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Late Stuffing Gift Hits

TED ROSENTHAL TRIO : “WONDERLAND” CD AND LIVE AT KITANO, NY

this threesome –Rosenthal, piano, Noriko Ueda, bass; Tim Horner, drums– have been a working trio for sometime now.  the always innovative Rosenthal has reinterpreted pieces of Americana such as Gershwin and added his own touches to Europeans.  in “Wonderland” (Playscape Recordings) we find both.  they performed solid sets to sold out tables on a stormy night at the classy Kitano Room on Park Ave. in NYC.

in addition to the re-harmonized and re-melodized trad Christmas fare we find “Santa (Monk) Claus Is Coming To Town” –interjection mine– with Thelonious’ quirky rhythms and harmonies contained therein, Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Reed Flutes,” a swinging version which favorably compares to the standard bearer Ellington/Strayhorn from their “Nutcracker Suite,” features Horner’s hands-on-drum, and a completely startling bebop in a swift swing 4/4 reworking of the hymn “Angels We Have Heard On High” with Horner doing some fine brush work.  there’s even a thread of “A Child Is Born” woven into the intro to “Silent Night.”

Rosenthal’s own “Snowscape,” the surprise entry, closes the CD.  at Kitano he wrapped his beautiful melody around another from the collection, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” originally sung by Judy Garland to Margaret O’Brien in the film “Meet Me In St. Louis,” it has become a year-round ballad staple of longing and remembrance with the Holiday used as metaphor.

Kitano –which is a traditional ceremonial Japanese Samurai sword with crafted handles; i have four– is a tastefully appointed intimate room in the hotel of the same name serving cuisine with a decidedly Asian accent.  located just below Grand Central Terminal but with world-class jazz talent, you tend to get an admixture of out-of-towners and jazzers.  the acoustics are such that whispers may be heard clearly.  owner Gino greets and oversees every set.  the knowledgeable and affable bartender shakes his drinks to the rhythms of the tunes being played so as not to disturb.

http://playscape-recordings.com

ANITA O’DAY : “HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS WITH ANITA O’DAY”

the ever-to-the-left jazz singer O’Day recorded something decades ago which i never even dreamed she would: a Christmas album.  or did she?  hidden among the pine trees these evergreens have recently been removed from the forest and decorated for all of us.  (enough with the metaphors already!)  it has surfaced as “Have A Merry Christmas With Anita O’Day” (Kayo Stereophonic) a select collection of Holiday faves but a fine addition to anyone’s Holiday collection.

the CD presents the Anita O’Day bebop style she utilized –the three syllables made from one, “me-ee-ee” and “you-ooh-ooh”– beginning with the Stan Kenton band, then moving on to pop stardom with Gene Krupa –”Let Me Off Uptown,” “Murder, He Says”– then to recordings on her own for Verve and others.  O’Day has influenced more singers than most.  a highlight was her big hat and gloves appearance in the Newport Jazz Festival flick “Jazz On A Summer’s Day.”

the current CD in all of its 25+minute length sounds like a private recording, and that’s a supposition as there are no notes available to suggest otherwise save that it was recorded in the 1970s with an anonymous trio.  (on the CD  she calls her pianist “Castro;” that might have been Joe Castro who was her west coast accompanist for a time in that period.)

there is one reprise, “The Christmas Song,” which was from a radio broadcast live in 1942 accompanied by a phantom band.  the remainder of the tracks are  standard Christmas songs: “Jingle Bells,” “White Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “Let It Snow” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”  there is one selection new to these ears, however, a bauble called “One More Christmas.”  no composer credits.

O’Day was one of what i call the vibrato-less “breathless” singers, which included Chris Connor and June Christy, ex-Kentonians all.  she made it okay for singers with a limited range to not-really-sing the melodies but to work around the harmonies.

to my knowledge this is all we’ve got from the under-praised Anita O’Day singing Christmas fare.  this rara avis is a special surprise.

http://anitaoday.biz

©arnold jay smith December 2013


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