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The sounds of Christmas are upon us!

Publication: Louisiana Weekly
Author: Geraldine Wyckoff
Date: November 21, 2011

Harry Connick, Jr. Trio
The Happy Elf
(Marsalis Music)

With a cover decked out with all the bells and whistles of a holiday album directed at children – an illustration of a plump Santa Claus, a Christmas tree and smiling elves – one would naturally presume that Harry Connick, Jr.’s CD, The Happy Elf , was filled with music for toddlers. However, that’s not quite the case. The release does stand as a companion disc to the noted pianist and vocalist’s picture book for kids of the same name. Musically, however, it goes beyond hum along tunes for the younger set.

The album begins with Connick narrating The Happy Elf book, that has also been produced as a stage musical. The tale of the kind elf who was just crazy about Christmas could act as a heart-warming, Yuletide bedtime story for children. The first cut, also dubbed “The Happy Elf,” follows through in spirit with its joyful and danceable demeanor. Connick and his trio with part-time New Orleans resident, bassist Neal Caine and long-time drummer Arthur Latin, playfully sleigh ride into a jazz mode that can engage parents and children alike. Importantly, it, like the following, easy-going “Santarrific” doesn’t play down to the kids. Rather the tunes act as an introduction to jazz and blues that could, hopefully, lead to a love of the music. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 30th, 2011 — 10:30am

Harry Connick Jr. gets his Christmas groove on

Publication: Indianapolis Star
Author: Jay Harvey
Date: November 28, 2011

Critics tend to turn sour (I know: How can anyone tell, right?) when they  reread news releases just before setting down their own thoughts on one or another Cultural Product. Videlicet: I wish Marsalis Music hadn’t called Harry Connick Jr.’s “Music from The Happy Elf” CD “ a “new instrumental holiday classic. ” True, Connick’s story about Eubie has a back story that indicates success, including use of the material to inspire a Christmas TV special and a stage musical. Now it’s a picture book, too, and the CD opens with Connick doing a spirited “read-along” version of “The Happy Elf” before he and his trio settle into a lively program of the tunes Connick created for the show.

But I come to praise this CD, not to bury it. The music on its own makes for a great introduction to jazz for young people — as catchy as Vince Guaraldi’s fabled “Charlie Brown Christmas” tunes, but a bit rangier in the improvised portions. Connick has come up with something infectious rhythmically or melodically in these dozen tunes. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 29th, 2011 — 05:57pm

Kickin' out yuletide jams: Holiday CDs range from the wonderful to the bizarre

Publication: The Detroit News
Authors: Susan Whitall & Adam Graham
Date: November 29, 2011

“The Happy Elf,” Harry Connick Jr. Trio (Marsalis Music)

This companion disc to Connick’s picture book of the same name published by Harper Collins (not to mention, the “Happy Elf” musical) is a winsome album of piano trio jazz with the add-on of a spoken-word track. On it, Connick (the father of three) tells the story of the “happy elf” who figures out how to help Bluesville, a town full of children who are all too naughty for presents from Santa. Accompanied by bassist Neal Caine and drummer Arthur Latin, Connick doesn’t sing, but plays in the Nat King Cole trio style, with an extra emphasis on bluesy improvisation on the 11 songs he wrote. His piano work is particularly evocative on the melancholy “Christmas Day.” GRADE: A- Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 29th, 2011 — 12:57pm

Marsalis and TSO play it hot, and straight

Publication: The Globe and Mail
Author: Robert Everett-Green
Date: November 24, 2011

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

  • Branford Marsalis, saxophone
  • Andrey Boreyko, conductor
  • At Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on Wednesday

The last wind instrument to become a permanent part of the standard orchestra was the clarinet, in the mid-1700s. Membership in the club had closed by the time the saxophone showed up a century later.

Various composers, impressed by the sax’s wide compass and range of tone, have brought it into the orchestra as a guest, often an exotic one. Just about every major composer working during the 1930s had a fling with the saxophone, which by then had developed a racy career as a jazz instrument.

On Wednesday, the TSO played two short alto sax concertos from that period, one with strings and relatively straight, the other with winds and flavoured with ragtime. The soloist was Branford Marsalis, a much celebrated jazz musician who over the past decade has built up his repertoire of sax concertos with orchestra.

Submitted by Courtney on November 28th, 2011 — 03:30pm

Classical music shakes its booty: Branford Marsalis at Roy Thomson Hall

Publication: The Toronto Star
Author: Peter Goddard
Date: November 23, 2011

The marriage of jazz and classical music has been as rocky as any Kim Kardashian romance, with often the same results: a bust-up that’s all noise.

