A Playful, Eclectic, Un-Cheesy Christmas Jazz Album From Singer Vienna Carroll

by delarue

Singer Vienna Carroll is best known for bringing a fascinating level of historical insight to her songwriting and interpretations of black American folk music from across the decades and centuries. But she’s also an actress, and she has great comedic timing. She has a new Christmas album, Mary Had a Baby streaming at youtube.

The track that’s getting a lot of traction is Santa Baby, Carroll exchanging increasingly sly innuendo with percussionist Keith Johnston. The band – which also includes pianist Dan Furman and bassist Michael O’Brien – give the song a saloon jazz flair.

The group reinvent Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas Time Is Here as a jazz waltz, Carroll airing out the expressive side of her lower register. The album’s impassioned, resolute gospel title track is the closest thing to Carroll’s earlier work. And the third number, Alone in the World features a lush but restrained string section over lyrical piano: this song from the cult favorite 1962 cartoon Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol has unexpected angst for holiday album fare. Which is another reason why this tantalizingly short record transcends the limits of a genre that makes a lot of people wish December 26 would come a month earlier.

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