Ken Serio is a prolific recording artist and now brings forward a collection of Christmas songs on a new album entitled A Jazzy Yuletide. Ken and his fellow musicians from The Jazz Warriors have compiled a collection of songs that represent an alternative to the over played tunes we are used to hearing at this time of year. Included are a couple of original compositions from Serio with The ‘Christmas Traffic Blues’ and ‘Mystic Nor’Easter’.
The album starts well with a gentle guitar led ‘Carol of the Bells’ with a subtle but distinctive jazz line. The next three tracks don’t really work for me on a jazz level, they are nicely sung but there is insufficient variation from the originals to make them stand out. ‘The Snowman (Walking in the Air)’ has had the wonderment of the original sucked out of it and I struggled to hear where the arranger wanted to take me as a listener.
Things pick up a with ‘Deck the Halls’, an instrumental, with a fresh sounding arrangement without losing sight of the original. ‘Sleigh Ride’ has some very nice piano lines and I do like the way that Josi Davis puts across the lyrics. The piano lines are jaunty with the guitar of Sinan Bakir softening out the sound – this could be the standout track of the album. The first of the original compositions is ‘The Christmas Traffic Blues’ and it is a blues number. Good guitar and rhythm with support from the piano of Tomoko Ohno. I did like the bass line from Jedd Chlebowski on this number. This is a well written jazz blues number that comes across well.
‘What Child Is This?’ has a light Latin rhythm and makes good use of Josi Davis’ vocal range. The piano led melody is relaxed and this continues through the guitar section. The drumming is supportive and at no point overpowers the other musicians, which I really liked. The second of the original compositions from Ken Serio, ‘Mystic Nor’Easter’ feels out of place in relation to the other tracks on the album and does not really go anywhere. A Jazzy Yuletide finishes with a jazz ballad/lullaby that works rather well. The vocals are well paced and there is enough tonal variation to make the tune interesting and fitting as the album’s closing number
Even though A Jazzy Yuletide has a title with a specific theme this album is much more of a jazz album with a feel for Christmas. It was important that the album remained a mainstream straight-ahead piece of jazz and not veer into the world of Christmas kitch.Press release
This album did not “not veer into the world of Christmas kitch” but neither can I say that it felt like a “mainstream straight-ahead piece of jazz”. There are some good tunes here and some good arrangements. The musicianship is what stands out for me: I just should have liked to have heard more jazz. Christmas jazz albums are difficult to deliver and not many have succeeded, sadly, this one joins that list – ba, humbug!
Musicians: Ken Serio – drums and percussion; Tomoko Ohno – piano and keyboards; Josi Davis – vocals; Sinan Bakir – guitar; Jedd Chlebowski – bass.
Tracklist: 1. Carol of the Bells. 2. Ge’su Bambino. 3. Silver Bells. 4. The Little Drummer Boy. 5. Mele Kalikimaka. 6. The Snowman (Walking in the Air). 7. Deck the Halls. 8. Sleigh Ride. 9. The Christmas Traffic Blues. 10. What Child is This? 11. Mystic Nor’Easter. 12. Goodnight.