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Sid Gribetz

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Leonhardt’s piano is everywhere it should be
Bob Gish
Jazz Improv Magazine
Nov 29, 2005

In a season of upside-down Christmas trees and a topsy-turvy world, it’s a pleasure to come home to The David Leonhardt Jazz Group’s Santa’s bag full of traditional and familiar musical presents delivered in this far from ordinary CD.

Sure, all the old “chestnuts” are here, including “The Christmas Song” and the title cut, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” along with a baker’s dozen of the other seasonal sound goodies which we invariably come home to this time every year.

Admittedly, such a holiday trip is at times tiring, and just like heading for grandma’s house or the mall, maybe a bit routine; however, Leonhardt, Reed, and company liven up the journey this time around, and, in effect, spike the festivities with some zing to the songs and the singing.

Reed’s vocals are no mere stocking stuffers. This is apparent from the first track where her deep throated resonance takes command, announcing that we’re in for some classy renderings to follow. The snow of “Let it Snow” melts a bit under the Latin warmth of “Winter Wonderland” and the instrumental blending of her background harmonizing in the exotic arrangement of “We Three Kings” and the swinging “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” No one can resist her romantic and convincing salutation in “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” done with such reassurance as to make every Ebenezer out there reciprocate in kind. “Okay,” is all one can say to her jazzy admonitions in “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “If you’ll continue to scat along with him.” “Sleigh Ride,” although beginning as something of a “Little Drummer Boy” march soon turns into another showcase for Reed’s voice as smooth-gliding unison instrument. Such mellifluence holds true throughout, including a be-bopy “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

Leonhardt’s piano is everywhere it should be, often times where it’s unexpected, but always with an ear to exquisite ensemble playing. From the lilting renditions of “O, Christmas Tree” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear;” to the surprising cha, cha, chas of “Jingle Bells;” and the shinning textures of “The Christmas Song” and “White Christmas;” and all the obbligatos in between, Leonhardt compactly delivers here on the promises of his celebrated Winter Holiday Jazz Concert program. His share and share alike Christmas spirit is confirmed, too, in his duets with Larry McKenna, featured on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (with sterling interplay between piano and sax), as well as “Frosty the Snowman.” Taro Okamoto’s solo and fours on “White Christmas” especially along with Matthew Parrish’s steady bass lines uniformly enhance the ensemble.

HangI’ll Be Home for Christmason the tree, top or bottom, or just wrap it up. You can forget the bow though; it’s pretty enough by itself.

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