The season of goodwill and festive cheer will soon be with us and to coincide with Santa’s arrival down the chimney, veteran soul and jazz man, AL JARREAU, is about to release his first Yuletide album. ‘Christmas’ is a 13-track collection that finds the 68-year-old Grammy-winning singer tackling a mixture of traditional festive songs and Christmas carols – ranging from ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ to ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’ and ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful.’ The participating musicians include bassist Chris Walker, percussionist Lenny Castro and former Seawind members Jerry Hey and Larry Williams (the latter is the album’s co-producer). Vocal group Take 6 have a cameo role on ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas.’ The album’s available via Rhino.
Swedish jazz and funk trombonist, NILS LANGREN, also releases a festive album, ‘Christmas With My Friends II,’ on ACT Records. Amongst the 15 tracks are versions of ‘A Child Is Born,’ ‘Ding Dong Merrily On High,’ ‘Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem,’ and – of interest to soul fans – a tasteful remake of Donny Hathaway’s ‘This Christmas’ featuring vocals from Jessica Pilnas.
Interestingly, ‘This Christmas’ is also the title tune of ARETHA FRANKLIN’S first ever Yuletide long player released in the States via DMI Records on December 9th. Advance reviews have been very mixed, with some US critics stating that Aretha’s voice shows signs of a marked decline. Most of the production is handled by Tena Clark – who’s previously worked with Natalie Cole and Chaka Khan – although Aretha produces three cuts herself. The 11 tracks include ‘Silent Night,’ ‘Ave Maria’ and ”Twas The Night Before Christmas.’
Finally, the team behind the ‘Verve Remixed’ albums have persuaded top ranking DJs and mix-meisters like Christian Prommer, Wax Taylor and The Orb to put a contemporary dance floor spin on vintage Christmas tunes by some of jazz’s most revered artists. ‘Verve Remixed Christmas‘ features radical remixes of songs by Louis Armstrong (including ‘What A Wonderful World’), Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Smith, Mel Tormé, Shirley Horn and Dinah Washington. It’s in the shops now.