Friday, December 05, 2008

Christmas CD Review #3

Now we are talking! OK, I guess with the Tony Bennett, the best comparison I can give you is Diana Krall's Christmas Songs from last year. And Diana's was far better. An easy-listening, swinging Christmas croon. Tunes you know, done in a way you want to hear them, fun for the car & the kitchen, but also a decent repeatable listen.

Harry Connick Jr is totally different. This is a jazz man at the peak of his powers, giving us a jazz CD that shows off a variety (though I don't think all) of his talents. The version I have is the 18 song disc from Barnes & Noble, and the generally available disc of What a Night in the UK only has 15 songs. That version still comes in at about an hour - so pretty good value when compared to Mr Bennett.

And there are plenty of comparisons to make. Both singers duet with their daughters - Harry wins. His daughter is about 12 and the track is a bit cutesy, but it's also a laugh & makes fun of the "old man" (42 - what, a third of TB's age?) in the arrangement (obviously done by HCJ, who does all his own arrangements). HCJ is in his prime. At his peak. Phenomenal. Throwing in guest artists because he loves to, though as a listener I just wanted more of him.

It's not an easy listen. I think one track is simply misjudged (one of the two duets with Kim Burrell) & other stuff is nice, neat, hard-core Big Band. Last time's Seasonal offering from Harry (Harry for the Holidays) used a lot of New Orleans type rhythms. Here, we go (mostly) back to swing. But it couldn't be further from the simple expectations of the Tony Bennett album if it tried - and I think it probably did!

I kept loving it. Even O Come all ye Faithful, which at first I did not like (I have a thing about crooners needing to avoid sounding too 'holy' on these things), I went back to, and it's now starting to make sense to me.

There are familiar songs (Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Winter Wonderland, and the best Jingle Bells I have ever EVER heard), a few of Harry's own (What a Night, Santarrific, the very Gospelly Song for the Hopeful) and a couple of instrumentals (Sugar Plum Fairy - well, OK, it grows on you; We Three Kings is fantastic) and if you are going to risk a jazzy addition to your Christmas listening this season, then risk one that demands something of you. Risk this one.

Though Harry for the Holidays is also great. And if you are feeling a bit cowardly but want something to lift you, go for the Diana Krall.

What a Night is getting 4.75 stars out of 5. I feel mean at 4.5. And it's not quite a 5 - the first Kim Burrell duet just doesn't have me.

And here is a picture of the dog & I listening to Harry as we finish putting the tree up. Christmas is coming! We need ourselves a Goose with Body/Mass Index issues!

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