Perpetual Change Reviews — Jennifer Leitham & Kylie Minogue

| Nov 16, 2015

CD Reviews

Hard to believe, but it’s that time of year again. So, with that in mind, here are two reviews of Christmas music CDs that I’ve managed to recently acquire. The first is Jennifer Leitham’s  Future Christmas, which came out last year, but I wasn’t able to get a chance to review it before my deadlines at that time. The second Christmas CD is Kylie Christmas by Kylie.

jennifer-leitham-xmas-cdWe’ve featured Ms. Leitham several times in the past. but for those not in the know, she is one of the best traditional jazz bass players around. She works with a trio and for this album, along with Jennifer on bass, vocals, sleigh bells and water drops, Andy Langham is on piano. On drums (and more sleigh bells) is Randy Drake. Production by Jennifer Leitham, with executive producers JoAnn Martin, Saul Kent, and Roberta Conroy.

The project is an interesting balance of traditional Christmas tunes, plus some unique tunes, and the one original, the title track  Future Christmas. It’s also a nice balance of instrumentals and vocals.

The first cut is an instrumental version of Angles We Have heard On High, and is given a great jazz interpretation by the trio. Other instrumentals include a very beautiful Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, played with bowed bass; Little Drummer Boy/Big Bass Girl, which is a bass and drum solo throughout; Winter Wonderland, which is the best traditional jazz trio piece on the project and one of the outstanding tunes; Jingle Bells, which is the most uptempo version of this tune you’ll probably ever hear;  and the project’s closing tune, O Tannenbaum, which is a bass only solo.

I’d like to pause here to comment on Jennifer’s playing. While it’s always completely outstanding, this time around it’s more so, and there’s a specific reason for that. “This album was recorded just after an unfortunate softball accident resulted in a fracture of the 5th metacarpal bone in my right hand,” Jennifer said. “My trio mates Randy and Andy, our engineer Andy Waterman and his staff, and Dr. Steven Lin all did yeoman service to help me pull through this painful yet somehow joyous ordeal. Every note on this recording is dripping with love and I’d do it over again a thousand times.” When you hear some of the stunning solos, along with the bow work, it’s hard believe each session was a painful experience. You certainly can’t tell she had any problems, and the aforementioned “joyous ordeal” translates to a joyous listening experience.

The tracks with Jennifer’s vocal’s are also unique. Feels Like Home For Christmas is a sort of medley of I’ll Be Home For Christmas, along with Randy Newman’s Feels Like Christmas. Christmas Time Is Here is not only one of the better vocals, but being a laid back tune to begin with, it’s also an excellent example of consummate bass and piano work. The most unique thing I’ve ever heard on a Christmas project is Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern). If there’s such a thing as a dark sounding Christmas tune, this is it. Written by Bob Dorough and recorded by him with Miles Davis in 1962, it combines the original arrangement along with some updates Mr. Dorough did at a later time. It’s in a lower vocal register than Jennifer is used to and she admits it does sound dark — but it’s supposed to.

The full title of the album’s namesake song is Future Christmas (The Global Warming Winter Holiday Blues). This is what Jennifer has to say about the song: “When I first put my mind to writing an original Christmas tune, it occurred to me that most of the non-religious songs were about snow. When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, it seemed that every winter there was a white Christmas. In today’s world, it is increasingly rare. Our way of living is being threatened like never before. It’s up to us to connect with our inner voice, drive the bus, and celebrate changing the paradigm. ” The song definitely does that. Whether or not you’re a true believer in global warming/climate change, it does make you pause and think. Kind of a good way to use this season of the year to look at the bigger picture.

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to interview Jennifer and I have several of her CDs. The playing on Future Christmas, though, and especially the solos, is superb. She’s at her level best and Mr. Lanham’s piano work and Mr. Drake’s drumming is so tight it sounds like there’s a lot more than just a trio playing here.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re into jazz — give yourself and every music lover on your Christmas list a gift of this CD.

As I already noted, this CD came out last year. However, Jennifer does have a new project out entitled Mood Swings. Her music can be purchased through her web site at www.jenniferleitham.com, as well as through major online sources such as Amazon.com. Jennifer Leitham is also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

NEW MUSIC

Kylie Christmas by Kylie Minogue

KylieMinogue1The 13 tracks on Kylie’s just released Christmas project run the gamut from traditional songs, to a couple of rockers, some “girl group” moments and some very unique songs I’ve never heard before.

The traditional material, songs that you’d sort of expect to hear on a Christmas CD, are the highly orchestrated It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year; Santa Clause Is Coming To Town (featuring the posthumous voice of Frank Sinatra); Winter Wonderland; Let It Snow (her best vocal on the project); Santa Baby; and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, which is probably the best production moment and truly an outstanding track.

Along with the aforementioned “duet” with Sinatra, Kylie’s choice for other vocal partners is…uh, unique. Along with Iggy Pop, she covers The Waitresses’ Christmas Wrapping, and on Only You, James Corden is featured.

There are two tunes that throw back to 1960s “girl group” times. I’m Gonna Be Warm This Winter and White December are done in a way that is not only fun to listen to, but sounds totally authentic for that style and that period.

The songs that were new to me, as far as Christmas material goes, are the highly orchestrated 2000 Miles and Christmas Isn’t Christmas ‘Til You Get Here.

This not your typical Christmas album fare by any stretch. It’s worth the price just to hear Kylie duet with Sinatra and Iggy Pop. Having said that, though, she handles the more traditional music with ease. This is a good addition to anyone’s Christmas music collection.

Kylie Christmas has been released in more than one version. My review is of the main album release. There is a deluxe version which included three additional songs-Oh Santa, 100 Degrees and Cried Out Christmas. There is also a 6 track DVD available. Produced by Steve Anderson, except White December, produced by Matt Prime and the Stargate production of Every Day’s Like Christmas. www.kylie.com, also on Facebook and Twitter.)

Cheers To The Fall by Andra Day

QMgC5KIThis is Andra Day’s debut project. Not only is she an accomplished vocalist, but she also wrote every song on the project, along with a host of co-writers. Her vocal style has been described as kind of a “throw back voice.” That’s probably the best way to describe what she sounds like, because if you’re even remotely familiar with Billie Holiday, Etta James and Nina Simone, you’ll understand what is meant by “throwback.” She nails the type of vocal inflections of Holiday and James while still managing to exude her own sound and style.

The album tends to stay within a light rock/R&B groove, with minimal orchestration. Some of the deviations from that trend are Only Love, which is Latin sounding but could work as a James Bond theme song if you use your imagination; Not Today which is definitely a huge production but also one of the best vocal performances; Gin & Juice (Let Go My Hand), almost a country groove; and the project’s title track (which is also the last track on the CD for some reason), Cheers To The Fall. It starts with a pseudo-reggae groove, but moves into R& B territory.  Also one of the best vocals Andra Day presents here.

This is an excellent debut project. Nothing of mega hit status yet, but her writing and vocal ability will definitely propel her that way in the near future. She is certainly a singer and song writer worth paying attention to.

The album uses multiple producers, so check out the CD insert for proper production and musician credits. For more information, check out www.andraday.com, also on Facebook and instagram.

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Category: Music

About Pam Degroff: Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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