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Christmas Cheer

Get that holiday cheer going with our holiday music picks by Dan Pavelich.

Look for Dan’s weekly CD and LP reviews, Quick Spins, as well as news about local musicians, gigs, and recordings of interest.

Jack & Jill: Snow People (Frozen Sky)

Racine County is home to one of jazz’s most likable duos, vocalist Jill Jensen and multi-instrumentalist Jack Grassel. “Snow People” is their first holiday effort, and it’s a real winner.  Grassel’s arrangements are always interesting, and adding Jensen’s smooth-as-silk voice over the top is near perfection.

The pair take on several Christmas chestnuts, but find unique ways to make them their own. “Merry Christmas Baby” and “The Man With The Bag” feel warm enough to hear a crackling fireplace, and the original “Snow Sprite” will put you in the mind of frosted Christmas morning window panes. The set closes with the beautiful, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” one of my favorites. Well done.

John Legend: A Legendary Christmas (Columbia)

This is pretty much what you’d expect from John Legend, though perhaps a bit more upbeat. The opener, “What Christmas Means To Me,” is an absolute party, complete with Stevie Wonder on harmonica. “Merry Christmas Baby” injects a bit of Chicago jump-blues into the proceedings, and “Christmastime Is Here” gets a nifty jazzing up.

Legend also excels at the ballads, “The Christmas Song” is particularly sweet, but

At times he’s trying a bit too hard to sound like Nat King Cole. That might be nitpicking, though, as I liked this enough to give it two complete spins. It’s a nice addition to the Christmas catalogue.

Martina McBride: It’s The Holiday Season (Broken Bow)

Martina McBride has always fallen into the I-could-listen-to-her-sing-the-phonebook category for me. The fact that this is her third holiday album is an added bonus. Her

First two occupy a well-worn position in my Christmas music collection, and “It’s The Holiday Season” will follow suit.

Here, McBride is backed by the lush orchestra, and stays pretty much to the script. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and “Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer” are well-trod territory, but that huge voice of McBride’s more than makes up for it. Much like Harry Connick Jr., she’s solidly become a seasonal staple. Highly recommended. 

More holiday music

New Releases:

  • Martina McBride/It’s The Holiday Season (BBR)
  • CeCe Winans/Something’s Happening, Christmas Album (Pure Springs)
  • Los Straightjackets/Complete Christmas Songbook (Yep Roc)
  • Mitch Ryder/Christmas Takes A Ride (Cleopatra)
  • John Legend/A Legendary Christmas (Columbia)
  • Josh Turner/I Serve A Savior (MCA)
  • William Shatner/Shatner Claus (Cleopatra)
  • Jessie J/This Christmas Day (Lava)
  • KC & The Sunshine Band/A Sunshine Christmas (BFD)
  • Various Artists/Have Yourself A Swingin’ Little Christmas (BFD)

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