Holiday music by jgn on Sunday, December 2, 2007 in Listening

Besides being being wired as a pagan at an early age, vocal jazz -- indeed, vocal music with the exception of opera and the occasional joke polka -- was banned in my childhood home. My father was a trained musician who had played on occasion with some of the names in big band jazz, and he just wasn't into the cult of vocal personality . . . while he could celebrate hardcore instrumental musicianship. I'd say the turntable was 70% classical, 20% dixieland, and the rest big band jazz. To be sure, we had the odd rock albums which his friends had recommended, including such rare oddities like "Trip Thru Hell" by the C.A. Quintet (which he still has on vinyl, and if you know what that means, no, it's not for sale).

So anyway, I grew up to listen to a lot of rock and jazz, especially with vocals, because I suppose children just have to depart from parental guidance (the paganism stuck, though). And I have to say, there is nothing quite like cheesy jazz at holiday time, hence my listening to "Christmas with the Rat Pack" (Capitol) and Diana Krall's "Christmas Songs" (Verve). Both of these albums have really quite spectacular full band arrangements, but both will stoop to . . . pop flute (yeech) . . . to accent a song. I have little doubt that Krall is deliberately evoking the rat pack era of pop jazz. There's some swinging on "White Christmas," but, really, the arrangement doesn't let her out. It would be interesting to see her do these live. Oh, and Krall scats (so to speak) on Jingle Bells. An oddity of the Krall is that her piano is rather second rate compared to what her best stuff. But that's ok, right? On the rat pack album, Sinatra picks are just great. Dean Martin gets "Baby It's Cold Outside," and Sammy gets the fun stuff like "Jingle Bells" and the thoroughly secular "The Christmas Song," in an arrangement that he manages to make sound good and also not like Nat King Cole. So . . . having said all that . . . recommended for a cold winter's eve with egg nog (spiked with Maker's Mark, Kentucky-style). [Rat Pack - Amazon-CD , Amazon-MP3 ; Krall - Amazon ]

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