Jazz/pop songstress Ala.ni made headlines over the summer when she used her music to bring renewed attention to the decades old murder of Emmitt Till. She combined her music with a poem written by journalist/activist Claudia Jones written in 1955 following Till’s murder, to make the song ‘Lament for Emmitt Till.’ Now months later, Ala.ni is back and making headlines for a less serious reason – the release of her debut holiday compilation. Simply titled Christmas Vol. 1, the five-song record was released independently Monday. It is a presentation that will appeal equally to Ala.ni’s fan base just as much as those who are fans of traditional holiday music. That is proven in part through the record’s featured songs, which will be discussed shortly. The songs’ arrangements add their own appeal to the EP’s presentation and will be discussed a little later. The sequencing of the songs puts the finishing touch to the EP’s presentation. When it is considered along with the record’s overall content, the whole of this record becomes an intriguing new addition to this year’s field of holiday music offerings.
Ala.ni’s debut holiday music compilation Christmas Vol. 1 is an interesting new offering from the up-and-coming jazz/pop singer-songwriter. It is a presentation that is certain to appeal to her fans just as much as those of traditional holiday music. This is proven in part through the record’s featured songs. Ala.ni pulls in three classic songs – ‘Let It Snow,’ ‘Winter Wonderland,’ and ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ – to make up part of the record’s body. Additionally, she presents a cover of the lesser-known traditional song ‘In The Bleak Midwinter,’ which is based on poet Christina Rossetti’s 1872 poem ‘A Christmas Carol’ to add to the record’s interest. As if that is not enough, Ala.ni also added her own original song, ‘Christmas Day’ to the record’s body. In essence, what Ala.ni has done in presenting such diversity in such a small space is ensured that she reached as many listeners as possible. Needless to say, taking such an approach will prove successful for the EP. It ensured that as few listeners as possible were left feeling alienated in the long run. This was a wise move, as it builds a strong foundation for the record. It is just one aspect of the EP that makes it successful. The arrangements that are featured within the songs build on that foundation and strengthen it even more.
The musical arrangements that are featured in Ala.ni’s debut holiday music compilation are important to address because they are not just mirror images of their source material. Case in point is the arrangement featured in Ala.ni’s take of ‘Winter Wonderland,’ which opens the EP. Her own unique vocal delivery is present here, but her rendition has far less swing than say the rendition made so popular by Bing Crosby or even the original opus, which was composed way back in 1934 by Felix Bernard. It is a nice, relaxed arrangement that does stay true to its source material, but the use of the backing vocals and subtle bells couples with Ala.ni’s vocals to make this its own unique presentation.
Ala.ni’s take on ‘In The Bleak midwinter’ is intriguing in its own right. That is because much like so many renditions, it strays from the rendition first made popular in 1911 by Harold Darke. Darke’s choral version was written in more of a major key. Meanwhile, every version since, including hers, is presented in the more familiar minor key. That minor key approach gives the song a certain solemnity, given. At the same time though, gives the song a wholly separate identity from that of Darke’s original composition. Darke’s version is solemn even in its choral presentation, but is even more uplifting. The addition of the cellos to Ala.ni’s rendition does of course make it stand out from so many others that have come before. That, coupled with her – again – familiar vocal delivery style makes the arrangement even more interesting.
‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ presents one more example of the importance of the musical arrangements featured in Christmas Vol. 1. Ala.ni has taken another standard in this case, and used her familiar vocal delivery style, paired that with such a gentle melody and in turn created a work that is even more deeply emotional than the rendition made so popular by Judy Garland in 1944. That is not to say that Garland’s version is bad by any means. Ala.ni’s version just paints a rich musical picture of a warm fireplace….basically one of those scenes from those Hallmark movies. The vibrato is Ala.ni’s voice is used in all of the right points while the use of the cello and piano is just subtle enough to collectively add so much depth and emotion to the song. It gives the song its own unique identity here, point blank; an identity that listeners will love. When this arrangement is considered along with the others addressed here and those of the record’s other two songs, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the EP’s musical content. Even with that in mind, it is not the last of the record’s most important elements. The EP’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.
The sequencing of Christmas Vol. 1 is interesting in its own right because of how it plays into the EP’s energy. From start to end, the record’s energy constantly rises and falls. It opens on a relaxed but upbeat note in ‘Winter Wonderland’ but then pulls back immediately after in ‘In The Bleak Midwinter.’ ‘Let It Snow’ picks things back up from that point before making way for more reserved energy of her original song, ‘Christmas Day.’ The whole thing ends on the laid back but so deeply rich cover of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,’ leaving listeners feeling so fulfilled. The smooth transitions from the reserved and more “upbeat” songs throughout keep the record from being too monotonous musically and aesthetically. When this is considered along with the record’s overall content, the whole becomes a work that Ala.ni’s fans will welcome this and any holiday season just as much as fans of holiday music in general.
Ala.ni’s new holiday music compilation Christmas Vol. 1 is an interesting new seasonal music collection. It is a presentation that audiences will find worth hearing at least occasionally. That is proven in part through its featured songs. The songs give listeners a little something familiar, some new, and something less familiar all in one setting. In other words, it gives listeners the best of both worlds, so to speak. The arrangements featured in the songs take Ala.ni’s trademark vocal style and pairs that with some elements that give the traditional songs and her own original their own unique identities. The sequencing of the collective content puts the final touch to the record, ensuring in its own way, audiences’ engagement and entertainment. When it is considered with the content overall, all three elements make this record its own unique holiday music presentation that is worth hearing at least occasionally. Christmas Vol. 1 is available now.
More information on Ala.ni’s new holiday music collection is available online along with all of Ala.ni’s latest news at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.