Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Swing Ye Noel!

By Derrick Bang • Originally published, in abridged form, in The Davis Enterprise, 12.11.14

[Web master’s note: Northern California film critic Derrick Bang — still the eldest, youngest and only son of this site’s jazz guru, Ric Bang — has surveyed the holiday jazz scene for 19 years, with lengthy columns that just keep growing. Check out previous columns by clicking on the CHRISTMAS label below.]

When it comes to holiday music, the generational tidal shift is massive.

At one end of the beach, we have those who listen to Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby. At the other end, Celine Dion, Josh Groban and Sheryl Crow. The middle ground is occupied by Vince Guaraldi, James Taylor and Mannheim Steamroller, and then we have the contingent of folks who find the very concept of Christmas music too corny for words.

Well, feh. That latter group simply isn’t listening to the right Christmas music.

Nor is the situation helped by the Balkanization of the other cliques. No matter where you shop, party or land on the radio dial — terrestrial or web — there’s no denying a certain sameness to what’s being played.

Which is where this annual column comes in.

My survey of new holiday jazz has been a tradition since 1997, during which time I’ve seen this rather specialized genre wax, wane and wax again. I’ve enjoyed efforts by heavy hitters such as Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, Diana Krall and Harry Connick Jr. I’ve endured a seemingly endless tsunami of puerile swill washed ashore by the so-called “smooth jazz” movement.

I’ve also been heartened by how the Internet has broadened our access to regional artists who previously would have remained unknown to mainstream listeners. You’ll find several of those below: a reminder that talented musicians aren’t confined to major labels on both coasts.

So, the next time one of your holiday party guests wrinkles her nose at the mere prospect of seasonal tunes, plug a couple of these albums into your playing device of choice!


Mack Avenue Records is a relatively youthful label, having been founded in 1999, but it has accumulated an impressive roster of jazz stars during that short time. Roughly 20 have gotten together for It’s Christmas on Mack Avenue, which ranges from bop to blues, frenetic combo work to gentle solos.

The album roars out of the gate with a peppy, hard-bop approach to “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” which features sassy solos on trumpet and piano by, respectively, Sean Jones and Orrin Evans. At the other end of the tempo meter, bassist Christian McBride delivers a gorgeous introduction to “Silent Night,” after which pianist Christian Sands takes the melodic lead, joined by drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., favoring quiet brushes. The result is peaceful portrait jazz, and you can practically see the new-fallen snow.

Pianist Aaron Diehl and bassist David Wong are the stars of an inventive cover of “Sleigh Ride,” which alternates between a slow, percussive two-beat and an eyebrow-raising double-time assault that demonstrates Wong’s amazing chops.

Vibraphonist Warren Wolf takes the lead on a truly lovely reading of “Carol of the Bells”; I only wish the equally fine supporting bassist, who comps and occasionally covers melody, had been identified. Wolf then teams up with Diehl for an equally sweet reading of “Christmas Time Is Here,” granting that Guaraldi classic a slightly melancholy atmosphere.

The mood turns slightly mysterious with Tia Fuller’s sax take on an intriguing cover of “The Little Drummer Boy,” the traditional pa-rum-pum-pum-pum backdrop replaced by lively percussive work from Kim Thompson and Khalil Kwame Bell.

The Django-esque Hot Club of Detroit can be an acquired taste, and I’m not sure the accordion lead on Guaraldi’s “Skating” evokes the desired image of children enjoying the delights of a frozen pond. Similarly, Diehl’s solo stride piano handling of John Williams’ “Christmas Star” — the primary theme from the film Home Alone 2 — veers a bit too much into “free jazz” territory, with the melody left far behind.

The Christian McBride romps through a droll original titled “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto,” with the entire Mack Avenue roster contributing to gentle requests that the Jolly Red Elf include inner-city stops such as the Bronx, Jacksonville, Fla. and ... Palo Alto, Calif. It’s a cute call-and-response tune, with pleasant echoes of the Louis Armstrong classic, “Christmas Night in Harlem.”

