In her liner notes, Miss Jones rights, “Here's a Christmas album that I hope will spread holiday cheer to you and yours. It was very special and so uplifting to create this album with my wonderful musical partners. My hope is that this collection of songs for the season will be enjoyed by all for years to come.”
Nothing on the album belies that sentiment. She kicks off the album with the Robert Wells and Mel Torme classic, the Christmas Song. This is exactly how you want to start a Christmas CD. The cool piano, bass, and drums set up the song perfectly and her vocals are seamless and flawless. What follows is a song that has become a Christmas classic, Christmas Time Is Here, the title song and the hugely popular theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas. The music is, of course, by Vince Guaraldi with lyrics by Lee Mendelson. It is an amazing song with that touch of melancholy that is so attractive and has been since the cartoon came out. Again, Miss Jones just nails it.
A couple of lesser-known tunes follow. Warm in December (Sidney Russel-composer) is from a Julie London recording and Jingles the Christmas Cat by Ray Albert Parker is a fun little number and especially loved by those who love cats. Cole Porter's you'd be so nice to come home too is given a holiday treatment and beautifully transformed by Miss Jones and Company. Brad Williams contributes very nice piano solo, as well as Keith Jourdan on flugelhorn.
Another Julie London peace, written by Bobby Troup, is I'd Like You for Christmas. The original is transformed into a bit of a Jazz waltz with a fine tenor saxophone solo from Shelly Carroll. The song reflects everyone’s desire to love and be loved during the holidays. Merry Christmas Baby is given the big band or even orchestra treatment Results are satisfying.
Red Christmas is a new song and is written by Jeanie Perkins. The song is a whimsical send up of holiday shopping and is a fun and charming tune. Then Miss Jones takes on the sweet and sassy, sultry and slinky holiday classic, Santa Baby. Somewhere, Eartha Kitt is smiling. Toyland, from the Victor Herbert operetta Babes in Toyland, libretto by Glen McDonough, is a beauty. Far from the 1903 original, Miss Jones gives it a bossa nova feel and it feels good.
Irving Berlin appears twice with his classic White Christmas and Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep). Both cases, Miss Jones and the band give a 21st century rendering of the 20th century classics. The strings, sax, and B3 of the former with the swinging trio of the latter give a modern statement to the old chestnuts.
Christmas Time Is Here by Carolyn Lee Jones definitely deserves to be in somebody's Christmas stocking. But give it to them as an early Christmas present because you will want to enjoy it all season long.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl