The nice people at Putamayo Presents have created another gem which I discovered the other day when I was starting to think about Christmas music again and I knew right away that I needed to review it here. (Yes, I know it’s only November but I do live in darkest Canada and winter is a very serious business that we tend to plan and strategize for since it’s going to happen anyway and conceivably, could be with us for a very long time …) The cd in question is New Orleans Christmas and was released in 2006 but this would be a truly timeless addition to anyone’s Christmas music collection and is versatile enough to serve you well for anything from family gatherings to raucous office get-togethers after hours. It’s that good.
The first song is Santa Claus is Comin’ to town but before you recoil in horror, let me tell you that Santa never arrived in such good company. This time his fanfare peeps are Big Al Carson and noted pianist and arranger Lars Edegran . The result is a swanky, swinging, joyous arrangement that lifts a hackneyed favourite to an entirely new level – and Big Al makes sure it stays there throughout. There’s a great clarinet spot from Evan Christopher too.
The title track Christmas in New Orleans (most famously recorded by the incomparable Louis Armstrong) is performed on the album by trumpet playing/singer James Andrews who does a superb job with it. It’s a different treatment but with a very clear nod to Satchmo at the same time.
Ingrid Lucia presents the sexiest, jazziest version of ’Zat you Santa Claus? that you are ever likely to hear – pure New Orleans in a catchy, slinky contemporary delivery. Ingrid sounds like previously unheard Billie Holiday and veers recklessly between breathy promises and trading fast paces with an uber-tight band that matches her every syllable. (Listen up for those sleazy background horns on this one …I love this!)
For all you jazz improv enthusiasts, fast forward to pianist Ellis Marsalis who comes on board with a white hot, intelligent version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. And yes, there is a family connection here, since Ellis is dad to those other famous Marsalis boys – Branford, Wynton, Jason and Delfeayo – who are all jazz musicians in their own right as well.
The closing track is provided by Dukes of Dixieland which is a rollicking, fabulous, stepping tribute to New Orleans jazz which sounds as though it would be performed in the street with a long line of people following behind. If this doesn’t have you up and about (or at least tapping something!) I urge you to seek help at once! …
There are many more (excellent) tracks on this cd, but in closing I must mention Please Come for Christmas by sincere vocalist Papa Don Vappie and his New Orleans Jazz Band which just soars with an unexpected but sizzling jazzy arrangement. I like Christmas pieces that are uplifting and don’t dwell on the whole sentimentality of the season which quite frankly can be overwhelming for many people. This whole cd focuses on a cheery, party atmosphere that captures that New Orleans vibe.
A fraction of the sale proceeds are also donated to the Musician’s Village project in the New Orleans area which can only be a very good thing to do.
Buy New Orleans Christmas from amazon.com now!/