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Jazzy Holiday Stocking Stuffers

Jazz Piano
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‘Tis the season…to celebrate. It’s a time of joy where we gather to acknowledge loved ones and show gratitude for our blessings. Many see these days as a time of giving and receiving gifts.

There are many popular Jazz artists releasing music this season that make great gifts. Jazz legends, new and old such as Les McCann, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Joey Alexander and Gregory Porter to name a few. Three recent recordings that I think will brighten your soul and uplift your spirit are by Eric Reed, Raul Midon and Laurin Talese. They are collections of originals, “genre-crossing” with a great mix of ballads, blues and swing.

In Talese, the winner of the NJPAC 7thannual Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition, “Sassy Award,” a bright star has emerged. For her debut recording, Gorgeous Chaos (BASSic Black Entertainment), Laurin Talese has assembled the A team; from Robert Glasper to Christian McBride. Ulysses Owens and Adam Blackstone (of Justin Timberlake and Rhianna, fame) double as co-producers. A musical autobiography, they skillfully execute her journey in song.

Lauren takes inspiration from a time in her life that was emotionally chaotic yet liberating. Her choice to open with a gospel-tinged accapella, “Someone To Watch Over Me,” reveals her confidence as she transforms the tune into something distinctive and personal. The best is yet to come but this songstress is off to a great start.

Raul Midon finds himself in good company with the acclaimed Metropole Orkest, GRAMMY™Award-winning Dutch ensemble, who boast collaborations with artists from Al Jarreau, Elvis Costello and Snarky Puppy is conducted by Vince Mendoza. His sensational new release, If You Really Want(Mack Avenue), features lush arrangements that perfectly compliment to his voice. My two favorite tunes are “Pick Somebody Up” and “Everyone Deserves A Second Chance.”

Blind since birth, Grammy™nominated, Midon, lives in a world of sound. A total package, he is a one-man band, who sings, plays the guitar and the banjo, combines his Latin and Jazz backgrounds.

Eric Reed’s A Light in Darkness(WJ3) may be his most introspective. He writes, “This album has been my most difficult to coalesce for myriad reasons; I’ve had to fight battles to overcome fear and doubts that would endeavor to mar my patch spiritually, personally and artistically…” Renowned drummer/vocalist, Jamison Ross lends his voice to three selections. Written for Donny Hathaway, “Garden Of Sorrow” is not only melancholy, it is stimulating. Reed ends with a re-imagined take on the Beatles classic "Yesterday” blended with Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays” to remind us that there is a ray of a “brighter tomorrow.”

If you are looking for traditional Christmas music to add to that stocking honorable mention goes to Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song, Jimmy Smith’s Christmas Cookin’ and Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. Should you fall into the “bah-humbug” blues listen to Cole singing “Joy to the World” or Smith swinging “Greensleeves” and Guaraldi’s soothing, instrumental version of “Christmas Time Is Here” to get you in the holiday spirit.

Sheila Anderson an author and on air host at WBGO, Newark

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