Thursday, October 31, 2013

New York Voices Christmas CD - “Let It Snow"

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

"New York Voices lives up to its reputation as the most exciting vocal ensemble in current jazz· to collect such quality voices in one group is rare enough, yet the real trick of New York Voices is how well they mesh·" - Boston Herald

"· full of life, teeming with energy and bursting with melody·a thoroughly entertaining experience·"_
- All Music Guide

I know that there are about two months before Christmas as I post this review, but one would hardly know it from the way the retail stores are decorated.  Everywhere I go, it feels like the holidays are imminent.

One of the nicest aspects of this time of year are the new Christmas albums that appear.

A few have grabbed my fancy and I thought I would bring them to your attention in a series of holiday blog features.

Let’s start with the latest from Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan, Darmon Meader and Peter Eldridge, collectively known as The New York Voices.

In celebration of their 25th anniversary together, The New York Voices released Let It Snow on October 29, 2013 [Five Cent Records FCR-0001].

The selections on offer are listed on the following image of the CD tray plate.

Let It Snow finds New York Voices - Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan, Darmon Meader and Peter Eldridge - celebrating a host of traditional and sacred holiday classics as well as secular favorites. With the assistance of Grammy Award winning producer and engineer, Elliot Scheiner (Steely Dan, Eagles, Manhattan Transfer, Fleetwood Mac), the quartet has fashioned an album that honors beloved songs, while incorporating sophisticated jazz and swing elements.  Settings vary; a cappella performances mingle with robust arrangements featuring big band and studio orchestra accompaniment.

The result is a diverse program of holiday standards, performed with surprisingly fresh treatments.  The close harmony style that New York Voices embraces is a perfect sound for the holiday season. While the bulk of the arrangements are by founding member and tenor vocalist Damon Meader, additional orchestrators include Don Sebesky, Jorge Calendrelli, Pat Hollenbeck, and Michele Weir.

Let It Snow is a long time in coming.  As Meader notes: "We started adding Christmas tunes to our December concerts many years ago.  At first it was just a handful, but over the years, our holiday repertoire expanded.  In 2005, we were invited to tour with the Boston Pops for a full Christmas season.  This is when our book really took off, and we've been planning to record this CD ever since.  It took awhile, but we finally found the time and opportunity to make it happen!"
The CD starts off with the high impact big band arrangement of "Let It Snow," followed by a pairing of lush ballads, "Christmas Song - Christmas Time is Here." "O, Little Town of Bethlehem" is then given an old school big band treatment, reminiscent of the Count Basie Orchestra sound. A number of a cappella performances are also featured, including "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  The intimate voices-only settings bring the artful NYV sound into full focus, contrasting effectively with the large ensemble pieces.

Other highlights include a rollicking rendition of "We Three Kings," and a more traditional treatment of J.S. Bach's "Sleepers, Wake!," which serves as a warm diversion from the jazz-based harmonies of the majority of songs.  A moody "ECM-esque" rendition of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" features Peter Eldridge as lead vocalist, surrounded by full orchestra and lush complementary group vocals.  Lauren Kinhan, Darmon Meader and Kim Nazarian, are all featured as lead vocalists on "The Merry Medley," a collection of three holiday favorites:  "The Man with the Bag," "I'd Like You for Christmas," and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

"I Wonder As I Wander" was first recorded by NYV in 1991 as part of a "cast of thousands" GRP Christmas Collection.  "We've continued to perform this one through the years, and we've always wanted to re-record this arrangement," says Darmon.  "I added a big band accompaniment, in a somewhat Gil Evans-esque style, which adds to the introspective mood of the tune."

Let It Snow wraps up with a high-energy rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," followed by a serene a cappella rendition of "Silent Night."

The internationally acclaimed vocal group has become renowned for their excellence in jazz and the art of group singing. Like the great jazz vocal groups that have come before, such as Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Singers Unlimited and Manhattan Transfer, the foursome of Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan, Darmon Meader and Peter Eldridge have learned from the best and taken the art form to new levels. Time Out Chicago has said of New York Voices: "We dare say there may be no better way to understand the wit and wink of jazz harmony than via these Voices."

The group has released nine CDs on various labels including GRP, RCA, MCG Jazz, Concord, and Palmetto. The group has also starred on two Grammy award winning albums: Count Basie Orchestra with New York Voices, Live at MCG and Brazilian Dreams (Paquito D'Rivera featuring New York Voices & Claudio Roditi). They've earned wide acclaim for their performances throughout the world at venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Blue Note (New York and Japan) as well as the opera houses of Vienna and Zurich, as well as the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Montreal Jazz Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

In addition to their various college and high school workshops, the New York Voices hold an annual vocal jazz camp at Bowling Green State University every August.  All four members are also active as solo vocalists, and have each released numerous recordings.

You can find out more about The New York Voices as well as order information at their website and order information is also available there and through most online retailers.

Here’s a sampling of the music on the CD.


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