The album includes a few vocals, most delightfully Cyrille Aimée’s Calypso-hued “Let it Snow,” and Sachal Vasandani’s swinging strut through “Winter Wonderland,” to some finger-snapping bass and piano accompaniment.

I often rate the likely quality of the impending holiday jazz season on the basis of the first CD to hit my eager hands; based on this Mack Avenue release, things looked quite good.

Joe Negri began playing guitar at age 5 ... back in 1931. He gravitated toward jazz, toured with the Shep Fields Orchestra in the 1940s, did a two-year stint in the Army and subsequently built a career in the nascent medium of television. He headed a jazz trio for a couple of years as a staff musician at Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV, one of the old DuMont Network’s early channels, then spent 22 years as music director at the competing ABC affiliate, WTAE.

Two generations of children, however, know him best as “Handyman Negri,” an integral part of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood for — wait for it — close to 40 years. He still records and teaches jazz guitar at Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh. If you’re curiosity has been aroused, he was profiled extensively in the September 2010 issue of Vintage Guitar Magazine, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered in October 2012.

For our purposes, he also is the mastermind behind a lush album of holiday tunes, Guitars for Christmas, which absolutely must find its way into your library. Amazon incorrectly claims a release date of 2014; it actually was recorded in the summer of 2003 and came out that same year. No matter: It’s new to me, and definitely deserves much greater exposure.

Negri’s finger work is masterful, and every one of the 19 tracks on this album displays a level of dexterity that demands the listener’s attention. But you won’t be struck merely by Negri’s technical skill; he also delivers a palpable level of seasonal warmth that fills the room with a cheery glow.

He’s equally comfortable with peppy, medium tempo arrangements — such as a lively reading of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” a cute handling of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and an impressively energetic stroll through “Angels We Have Heard on High” — and softer, gentler readings of the season’s more solemn classics. His take on “I Wonder As I Wander” is exquisite, as is his positively poignant arrangement of “Christmas Time Is Here.”

The album is sequenced skillfully, with pairs of tunes deftly leading one to the next: a sweet cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which segues smoothly to “The Christmas Song”; and a gently rolling approach to “Winter Wonderland” that transitions just as effortlessly to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Mention also must be made of a particularly neat medley that blends “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays.”

Negri is supported on most tracks by fellow guitarist Marty Ashby, which makes it difficult to know which musician to praise for many of this album’s finer passages. Not that it matters: from start to Negri’s exquisite solo finish on “Silent Night,” you’ll be mesmerized.

I share my father’s fondness for a truly grand jazz band, and Chicago-based trumpeter Rob Parton’s unit is “big” in every sense of the word. Although his holiday album — Christmas Time Is Here — was released just this year, the contents were recorded with three different ensembles in 1997, 2007 and ’08, with some of the personnel changing each time. It’s therefore difficult to track the actual size of a given unit for each song, even with the meticulous liner notes, but a typical roster features five saxes, five trombones, four trumpets and a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums.

I’m also grateful for how the featured soloists are identified on each track, which allows me to name-check Rob Amster’s great bass work on a slow-building “Little Drummer Boy,” which drummer Bob Rummage brings to a dramatic finale. The album opens with a cookin’ cover of “Frosty the Snowman,” offering sleek bass work from Tim Fox, and the first of Parton’s many lively trumpet solos.

One expects strong solos from a big band, but the true test comes with the unison work; Parton’s various units rise to that challenge, as well. The unison horn work is lovely on a reverential reading of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” which picks up tempo and then segues into an equally lovely cover of “Silent Night,” which offers a deft piano solo by Kevin O’Connell.

Some of these arrangements are brief, almost interstitial: Parton’s sweet horn lead on a medley of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Joy to the World,” and the lovely unison horn work on a second, softer reading of “Silent Night.” Alternatively, the band goes to town with up-tempo finger-snappers such as “Sleigh Ride” — Eric Hochberg’s bass chops standing out — and an equally swinging cover of “Winter Wonderland,” dominated by Mark Colby’s smooth sax solo.

Parton plays on every track, his solos ranging from soft and pure, to the outer edge of Maynard Ferguson-style screaming. I particularly like his work on a gentle cover of “Christmas Time Is Here,” where arranger Mike Pinto works in a nod to “A Child Is Born.”

