Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas CD of the Year - "Anna Mjöll: Christmas Jazzmaz"

Christmas CD of the Year
Anna Mjöll: "Christmas Jazzmaz" (Tónaljón) 2010

Music performance: *****
Sound quality: *****
Featuring: Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Ólafur Gaukur (acoustic & electric guitars), Dave Carpenter (bass), Don Grusin (piano & keyboards), Luis Conte (percussion) and Charlie Bisharat (violin).

In a few words? OK. The most charming and enchanting songstress in the current jazz scene has released the best "Christmas album" of this century.

Really? Yes, absolutely!!! Throughout the years, dozens of jazz artists have issued Christmas projects. Most recently, back in 2005, Diana Krall released the excellent "Christmas Songs" CD, with a big budget production directed by Tommy LiPuma and the impeccable backing of the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. No surprises to be found, though. The typical Christmas tunes with nice vocals and predictable arrangements.

Five years later we get Anna Mjöll's "Christmas Jazzmaz." What a difference! Surprises abound on each track. Backed by a small group, with smart scores by producer Ólafur Gaukur (who happens to be Anna's father, and is a guitarist whose touch and phrasing on the acoustic instrument reminds me of Luiz Bonfa's approach on the 12-string guitar), the LA-based Icelandic Jazz Princess delivers fresh and creative performances of such songs as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Winter Wonderland," "Sleigh Ride," "The Christmas Song" and "White Christmas."

Even the opener "Jingle Bells" sounds intriguing and -- I know it will be hard to believe -- "new". Actually, I had to hold my breath during the first five songs, since "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let is snow" is a pure delight and I can't find words to express my feelings for her "Santa Baby." Do yourself a favor and listen. Never a vocal Christmas jazz albums sounded so charming and ...seductive! Anna's phrasing and the highly personal tone of her silky "innocent" voice (the missing link between Bjork and Blossom Dearie) are pure delight. And again: so far, the best Christmas CD of this century. Happy Holidays!

To order a CD copy or a digital download:

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