Monday, October 26, 2015

Russ Lorenson "In the Holiday Spirit"

"In the Holiday Spirit", San Francisco crooner Russ Lorenson's 2015 Christmas album, is aptly named, as listening to the 15 tracks will certainly get you in the spirit of the season. From the opening notes of the rousing "Shake Hands with Santa Claus" through the closer "It's Christmas Time All Over The World" (with the San Francisco Boys Chorus), Mr. Lorenson's 2nd Christmas album, following the 2006 release "What I Want For Christmas", will alternately get your toes tapping with up-tempo numbers and then let you relax and enjoy the more adagio arrangements.

"Shake Hands with Santa Claus" is a terrific start to the album - upbeat, energetic, and a perfect introduction to Mr. Lorenson's style and his band, the Kelly Park Big Band.  "Holiday for Two" continues the jazzy, finger-snappin' beat and features outstanding work on sax and trumpet.  "Let's Share Christmas", the first of two songs by jazz great John Pizzarelli, slows down the tempo for a touching love song for the holiday season.  "You're All I Want For Christmas" brings the groovin' swing back.

One of my favorites on the album is "Mrs. Claus", an ode to ol' Santa's better half, featuring Marcel Marchetti on flugelhorn.  It's slow and bluesy, loving and tender, and beautifully done,  Extra eggnog for the songwriters Nancy Schimmel and Candace Forrest.

For me, one of the best features of "In the Holiday Spirit" is the selection of songs.  Too-often recorded standards like "Silver Bells" and "Winter Wonderland" are nowhere to be found.  The closest to the top tier Christmas canon are "The Christmas Blues", "Kissin' by the Mistletoe", and Mr. Lorenson's fine interpretation of "Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth".  Russ's rendition of "Kissin' by the Mistletoe" is one that just makes you smile :-)  The broad selection of songs makes this a tremendously enjoyable Christmas album.

The 15 songs on "In the Holiday Spirit" are a rapid-fire mix of up-beat swinging Christmas tunes and slower crooner ballads that will keep you hopping from beginning to end.  It would be a perfect soundtrack to trimming your tree on a cold December night, accompanied by a nice clove and cinnamon spiced hot toddy :-)

I have to give a Merry and Bright shout-out to the Kelly Park Big Band:  Kelly Park, Daniel Fabricant, Kent Bryson, Terrence Brewer, Tony Malfatti, Rich Armstrong, Marcel Marchetti, and Rene Jenkins.  The band, plus a long roster of backup vocalists, really make this a special album to kick off the holiday season.

"In the Holiday Spirit" will be on sale November 6th.

Russ Lorenson website
Amazon link
iTunes link

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jillaine Returns with Jazzy Duets for Christmas

Our favorite Christmas jazz singer, Jillaine, has released a new album of Christmas songs for 2015.  This time around, Jillaine is joined by vocalist and pianist Jacob for "Jazzy Duets for Christmas", a collection of seven seasonal tunes sure to kick-start your holiday spirit!

Jillaine has a strong, beautiful voice. which she has used to full potential in her three previous Christmas albums, especially in the up-tempo original arrangements of well-known Christmas songs.  On "Jazzy Duets", her vocals are as awesome as ever, with strengths in dynamics and phrasing and her love of Christmas music shining through.  Duet partner Jacob, in addition to his excellent piano work, joins Jillaine with complementary vocals that blend and smooth.  He's the cream in the coffee, the ala mode with the cherry pie, making already great songs even better.

The album kicks off with a nice, upbeat "Marshmallow World", followed by "Winter Wonderland", which for me is the highlight of the record.  "Winter Wonderland" highlights a creative arrangement, features some of Jacob's best vocal accompaniment, and wows when Jillaine kicks up the final refrain.  Standards "Silver Bells" and "Winter Weather", following the trio of "Give Me Your Heart for Christmas", "Warm December" and "Christmas Dreaming", round out the album.

I need to give a shout-out to Jillaine's brother Erik, who has been a major contributor on all of Jillaine's Christmas albums, including "Jazzy Duets", either as a musician or engineer/general studio dude. Erik's talents have helped produce Jillaine's four exceptional Christmas records.

I'm a big fan of Jillaine, not only her Christmas music but her entire body of work, most notably her collection of patriotic songs "As American as Jazz".  She is a hard-working, talented musician who is also in law school studying for her law degree.  In her spare time she guest DJs at her hometown radio station in Dubuque, IA , KLYV Y105, and she writes a food blog!  (Jazzy Morsels - yum). Foremost, though, she is an amazing musician who has chosen to gift us with now four albums of wonderful Christmas music. I hope there is still more to come.

"Jazzy Duets for Christmas" is available for digital download at Jillaine's website,, or at the usual outlets (see below).