Holiday Happiness Is…

Holiday Happiness Is…

…revisiting my Spotify Yuletide Swing playlist. Always curating, refining, polishing. I hope it brings you some smiles, warmth, groove, a swing to your step and extra light to your holiday season.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/122443908/playlist/4wwednfVfn9ZQDRHLKNRgv

Rising star jazz singer

A recent profile in The New Yorker magazine introduced me to the remarkable jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant, who at just 27 is already becoming legendary in the field for her preternatural breadth and soulfullness. I’m working my way through her (as yet) small catalog, but this album alone makes all the case for those enconiums. The variety of the arrangements by Aaron Diehl are also remarkable: I’m particularly looking forward to stealing… er, paying homage to the groove in “John Henry.” It’s such a kick to catch an artist of this caliber at the start of their career and anticipate the riches to come. This is an album that bears multiple listenings, revealing new layers and flavors each time.

Kicking off the holiday spirit

Kicking off the holiday spirit

UPDATE: After publishing last week’s post, I was made aware that Rick Gallagher has a brand new holiday album out this year, which I spent this past weekend getting to know. Like his existing two, “Christmas Tidings” has unfailingly put me in the spirit – and given the mood in the U.S. right now that’s no mean feat. The invention and diversity of the arrangements on this new album match those of the previous ones: a nod at “Poinciana” in “Do You Hear What I Hear”, the 5/4 waltz beat of “Angels We Have Heard On High”, a smile-inducing country twang in a couple of the numbers… It’s also great to hear material not usually included in the fairly limited tradition rep. Guaranteed to make you feel carefree for a while. Highly recommended. Check it out via the image below.


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Although I’m not religiously observant, I always revel in the December holiday season as a time to celebrate community, generosity, joy. Holiday music of all kinds is a great love of mine, so I’ll be devoting my posts across December to it.

To kick it off I’m revisiting two albums I discovered last year by Pittsburgh-based jazz pianist Rick Gallagher. Both of these were an integral part of my 2015 holiday season: check them out via the images below and you’ll see why.

This is deep, trenchant playing across all moods. In particular, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” on Snowriding is one of the most sublime ballad performances I’ve ever heard. Like a top shelf cognac, this poignant track will erase your cares. But they’re all good.

Both these albums figure heavily in my holiday Spotify playlist, Yuletide Swing. It skews towards uptempo swing / bebop piano trio jazz, though there’s a few big band and other genre numbers in there (gotta have Guaraldi and Ella). It’s publicly available: I hope it gives your holiday some lift.