Vocalist Kristy Parton brings additional snap to a peppy handling of “The Christmas Song,” and you can almost here her smile during a frothy arrangement of “Marshmallow World.”

My one caveat concerns song choice. Given this album’s predominantly lively, upbeat and “pure fun” tone, Joni Mitchell’s “River” and Chris Eaton’s “When Love Came Down” are melancholy downers. The band and Parton remain fine, but the messages, in both cases, bring a dark cloud to an otherwise joyous collection of tunes. I’m inclined to rotate both songs out; that said, you definitely don’t want to miss this album.

Both iTunes and cdbaby list a “new” release from keyboardist Terry Disley and drummer Ed McClary, rather ambitiously titled The Greatest Christmas Album Ever Made. Despite the 2014 date, it’s actually an album produced back in 2004 and released under a more modest title, Experience Christmas ... although this newer version has two additional tracks: “Sleigh Ride” and “We Three Kings.”

All that notwithstanding, the album is new to me. Disley and McClary navigate the gentler currents of the jazz stream; their covers range from calm to mid-tempo, the arrangements always tasty.

I’m particularly charmed by Disley’s creativity with time signatures on “The Christmas Song,” generally delivered as a straight 4/4. It’s re-imagined here as a lively jazz waltz led by Alex Murzyn’s soprano sax, and punctuated by a groovy bridge from Disley and bassist Daniel Lucca Parenti.

“Deck the Halls” is given a Latin inflection highlighted by Murzyn’s flute lead, which yields to a nifty guitar solo from Lorn Leber. The latter’s guitar also provides a soothing entry into a sweet cover of “Silent Night,” with Disley picking up the melody on keyboards.

A shortened “Nutcracker” is granted a slow, heavy two-beat by McClary; the resulting arrangement is quite droll. McClary also shines with his drum roll backing to “Little Drummer Boy,” which emerges in formal march time punctuated by Disley’s keyboard melody.

Disley and Leber trade delightful riffs during a peppy cover of “Good King Wenceslas,” and the band has a lot of fun with McClary’s rolling percussion line on “Jingle Bells,” which turns this seasonal chestnut into a New Orleans strut that verges on rock ’n’ roll.

“God Bless Ye Merry, Gentlemen” opens quietly, with Disley’s solo piano, and then ramps into a finger-snapping groover highlighted by Parenti’s way-cool walking bass. Other tunes are slow and sweet, as with Murzyn’s clarinet lead on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and a contemplative arrangement of “The First Noel” which — although not quite jazz — is nonetheless lovely.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable album: just right for guests who make a point of avoiding more aggressively improvisational jazz. If you like it, you’ll also want to check out Disley’s 2007 album, The Jazzcracker & Other Delights, highlighted by a swinging, nine-part jazz quintet arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s famed ballet, along with half a dozen additional holiday classics. All choice.

Bill Carter isn’t merely pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Clarks Summit, Penn.; he also has solid piano chops, and since 1999 has fronted a jazz combo during an annual Christmas Eve concert that has become the main event of his 11 p.m. church service. To which I must say, Why can’t any churches in my town get down like this?

Fortunately, Carter and his aptly named Presbybop Christmas Eve Band recorded a live performance in 2012, released under the title Jazz Noel, so the rest of us can pretend to be in the pews on Dec. 24. It’s a swinging collection of tunes anchored by the good pastor’s deft keyboard work, with ample support from Mike Carbone (saxes), Tony Marino (bass) and Marko Marcinko (drums), along with guests Jeff Stockham (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Warren Cooper (vocals and percussion).

The resulting hour-long set never lets up, from the opening bluesy take on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” — highlighted by the first of Carter’s many sparkling keyboard solos — to a crowd-pleasing finale on “Silent Night,” which prompted the live audience to join Cooper’s cheerful vocal. Many of the arrangements are lengthy, allowing for choice solo work and some inventive bridging. A prologue on “I Wonder As I Wander” is positively haunting, with Carbone’s quiet sax a poignant lament against what seems a hostile winter storm ... until the band kicks into gear, shifts tempo and roars into a rousing rendition of “He Is Born.”

