JAZZ BLUES MAGAZINE
by Ron Weinstock
CAROLYN LEE JONES Christmas Time Is Here CATN’ROUND SOUND With a warm, velvety voice, Carolyn Lee Jones treats listeners to several holiday favorites ranging from familiar classics given a fresh sheen to lesser known gems. A sophisticated jazz-pop singer, Ms. Jones is accompanied by a variety of musicians. These include Brad Williams on keyboards and arrangements; Jonathan Fisher, Steven Heffer, or Lynn Sexton on bass; and Andrew Griffith or Dennis Durick on drums. David Pierce also contributed some arrangements, while Tom Burchill or Todd Parsnow are heard on guitar.
The album opens with Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song” transformed with a Brazilian bossa nova and choice acoustic guitar from Burchill. New to these ears is the title track Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi composed. Jonathan Fisher’s cello adds to the atmosphere under Ms. Jones’ lovely vocal. Her melodious singing is exquisite throughout, with her perfect pitch and the clarity of her phrasing. She receives supple, swinging backing, and there are marvelous solos throughout, including trombonist Tony Baker on “Warm in December,” guitarist Parsnow on “Jingle the Christmas Cat,” and flugelhornist Keith Jourdan on the standard “You’d Be So Nice To Come To.” There is an imaginative transformation of the Charles Brown blues-ballad, “Merry Christmas Baby,” into a jump blues shuffle with her softly sung vocal and Dave Monsch’s booting baritone sax solo. However, Ms. Jones’ soft singing is more suited to the original ballad form of the tune. In contrast, “Santa Baby” suits her soft, sultry vocal style. “White Christmas” has a smooth jazz tinge with a string section added along with a driving tenor sax solo from Mario Cruz. One notable new song is Jeanie Perkins’ “Red Christmas,” where she playfully sings about holiday spending and the guest that won’t leave.
Victor Herbert’s “Toyland” is given a light bossa nova feel with Tony Baker’s dulcet trombone enhancing her dreamy solo. A rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessings (instead of sheep)” brings “Christmas Time Is Here” to a charming close. Carolyn Lee Jones has produced a thoroughly enchanting Holiday album with inventive arrangements of familiar holiday classics and some lesser-known but deserving songs.