How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Mixology. In higher education, once one develops the aptitude and achieves a doctorate in something like Pharmacology or Molecular Biology, that person can migrate among many disciplines, blurring the lines between these disciplines. So with the arts. Many famous painters also sculpted and worked many across periods. In music, there are those who can transcend style, thereby setting new ones. Carri Coltrane is one of the fortunate who can do this.
Several of her recent recordings have crossed my desk, and this seasonal disc caught my ear. Is this jazz? Is this Popular? Is this New Age? The answer is : all of them and none of them. Using sparse instrumentation and superb execution, Child Inside My Heart is an effective offering of traditional and original seasonal songs. Ms. Coltrane (is that a great Jazz name, or what?) has a dense yet pliable vocal style that reminds me of Diane Schurr's midrange. She coos a breathy "O Holy Night", while gracefully belting "What Child is This." Ted Brancato provides facile accompaniment, sounding like a cross between Liz Story and Thelonious Monk on the same two pieces. Soprano saxophonist Matt Langley provides perfect comping and soloing throughout. The style of all of this cannot easily be pinned down.
The Songs. The nontraditional songs on this disc are pleasant and immediately accessible. I found myself singing "Mary Did You Know" and "Angels Dwell" (melody based on Chopin's D flat major Prelude) after several spins under the laser. They are lyrically and musically hook-filled. The disc closer, "You Believe" has a wonderfully contemporary churchy feel. Of the traditional carols, "Emmanuel" reveals itself a disc highlight, opening and closing a quasi-vocalese of the melody. Ms. Coltrane has an unusually pure voice, with a broad palette of effects from which to draw.
Happy Holidays. This is a readily accessible, nonsecular Christmas release that celebrates the Christian tradition. It is warmly recorded, perfect for the family gathering with the fire blazing and the eggnog flowing. Or for a candle-lit holiday ritual more quietly intimate.
Track Listing: Oh, Holy Night, Mary Did You Know, Away in the Manger, Child Inside My Heart, Emmanuel, Angels Dwell, Silent Night, Love is All I know, What Child is This, You Believe.
Personnel: Carri Coltrane: Vocals, Ted Brancato: Piano and Irish Bodhran Drum, Matt Langley: Soprano Saxophone, Eugene McDaniels: Vocals (You Believe).