Marino’s bass has a lot to do with that arrangement’s success; he also stands out during “Away in a Manger,” his finger work nicely augmented by Carter’s background comping. It’s worth noting that bassists often get short shrift on many holiday jazz recordings, and I’m pleased that Marino has plenty of exposure on this entire album.

The stand-out selection, by far, is a clever 5/4 handling of “Angels We Have Heard on High,” which boasts a nifty percussion backdrop, peppy piano and sax solos, and a finger-snapping drum solo that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Also delightful: the bossa nova elements that fuel “Joy to the World,” and the sassy salsa licks that similarly power the band through “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

This package also includes a DVD of the entire performance — gotta love the teddy bear fastened to Marcinko’s drum kit — and the production values are impressively professional: very sharp multi-camera videography.

Jay Hoggard’s Christmas Vibes All Thru the Year is a charming little album highlighted by inventive arrangements and a quiet, late-night approach to jazz. Hoggard displays a lovely touch throughout on vibes, and he gets able support from James Weidman (organ, piano and keyboards) and Bruce Cox (drums).

Hoggard takes a spiritual approach to the program, and thus his song choice leans more toward hymns, with only a few seasonal pop tunes alongside. He further addresses the “reason for the season” with several original compositions. Despite its somber title, “I Want Love, I Don’t Want Hate; I Want Peace, I Don’t Want War” is a droll little number with a cute beat, while “Deliver the Word, God Loves You” boasts a strong revival hall delivery, backed by a bass line that carries faint echoes of Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” theme.

The medleys are choice, most notably Hoggard’s blend of “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger” and “O Holy Night,” which features a great piano solo during a midpoint bridge. The pace picks up a bit during an equally sweet mix of “Over My Head I Hear Music in the Air” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” where the organ stands in as a faux bass, and the trio builds to a nifty improv finale.

The combo is equally tight during an atypically gentle reading of “Let It Snow,” which offers some nice “call and response” between Hoggard and Weidman. The similarly quiet “Winter Wonderland” also offers sweet riffs on both vibes and organ. Cox provides a moody percussion backdrop to “We Three Kings,” which segues deftly into “What Child Is This.”

My only complaint is that Hoggard’s sidemen try a bit too hard at times. An otherwise lovely handling of “Little Drummer Boy” is marred by some distracting organ flourishes, and the album’s opener, “Joy to the World,” slides into eyebrow-raising oom-pah/oom-pah territory. But the rest of the album is choice, and we definitely get a strong sense of Hoggard’s reverential feeling for his music.

Trumpeter Charles Lazarus’ Merry & Bright opens with a lively salsa arrangement of “Jingle Bells,” and that’s just a taste of the swingin’ sounds to come. Lazarus fronts another big band — seven horns, four trombones, a tuba, a seven-piece string section, and a rhythm section of keyboards, bass and percussion — and the ensemble delivers a lot of sound and fire on many of these tracks.

I’m partial to those arranged by trombonist Dean Sorenson, who — in addition to the aforementioned “Jingle Bells” — turns “I Saw Three Ships” into a raucous, toe-tapping jazz waltz; and also transforms “Sugar Plum Fairy” into a slow, sultry sashay that Tchaikovsky never could have imagined (but I’d like to believe he would have enjoyed).

The band has a distinct sense of whimsy, as well: Note the tuba touches on a witty reading of “Frosty the Snowman,” also highlighted by Lazarus’ muted trumpet solo and some nice work from bassist Jeff Bailey.

The slower numbers are equally lovely, particularly a sweet trumpet/piano duet by Lazarus and Tommy Barbarella, on “Christmas Time Is Here.” The band’s readings of “The Christmas Song” and “Joy to the World” are equally gentle, as is the solo horn that opens “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” which builds into a strong mid-tempo ballad.

