holiday roundup

Critic's picks: Harry Connick, Jr. Trio, 'Music From The Happy Elf'; Ellis Marsalis, 'A New Orleans Christmas Carol'; Geri Allen, 'A Child Is Born'

Publication: Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Walter Tunis
Date: December 12, 2011

How curious it is that three of the finer releases in an especially weak pack of new holiday recordings belong to jazz pianists whose take on yuletide sounds could not be more varied?

Pianist Harry Connick Jr.’s Music From The Happy Elf may be the most unexpected of the three. A veteran of several Christmas-themed recordings that showcase his big band and traditional (as well as overtly commercial) pop preferences, Elf presents the pianist in one of his most inviting and overlooked settings: the piano trio.

It’s hard not to smile at the percussive cracks of drummer Arthur Larkin and Connick’s sparse piano mischief during Naughty Children of Bluesville (which sounds like O Tannenbaum trying to escape from a blues cellar) or the way the light, lullaby turns of Christmas Day melt into the intimate swing of What a Night.

Music From The Happy Elf is, aside from a 10-minute opening medley with narration, completely instrumental. Add to that the fact that all of the music is original (but revisited from works Connick composed for the stage musical The Happy Elf) and you have a holiday recording risky and refreshing. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 12th, 2011 — 04:58pm

It's beginning to swing a lot like Christmas

Publication: Chicago Tribune
Author: Howard Reich
Date: December 6, 2011

It’s a Christmas miracle: Holiday music that’s actually worth hearing.

For reasons unknown, several major jazz artists have released seasonal recordings that don’t merely recycle music we’ve already been inundated with in the shopping mall. The best of these albums transcend cliché:

Harry Connick, Jr. Trio: “The Happy Elf” (Marsalis Music): Singer-pianist Connick penned the songs for the stage musical “The Happy Elf,” and here he reformats the score for a noble purpose: introducing young listeners to jazz. Connick narrates the tale in the opening track (which runs a little over 10 minutes), his jazz trio swinging in the background. After that, the album offers 12 tracks of unadulterated instrumental jazz, the music at once subtle and sophisticated enough for the connoisseur yet easily accessible to uninitiated ears. If young people are wooed by Connick’s opening recitation, perhaps they’ll let the record keep spinning. Here’s hoping. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 6th, 2011 — 04:59pm

Good Tidings to You: DownBeat’s Holiday Music Roundup

Publication: Downbeat
Date: December 5, 2011

Read the rest of Downbeat’s picks for holiday music here.

Harry Connick Jr. Trio: Music From The Happy Elf (Marsalis Music)
Music From The Happy Elf is a twofer. If you’ve got young children or grandchildren, The Happy Elf starts off with Connick reading his children’s story about Eubie, the happiest elf on the North Pole, with a sweet backing track by his trio. After that, you’ve got 13 Connick-penned tunes with some nice improvisation. With Neal Caine on bass and Arthur Latin on drums, the trio works out jazz instrumental versions of music written for the stage musical version of the book. And, for the first time, the music and the story are available in one neat holiday package. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 6th, 2011 — 01:22pm