by Tom Haugen
Christmas Time Is Here
Catn’round Sound, 2021
An enormous talent who appeared on the jazz scene in 2008, Carolyn Lee Jones has impressed us in plenty of outfits that includes big bands, and here she delivers a holiday album where her rich pipes are in the company of many players across the dozen interpretations.
“The Christmas Song” gets the album off to a festive start, where Jones’ smooth pipes are met with Jonathan Fisher’s warm bass and Brad Williams’ flowing piano work, and “Christmas Time Is Here” follows with Fisher handling cello and Tom Burchill’s sublime guitar playing highlighting the comforting and emotive climate.
Deeper into the listen, Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” bounces with a charming spirit thanks to Andrew Griffith’s agile drumming, Keith Jordan’s soulful fluegelhorn and, of course, Jones’ cozy pipes, while “Red Christmas” recruits Todd Parsnow’s skilled guitar and Dennis Durick’s accomplished drumming for the breezy album highlight.
“White Christmas” lands closer to end and showcases Mario Cruz’s elegant sax amid strings from Veronica Gans, Imelda Tecson and Buffi Jacobs for a very sophisticated interpretation of the standard, and “Count Your Blessings (Instead Of Sheep)” exits the listen with bright keys and Steven Heffner’s precisely plucked bass that support Jones’ incredible singing superbly.
A very pleasant mix of songs we all know, but have never heard quite like this, and lesser known holiday music that’s just as impactful, Jones makes excellent use of bossa nova and swing moments on this timeless Christmas listen.