December 18th, 2005
A Café Jazz Christmas - Part
Thanks for joining me for Part 2 of our special, A Café Jazz Christmas and all the best there is in holiday music. Featured on today's show are great new seasonal selections from Rick Braun, Anita Baker, The Pointer Sisters, and several other never-before-been-played-on-our-show tracks. We've included past Café Jazz favourites from Greg Vail & Chris Blizzard, and also have a few fresh takes on some perennial favourites and including selections by Steve Oliver & Planet 9 (formerly known as Plan 9). I sincerely hope that you'll enjoy those and the other music that we've selected for you and that this festive season will be a happy & healthy time. Wishing you & yours all the joys of the season and the best of everything in the New Year ahead ! The bacchanalia continues on A Café Jazz Christmas!
| Highlights Hour One
My Little Drum - Rick Braun:
Ever since hearing It's Christmas from Braun's own 1994 Christmas Present release, I've considered Rick's style as close to perfect a fit you can get for certain seasonal music. However, although he's performed on holiday releases from Boney James & Peter White, nothing has really quite matched the magic of that selection until now. Finally, I can include another selection, My Little Drum, on my list of personal favourites. The track appears on the compilation 40 Years - A Charlie Brown Christmas, and is just one several exceptional pieces on the album!
The brain thrust behind the project was David Benoit, a five-time Grammy nominee who has for past ten years been involved with the creating the music for the TV specials featuring The Peanuts Gang. As its title suggests, the release marks the 40th anniversary of the debut of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Written by Charles Schultz, the show won an Emmy despite initial concerns about its jazzy soundtrack which was penned & performed by Vince Guaraldi. Guaraldi had been commissioned by Schultz for the TV special following the overwhelming popularity of the "Linus and Lucy" theme that helped fuel the success of the Peanuts gang in 1964. Guaraldi was an accomplished jazz pianist & composer, however he's best remembered for his work on 15 Peanuts specials & a feature film. In any event, the Christmas special, complete with a holiday soundtrack performed by Guaraldi & his trio, first aired on December 9th, 1965. 40 years already! All I can say is "Good grief!"
CD: 40 Years - A Charlie Brown Christmas (2005)
Label: Peak Records.
Site: Rick Braun
Fantasy - Anita Baker:
The Detroit native began performing as a vocalist in church. She sang with a few local groups before landing a gig as a member of Chapter 8. The group went on to score a bit of hit with I Just Wanna Be Your Girl in the early 80s. In 1983 Baker went solo with The Songstress, her debut, a record that never attained the recognition it was due. However, a couple of years later that all changed with the release of Rapture which went on to enjoy mammoth success. That album & Baker's subsequent projects led to 8 Grammys and numerous other awards. But while still at the height of her popularity Baker took time off to spend time with her family. Returning in 2004 after about a 10 year hiatus, the vocalist launched the second phase of her career with the release of My Everything.
Heralded as one of the great stylists of our day, Ms Baker has shown a remarkable resurgence in popularity, which in truth had never really disappeared. In any event, her latest release on the comeback trail sees Anita with her first ever holiday effort. For the most part, it's that same familiar style that made Baker such a success in the first place. Yet with a cast of some topnotch players that includes Larry Carlton, Joe Sample, and George Duke there's a bit more interaction between Anita & the musicians, a fact which was not explored as fully on past efforts. In any event, we go to one of three originals that Baker co-wrote. It's characterized by a great melody, an easy samba flavoured vibe & feel and a fantastic refrain. It's the title track and our favourite on the disc!
CD: Christmas Fantasy (2005)
Label: Blue Note Records
Love & You - Will Downing:
Possessing one of those rare & instantly recognizable voices, Downing is versatile crooner who has been entertaining for over 17 years. He got his start in the 80s working with club producer Arthur Baker and then for a time backed Dionne Warwick and Mariah Carey. The Brooklyn born vocalist made his solo debut with his self titled album in 1988, which became a gold seller in the UK. Although he continued to be a favourite with audiences in England, he didn't click on this side of the water until 1998 & Pleasures of the Night. On subsequent releases, the uniquely gifted vocalist showed a smooth & soulful evolution as cover songs became staples. Nevertheless, some self-penned selections proved to be among his finest. Such is the case with the track that we've selected. From Downing's Christmas, Love & You release, we've selected the title track replete with Downing's silky stylings & velvety delivery!