A handful of the tunes feature guest vocalists, starting with Tonia Hughes’ sultry, bluesy 2/2 reading of “Merry Christmas, Baby,” which grants the band a lengthy midpoint “solo” before she scats the song to its finale. Hughes and Bruce Henry also have fun with their sassy patter rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” backed mostly by the rhythm section, with some full-band flourishes.

Both singers join again for a rockin’, church revival-style handling of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” that sets up the album’s closer: a worshipful reading of “Silent Night” that serves as an excellent showcase for the pure unison sound coming from the band’s horn section.

Be sure this one finds its way into your Christmas stocking.

Saxman Niall McGuinness and his New World Jazz Project deliver some lovely music on Christmas Time Is Here, particularly their tender handling of the Guaraldi track that gives this album its name. Drummer Eric Finkelstein lays down a relaxed beat while McGuinness and pianist Tristan Selzler trade the melody back and forth, with solid support from bassist Kyle Rothchild.

The album’s eight songs are lengthy arrangements that allow some choice solos. The quartet has plenty of fun with a whimsical, mid-tempo cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which gets an additional boost from McGuinness’ brief but sassy vocal. His sax then takes the melody against some cool comping by Selzler, who also pops up with a very nice piano solo.

The stand-out tune is a swinging reading of “We Three Kings”: a rolling, toe-tapping waltz that begins with McGuinness’ deft sax lead and offers a choice solo by alternate pianist Garett Grow. Everybody sounds great on this tune, which also boasts some fine drumming by Finkelstein. I also like the quartet’s moody, somewhat mysterious handling of “Carol of the Bells,” which again includes tuneful solos on both sax and piano (Selzler again).

Unfortunately, the set list is marred by a reggae arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”: a stylistic choice that might have been intriguing, had the combo done more interesting things with it. But the sax and keyboard solos become unpalatably weird, and the arrangement seemingly lasts forever, to rapidly diminishing returns.

Finkelstein’s drumming also is uneven throughout the album. As lively, engaged and inventive as he is on the tracks mentioned above, he becomes mechanical and repetitious — sounding very much like canned percussion — during “The Christmas Song” and “Silent Night,” on the latter detracting somewhat from McGuinness’ sweet flute work. Finkelstein’s most glaring affectation is a tendency to pop the three-beat, which becomes particularly intrusive during the quartet’s reading of “Away in a Manger.”

Overall, then, the album is uneven: not quite ready for prime time.


• The New Roman Trio, Christmas Jazz — This intriguing Japanese import features pianist Akane Matsumoto leading a trio that includes bassist Koji Yamashita and drummer Gaku Hasegawa. I say “intriguing” because you likely won’t recognize any of these 13 songs, although they appear to be established ballads and seasonal (Japanese) tunes dating as far back as 1983 and as recently as 2010. All the songs have lyrics printed in the liner notes — mostly in Japanese — but this is strictly an instrumental collection, and a truly tasty one at that. The trio work is exemplary: lush melodies led by Matsumoto’s deft keyboard work, supported ably by the equally talented Yamashita and Hasegawa. The tempos range from relaxed to medium-peppy, the approach never less than elegant. The language barrier prevents my even citing song titles, although it really doesn’t matter; the musicality and improv chops are choice, and the result is a divine hour of winter-esque jazz.

• Dan Baraszu and Joseph Patrick Moore, Christmas Time Is Here — Solo guitar Christmas albums aren’t unusual, but guitarist Moore has gone one better, teaming up with Baraszu on double bass. The delectable result is like the classic Nat King Cole Trio — piano, guitar and bass — but without the piano (not that you’ll miss it). Moore and Baraszu have developed pleasantly dense arrangements of these 12 holiday tunes, which are highlighted by intriguing syncopation, inventive improvisation and delightful interplay between the two instruments. They trade off lead melody and harmonic comping, and at times you’d swear a drum kit was present ... but no, it’s just Baraszu’s deft bass work. Their handling of “Jingle Bells” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” are quite clever, and you’ll love the percussive touches on “O Tannenbaum” and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” the latter emerging as a lively reggae march. Great stuff.

