MICHAEL DOHERTY’S MUSIC LOG reviews Carolyn Lee Jones: “Christmas Time Is Here”

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Carolyn Lee Jones Christmas


Carolyn Jones CD Cover

Carolyn Lee Jones: “Christmas Time Is Here” (2021) CD Review

Vocalist Carolyn Lee Jones delivers a good mix of holiday songs on Christmas Time Is Here, giving us some of the traditional Christmas fare, such as “The Christmas Song” and “White Christmas,” but also some lesser known gems such as “Warm In December” and “Red Christmas.” The arrangements on approximately half the tracks are by Brad Williams, who also plays piano and organ on this album. The other tracks were arranged by David Pierce. Also joining Carolyn Lee Jones on this release are Jonathan Fisher on upright bass and cello, Steven Heffner on upright bass, Lynn Seaton on upright bass and electric bass, Andrew Griffith on drums, Dennis Durick on drums, Tom Burchill on guitar, Todd Parsnow on guitar, Tony Baker on trombone, Dave Monsch on baritone saxophone and alto flute, Mario Cruz on tenor saxophone, Shelley Carrol on tenor saxophone, Keith Jourdan on fluegelhorn and trumpet, Veronica Gans on violin, Imelda Tecson on viola, and Buffi Jacobs on cello.

The album opens with a good rendition of “The Christmas Song.” The vocals are smooth and warm, which is just exactly right for this song, which here is given a bossa nova rhythm. Also helping make this rendition special is Brad Williams’ work on piano, even before his wonderful lead in the second half. Check out Tom Burchill’s guitar lead as well. One holiday song I am always happy to hear is “Christmas Time Is Here,” from A Charlie Brown Christmas (which, as you probably already know, is the absolute best Christmas television special). Carolyn Lee Jones’ rendition has a romantic and magical vibe, and features some really nice work on piano. Adding to the track’s appeal is Jonathan Fisher’s work on cello. Carolyn Lee Jones goes further into a romantic realm with “Warm In December,” one of the album’s highlights. Everything about this track is wonderful – her vocal performance, that bass line, and of course that work by Tony Baker on trombone. This song feels like everything that is good about the holiday,  and I’d be surprised if it didn’t make you smile. “This heart that glows like an ember/Longs to be loved just by you/If it could be so/Then you’d keep me so/Warm in December too.”

“Jingles The Christmas Cat” is kind of a goofy song about Santa’s pet cat. I don’t really care much for the lyrics, but I do love the guitar work by Todd Parsnow during the instrumental section. That’s followed by a song that isn’t really a Christmas song, Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To.” Carolyn Lee Jones delivers a cool rendition, and though it is not a Christmas song, it fits in quite well with the warm, romantic style and feel of much of this album’s holiday material. And the band gets a chance to groove on it. And speaking of romance, she then gives us a sweet rendition of “I’d Like You For Christmas,” a song written by Bobby Troup and released as a single by Julie London in the late 1950s. “I won’t be blue on Christmas/If old Saint Nick comes through/And he remembers that I’d like you for Christmas/New Year’s, Easter too.” And check out Shelley Carrol’s work on sax.

Carolyn Lee Jones delivers a lively rendition of “Merry Christmas Baby,” set at a somewhat faster pace than many versions I’ve heard, the horn section adding more than a dose of fun to the proceedings. Though I’ve always been partial to Chuck Berry’s version, I like the way she approaches the song, and this track ends up being another of the disc’s highlights. That’s followed by another playful tune, “Red Christmas,” this one about the large amount that folks spend on the holiday and having to deal with the bills later. “My Christmas is one that is long overdue.” I particularly like the “carol of the bills” line, obviously a play on “Carol Of The Bells.” And the line “For the telephone’s ringing, and some guy is singing, ‘Just pay the minimum, dear’” made me laugh aloud the first time I heard it. This one was written by Jeanie Perkins.

“Santa Baby” is certainly one of the sexiest Christmas songs around, and at the beginning of Carolyn Lee Jones’ version, the horns have a slow, seductive strut about them, and the bass is tremendously cool and confident. Yeah, even before her vocals come in, this is a really good version. “Santa baby, just slip a sable under the tree for me/Been an awful good girl.” Anything sexier than that? This is my personal favorite track. That’s followed by a kind of odd rendition of “White Christmas.” That rhythm at first seems out of place and gives the song a somewhat cheesy vibe. But I do really like that work on saxophone. Then we get an interesting version of “Toyland.” As with “The Christmas Song,” this one is given something of a bossa nova style, but it still retains that dreamy aspect. The album concludes with “Count Your Blessings (Instead Of Sheep),” which is not really a Christmas song, though it was used in the film White Christmas. This version features a good lead on bass, and has a pleasant vibe. “So if you’re worried and you can’t sleep/Just count your blessings instead of sheep.”

CD Track List

  1. The Christmas Song
  2. Christmas Time Is Here
  3. Warm In December
  4. Jingles The Christmas Cat
  5. You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To
  6. I’d Like You For Christmas
  7. Merry Christmas Baby
  8. Red Christmas
  9. Santa Baby
  10. White Christmas
  11. Toyland
  12. Count Your Blessings (Instead Of Sheep)

Christmas Time Is Here was released on November 1, 2021.

Kari Gaffney

Kari Gaffney

Since 1988 Kari-On Productions has helped artists get an even footing in the industry through jazz promotion in the genres of Jazz, World & Latin Jazz through Jazz Radio and Publicity. Why do we do both, because they compliment each other, and we care about fiscal longevity for the artist.

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