CD: Christmas, Love & You (2004)
Site: Will Downing
|Highlights Hour Two
Child is This? (Greensleeves) - Roberto Perera:
Considered a modern day champion of his instrument, Perera's desire to play a variety of styles led him to experiment with & transform the Paraguayan harp, which had traditionally been viewed as suitable merely for playing folk music. After completing a course of studies in his native Uruguay, Perera relocated to the US, eventually settling in Miami where he made a name for himself on that city's burgeoning Latin music scene. He released his solo debut in 1990 and the following year, he moved to the Heads Up label, an association that continues to the present. In any event, the release of Christmas Fantasies was viewed as a venture in classical music as Perera attempted to strike a balance between the Latin rhythms of his heritage and the traditional music of Christmas and as such, the arrangements exhibit many diverse influences. The record was recorded in the heat of August & released in 1993, well before it was considered fashionable to do so.
Upon its issue, it was considered by some as "easily one of the best Christmas themes in years" and among it's many memorable moments one of the finest is Perera's sensational treatment of this beloved Christmas classic! The story behind this Christmas classic... The words were written by Englishman William Dix in 1865. When he was 29, Dix was stricken by a near-fatal illness. He remained bedridden for many months and suffered deep depression. During this time, he would often reflect & examine his faith. Thru reading The Bible & the works of various theologians, Dix discovered the power that allowed him to change his life. Shortly after recovering, he wrote several hymns. The Manger Throne soon grew to be recognized as his most inspired work. It was used in many church services & eventually appeared in print in both England & abroad. However, it wasn't until a fellow countryman, composer and organist Sir John Stainer, connected Dix's words with the traditional melody Greensleeves, that this beloved carol came into being!
CD: Christmas Fantasies (1993)
Label: Heads Up
Site: Roberto Perera
the Halls/Angels We Have Heard on High - Steve Oliver:
Guitar & vocalese that will let you breeze into the holiday season, that's what this track is all about. Yes it's Steve Oliver, the same high energy guy that's become a favourite on our show and throughout smooth jazz radio! Oliver first stepped into the spotlight when he landed a starring role in Steve Reid's Bamboo Forest back in the 90s. His first solo release earned "Debut Artist of the Year" from Smooth Jazz News and since then Oliver's popularity has continued to soar! Steve states and I quote, "Music is therapy for me and makes me feel good, and I love exploring the possibilities in all the styles that I enjoy."
This philosophy has now been extended to include Steve's first ever seasonal project! There's a nice assortment of holiday favourites and a couple of originals, featuring Steve on guitar, a few vocals, and that tell tale scat style singing that's become a hallmark of his sound. The medley arrangement of Deck The Halls / Angels We Have Heard On High is the one that does it for us. A seasonal selection that generates excitement? Indeed it's true! This spirited reggae-infused take on of a couple of classic Christmas carols shows Oliver at his best and when he's firing on all musical cylinders, there really isn't anybody better than Steve Oliver!
CD: Snowfall (2005)
Label: Oohla Productions
Site: Steve Oliver
in New York - The Pointer Sisters:
Formed in Oakland, California, The Pointer Sisters grew up in a family of limited means. There were two boys & four girls & although they sang around the house as early as they can remember, they got their start performing together in their father's church. After high school, Bonnie Pointer set out on a career in music & in short order, sisters Anita & June followed suit. After a bit of a rocky start, including a period when they found themselves stranded & penniless in Houston, they signed a record deal & released their debut in 1973. By this time they were a quartet as their youngest sister, Ruth, had joined them as well. In the late 70s Bonnie Pointer left to embark on a solo career, but in spite of this major set back, by the 80s remaining trio of The Pointer Sisters had developed into one of the most dynamic acts in pop music. They achieved worldwide fame with a string of hits. In 1984, their run of chart-topping releases culminated with Jump (For My Love), Automatic, and others, that injected a much-needed mix of style & sophistication into the contemporary music scene.
Although they had several more releases thru the remainder of the 80s & 90s, none matched the success of those efforts. However, after a somewhat lengthy absence from the record scene, The Sisters have reemerged as a new trio with Ruth & Anita Pointer, and Ruth's daughter Issa. And they're flashing a brand new holiday single called Christmas In New York, that captures the energy & enthusiasm of their heyday. The track is an original composition penned by Chris Christian a multiple Grammy winning producer, performer, and label exec together with Nathan East, an industry veteran. It's definitely one of the most infectious songs of the season, and appears on the compilation Smooth And Soulful Christmas created by WDMG a company which Christian helped found. The cd as whole simply sparkles with one of its brightest moments being provided by The Pointers and Christmas In New York!
CD: Smooth & Soulful Christmas (2005)
Label: YMC Records
Site: Pointer Sisters
|After Hours ~ Exclusive to our Web Site:
|Once again we're pre-empting that annoying chatter I've become so well known for and in lieu of that we have a full hour of great uninterrupted seasonal music. Just click on the appropriate paw on our audio page for music and click on the paw right here for a complete playlist.