• Rick Lang, That’s What I Love About Christmas — New Hampshire-based bluegrass composer Rick Lang assembled what could be regarded as a holiday-themed musical church service. This album’s 10 original songs cover quite a few genres, from country ballads to a bit of finger-snapping jazz, the latter best represented by the up-tempo title tune, which blends Annie Sellick’s breezy vocal with some slick keyboard chops by pianist Joe Davidian. The songs range from somber hymns to cute, family-friendly numbers such as “Sleigh Full of Toys” and “Christmas Every Day of the Year,” both in the vein of well-established novelty hits starring Frosty and Rudolph. The sentimentality gets a bit soggy at times, as with “Home Made Christmas” and “Angels from on High,” but it’s hard to fault everybody’s warm seasonal intentions ... and you can’t beat the rowdy, church-spiritual enthusiasm of the disc’s concluding tune, “Where Was Baby Jesus Born?”

• Dave Koz & Friends, The 25th of December — Saxman Dave Koz began his career on the smoother side of the genre, but for awhile managed to retain some credibility. Alas, more recently he has since been seduced by the dark side of the jazz force, and this laughably overproduced album sounds like the horrific love-child of Kenny G and Lawrence Welk. The “friends” include vocalists Johnny Mathis, Gloria Estefan, Heather Headley and Stevie Wonder ... but not even they can save this collection of the schmaltziest holiday tunes ever penned. Koz signals his intentions right from the top, with a treacly assault on “The First Noel” that brings in strings and a heavenly chorus. Things continue in that vein all the way through the final track, perhaps the most embarrassing cover of The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” that I’ve ever heard. Ironically, the sole track with genuine jazz chops, an instrumental version of “Let It Snow,” features none other than smoothie Kenny G. Nice as it is, it ain’t nearly enough to justify a purchase.

• Dan Padley, Season’s Greetings — Fans of experimental jazz may wish to investigate this disc, but mainstream listeners are advised to steer very clear. Guitarist Dan Padley and his band take an unorthodox approach to their arrangements, varying from oddly short takes — 55 seconds, for “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”? — to shrill, lengthy exercises in “free jazz” that bear only the faintest resemblance to the carols in question. Ryan Smith’s squawky sax and Cassius Goens III’s tedious drum solos work at out-irritating each other during an exhaustive, nine-minute assault on “We Three Kings,” and you’ll barely recognize the deconstructed “Little Drummer Boy.” This is the sort of jazz that makes casual listeners wrinkle up their noses in disgust. That’s a shame, because the combo’s straight-ahead covers of “O Tannenbaum” and “My Favorite Things” are rather nice.

• Various artists, Mad Men Christmas — The hit AMC series has sparked a 1960s revival that covers everything from clothes to cocktails; no surprise, then, that Concord Records would issue a holiday compilation disc of period tunes “inspired” by the show. (In other words, you never heard most of this stuff during any episodes.) The disc includes tried-and-true seasonal classics: Rosemary Clooney’s cover of “White Christmas,” Mel Tormé doing “The Christmas Song,” Dean Martin crooning “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and — wait for it — the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s timeless reading of “Christmas Time Is Here,” complete with the lyrics sung by ice-skating Charlie Brown and his friends. Granted, you likely have all these songs on other albums, but this’ll made a great gift for the “Mad” fan on your shopping list.

• Anita O’Day, Have a Merry Christmas with Anita O’Day — This legendary “Jazz Jezebel” never released an official holiday album during her tempestuous career; it appears that this vexingly vague 2013 digital release is an unauthorized dub from an October 1984 seven-song session organized by O’Day biographer Elaine Poole (wife of drummer John Poole), and granted limited release on cassette. (So much for this package’s claim that this “rare groovy set” dates to the 1970s.) The recording quality wasn’t terrific, and the segues from one song to the next are choppy, at times sounding as if the recording equipment had been turned off too quickly. O’Day was long past her prime, but she still sounds feisty in an earthy, bluesy cover of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and she swings deliciously during a reading of “Let It Snow” that also showcases the backing trio of Poole, pianist Joe Castro and bassist Carson Smith. A bonus eighth track, “The Christmas Song,” comes from a December 1946 NBC radio broadcast: a genuine treat.

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