So it was particularly heartening to see saxophonist Branford Marsalis, the Dr. Phil of musical matchmaking at Roy Thomson Hall on Wednesday night where music straight out of the Euro-classical tradition aimed to show it could shake some booty. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 28th, 2011 — 03:11pm

Harry Connick Jr. Trio "The Happy Elf"

Publication: BuffaloNews.com
Author: Jeff Simon
Date: November 20, 2011

Among the many things this disc isn’t are the following: 1) A children’s record, despite the original Connick story (published by HarperCollins) the pianist reads on its opening 10-minute cut and 2) A negligible throwaway in the blizzard of questionable “seasonal goods” right about now. While it presents trio variations on Connick’s music for his “Happy Elf” stage musical with bassist Neal Caine and drummer Arthur Latin, its pleasure is the pleasure of listening to some of Connick’s most clever and rhythmically winsome piano-playing on disc in quite a while. It is, in fact, the fourth in a series of Harry-and-piano that has so far appeared on the label of his old New Orleans friends Wynton and Branford Marsalis. Think of it, minus a semi-ignorable narrative, as a hugely welcome and entirely original disc of Connick piano jazz. Praise be to the holiday season for giving Harry “permission” to make it. Three stars out of four.

*Note from Marsalis Music: Wynton Marsalis is not involved with our label.

Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 22nd, 2011 — 03:24pm

The Marsalis Family's "Music Redeems" up for Best Traditional Jazz album!

Please visit the 2011 SoulTrain Awards page and vote for The Marsalis Family’s Music Redeems in the Best Traditional Jazz Category! Thanks for your support!

Submitted by Courtney on November 21st, 2011 — 12:14pm

16 Christmas Discs for the 2011 Holidays

Publication: Audiophile Audition
Author: John Henry
Date: November 16, 2011

Harry Connick, Jr. Trio – The Happy Elf – Marsalis Music   *****

(Harry Connick, Jr. – piano; Neal Caine – bass; Arthur Latin – drums)

Arriving just in the nick of time to get included herewith, this becomes a new holiday classic due mainly from it being entirely new tunes, with no hackneyed , artificially jazzed-up arrangements of familiar carols. It’s also a CD for holiday get-togethers that include young ones, because it opens with a ten-minute narration by Harry of his story of The Happy Elf.  It’s a companion CD to Harry’s children’s picture book of the same name, published by Harper Collins. Employing two mainstays from his big band, Connick does trio versions of some of the tunes he originally wrote for his stage musical The Happy Elf. They constitute a variety of new takes on the tunes, and I especially liked that they’re all instrumental—no vocals. The children’s story follows Eubie, who longs to be a part of Santa’s sleigh team, but he’s stuck with compiling the naughty-or-nice lists. But then one Christmas Eve he sees that the whole town of Bluesville has not a single person having been nice, and he’s off to Bluesville to turn a whole town of naughty children nice in a day.  Eubie’s story unfolds against a swinging background of the piano trio. The story has also inspired an animated Christmas TV special. A merry addition to the mostly Christmas dreck. Recorded at the studios of WGBH in Cambridge, where I once worked. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 21st, 2011 — 12:24pm

Saxophonist Miguel Zenón mines the Puerto Rican songbook

Publication: Los Angeles Times
Author: Chris Barton
Date: November 18, 2011

If there’s any way jazz can be compared to a fairground’s bumper cars, it’s that the excitement is in the collisions, those necessary (if far less violent) meetings between the music and an individual’s history, imagination and culture that create something new. This year jazz has been enjoying a particularly rewarding run of global collisions that have included the Middle Eastern explorations of trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, the Southern Asian influence in recent albums by Rudresh Mahanthappa and Rez Abbasi and fresh twists on Brazilian jazz in records by Anthony Wilson and Rob Mazurek’s Sao Paolo Underground.

An acclaimed saxophonist who has played with a variety of ensembles through the years as well as ongoing work as co-founder of the SFJAZZ Collective, Miguel Zenón has dedicated much of his career as a bandleader to exploring the intersection of jazz and the music of his native Puerto Rico. In 2009 Zenón earned critical raves and two Grammy nominations for “Esta Plena,” an album exploring a percussive side of Afro-Carribean folkloric tradition. For Zenón’s latest turn at musical cross-pollination, this year’s “Alma Adentro” turns its ear toward the Puerto Rican songwriters from Zenón’s childhood. (Zenón and his quartet perform at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica on Saturday.)

I started thinking about the connection between the Great American Songbook and jazz music, how that basically fed the jazz repertoire for so long,” he said, speaking by phone before a performance in Oakland earlier this week. “I started thinking that maybe I could do the same thing and explore the Puerto Rican songbook and bring it into the jazz world, and at the same time introduce people to Puerto Rican composers who’ve meant so much to the development of music and culture there.”

Submitted by Courtney on November 21st, 2011 — 12:18pm

Miguel Zenón's unique Latin-jazz fusion

Publication: Sign On San Diego
Author: George Varga
Date: November 15, 2011

A member of the acclaimed SF Jazz Collective and the 2008 recipient of both a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” San Juan-born saxophonist Miguel Zenón is blazing new trails. His rich fusion of jazz and such homegrown Puerto Rican styles as jibaro, plena and bomba is as ingenious as it infectious. Stepped in all of these musical traditions, he is able to dig deeper to make new connections without diluting any of the styles from which he draws. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on November 16th, 2011 — 11:56am