Hearing Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet’s New Holiday Music Album is Anything But Foolish

Courtesy: HouseKat Records

Jazz vocal group Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet is going its part to get audiences into the holiday mindset this year.  The group is doing so through its brand new holiday music record, Fools for Yule.  Released Monday through HouseKat Records, the 11-song record is a relatively good choice for a musical background for any uptown/upscale holiday party. That is proven through its combination of originals and covers.  Among the most notable of the featured covers is the record’s opener, ‘I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm.’  This song will be addressed shortly.  ‘It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas’ is the most notable of the record’s originals and will be examined a little later.  Another notable original featured here is ‘Santa Dear, Where’s Mine?’ This song takes a rather unique approach to the classic story of Santa making his rounds every year.  It will also be discussed later.  Each song noted here does its own part to make Fools for Yule enjoyable.  When they are considered with the rest of the record’s featured works, the whole makes FoolsfFor Yule worth hearing at least once.

Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet’s new holiday music collection, Fools for Yule, is an interesting addition to this year’s field of new holiday music records.  It is a presentation that does well to help set the mood at most holiday parties.  That is proven in its originals and covers alike.  The most notable of the record’s featured covers is the collection’s opener, ‘I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm.’  Originally composed by famed songwriter Irving Berlin (the man behind hit songs, such as ‘White Christmas,’ Puttin’ on the Ritz,’ and ‘Happy Holiday’) for the timeless 1954 musical, White Christmas, the group’s take on the song is a nice take on the song.  Given, the original composition is a full, big-band presentation.  This rendition is a pleasant small group interpretation.  The gentle, flowing time keeping alongside the equally catchy melody performed on the vibraphone makes for such a wonderfully warm musical base for the group’s cover.  Audiences can kind of sense the big band approach taken to the original composition here what with the noted instrumentation.  The vocal approach also hints at the vintage, original take.  At the same time, presented here, it also conjures thoughts of more intimate vocal style from the likes of The Andrews Sisters.  It is a nice update on a standard that despite being a standard is far less commonplace in so many holiday music collections than so many other songs.  Keeping all of that in mind, the song is its own nice addition to the record.  It is just one of the songs that makes the record worth hearing, too.  The group’s original song, ‘It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas’ is also of note.

‘It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas’ is another work that finds Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet really throwing back to the golden age of jazz.  This song sounds like it came right off of Broadway.  That is evidenced through the combination of the multi-part vocal harmony and the gentle instrumentation, the subtle bass line, drums, and piano line.  The equally gentle vibraphone line adds even more warmth to the song as it gets its own moment in the limelight.  The whole makes the song sound just as much like it belongs in some upscale jazz club as on the stages of Broadway.

The lyrical theme that accompanies the song adds to the song’s interest in its own right.  That is because a close listen reveals the song to be quite the contemplative in its lyrical content.  The song’s subject is someone who feels that even being the “best time of the year,” it just doesn’t feel that way for a variety of reasons.  The most common reason is that the song’s subject is without that figure of adoration.  There is also some rumination here about being at a certain age.  As if that is not enough, the song’s subject even sings about having put up a tree and hoping it would boost his/her spirits, but that did not work because that love interest was not there.  That’s a pretty heavy thought, to be honest.  Yet because of the upbeat nature of the song’s musical arrangement, what would have otherwise been a brooding mindset throws back, again, to the kind of wishful thinking style songs that were and are so commonplace in the old musicals of days gone by.  It gives the song in whole such a unique presentation that stands on its own merits.  Keeping that in mind, it is another addition to this record that makes the collection worth hearing, and hardly the last, too.  ‘Santa Dear, Where’s Mine?’ is yet another notable addition to the record.

‘Santa Dear, Where’s Mine?’ is so interesting because it does something that few if any other holiday songs do.  It presents Mrs. Claus as a frustrated spouse who is less than happy about her husband going out on his yearly round the world trip.  She sings in this light, swinging tune, that she understands and appreciates all that he does not only on Christmas, but year round in order to be ready for Christmas.  At the same time, she feels unappreciated because he stays so busy, asking, “Where’s mine?”  She is asking Old St. Nick, “Where is her present?”  On the surface, the song is a great, unique work on that level.  On another level though, the matter of a wife who feels like she is playing second fiddle to her husband’s work and other interests is nothing new.  That in itself is a much more common theme in so much jazz and even blues.  To that end, it makes the song that much more accessible to audiences. The addition of the noted light, swinging musical arrangement, complete with a subtle throwback to the standard, ‘Santa Claus is Coming To Town’ makes the song even more infectious and enjoyable.  That is because there is a certain irony in thinking about Santa coming to town while Mrs. Claus is left back at the North Pole.  It adds even more to the song’s impact.  All things considered, the whole of the song’s musical and lyrical content shows what makes ‘Santa Dear, Where’s Mine?’ a notable addition to Fools for Yule.  What’s more, it works with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the record’s works to leave no doubt about the record’s overall impact.  It all comes together to make Fools for Yule a holiday musical collection that is worth hearing at least once.

Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet’s brand new holiday music collection, Fools for Yule, is an interesting addition to this year’s field of new holiday music releases.  Its interest is proven through its musical and lyrical content alike in each of its songs.  That is proven through all three of the songs examined here.  When those songs are considered along with the rest of the record’s featured works, the whole makes Fools for Yule a holiday record that will fit with any holiday party this year. 

Fools for Yule is available now through HouseKat Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of the group’s latest news at:

Website: https://uptownvocaljazz.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/uptownvocaljazzquartet1

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://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.  

American Playground Another Enjoyable Compilation From Putumayo Kids

Courtesy:  Putumayo World Music

Courtesy: Putumayo World Music

Putumayo Kids has taken young listeners all around the world all from the safety of their own homes and classrooms thanks to its series of compilations featuring music from different regions of America and Europe.  With the release of its latest compilation, American Playground, Putomayo continues that well-established tradition this time by examining a number of children’s favorites set to bluegrass, folk, and gospel settings. 

The ten track compilation includes a solid mix of folk, bluegrass and blues pieces along with a trio of adaptations of hits from Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and jazz composer Irving Berlin.  The cover of Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ stands out as it’s the only jazz piece on the compilation.  But it is still an impressive rendition of the jazz classic nonetheless.  The pairing of Aaron Watson and Elizabeth McQueen for the song is especially interesting considering that both singers are more versed in country music than jazz.  Had listeners not known this, they would never have known that the pair had no background in jazz.  This is in itself a tribute to the choice of artists and songs picked for the compilation’s sequencing.  Watson and McQueen’s take on Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ is a solid interpretation of the jazz classic.  It is impressive enough that one wonders if Putumayo will eventually release a compilation of jazz standards for both kids and their parents.  There is rumor that another album is due out before 2013 is over.  So it would be interesting to see if that in fact becomes the alleged new compilation.

The cover of Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ is a nice touch to this compilation that is otherwise centered largely on roots music.  Of course the roots music compiled for this release is enjoyable in its own right, too.  The cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ is a fitting and touching song.  It shows a side of Dylan that many casual listeners might not otherwise have known about.  Most people know Dylan for his protest songs.  This song is the exact antithesis of those works.  Singer/songwriter Randy Kaplan makes the song even more interesting with his rendition of the song both with this musicianship and his voice.  He actually sounds very similar to a young Bob Dylan with this record.  Its slight gravelly sound and gentility perfectly complements what sounds like a mandolin used in the place of a guitar.  He gives the song a whole new meaning with his rendition that is still powerful in its own way.  It is one more enjoyable piece that parents and children alike will enjoy.

The cover of Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ is another high point to this instantly enjoyable record.  It’s not the last, either.  The compilation closes out fittingly with a cover of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land.’  After taking listeners on a musical journey across the country on the previous songs, this song is a good bookend companion to the compilation’s opening number, ‘She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain.’  Listeners are taken from up high in the mountains in the compilation’s opener, down to the plains, looking up at the blue skies and across the heartland to the final notes of Guthrie’s classic song.  Younger listeners won’t catch it.  But older listeners might catch that one specific line was removed from this rendition of the song.  Why that was done is anyone’s guess.  Even with one specific portion of the song omitted in this rendition—intentionally or not—it doesn’t lose any of its enjoyment.  Along with the remaining material on this compilation, it serves as just one more impressive addition to what is an overall enjoyable compilation for listeners of all ages.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from the Putumayo online store at http://www.putumayo.com/americanplayground?section=kids

Parents and kids can keep up with all of the latest releases from Putumayo and Putumayo Kids online at http://www.facebook.com/putukids, http://www.putumayokids.com, and http://twitter.com/putumayokids

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.