426

Lea Delaria: Be A Santa

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
Christmas can do strange things to musicians: there are plenty of artistic car crashes littering the road to Santa's Grotto. But sometimes an artist gets it right, by luck or by design, and a Yuletide project endures for many years. Vocalist, comedian and Broadway performer Lea DeLaria is, happily, in the latter camp with Be A Santa, an album full of festive standards that swings like a sleigh bell on a Christmas tree and entertains in stylish fashion.

DeLaria, whose Play It Cool (Warner Brothers Records, 2001) was The Times' Jazz Album Of The Year, has taken the eminently sensible step of surrounding herself with some of the UK's finest jazz players. Pianist Janette Mason, excellent throughout, co-arranged the tunes with DeLaria. Their intention, according to the singer, was to recreate the feel of '50s and '60s arrangements and they succeed admirably—authentic, respectful but not too reverential.

Like most Christmases, the album has a couple of less-than-magical moments. The instrumental version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" sounds too much like a brass band Dickens Christmas for comfort (despite Simon Little's excellent bass lines and Martin Shaw's lively trumpet solo), while DeLaria's vocal on Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time is Here" occasionally sounds uncharacteristically tentative. But for the most part the bands bring freshness and originality to these often hackneyed old songs.

DeLaria makes the most of her vocal power on Frank Loesser's bluesy "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"—the tune also features Mason's funky and confident Hammond playing. Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jule Styne's "Be A Santa" finds the singer at her most expressive—the way she phrases "jolly" is a joy. On Felix Bernard and Richard Smith's "Winter Wonderland" her vocal is slightly mellower, with a real sense of looking forward to the snowy weather. DeLaria and Mason give Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" a more upbeat and energetic arrangement than usual: Anthony Kerr contributes a lyrical and bright vibraphone solo while DeLaria adds some scat and closes the track with a festive "Ho, Ho, Ho."

DeLaria and Mason co-composed the only original tune: "A Modern Christmas Tale," which the singer describes as their "Trojan Horse of a track." It's a stunningly accurate take on a '50s Christmas song: indeed, until DeLaria sings about credit cards, parking problems and bling, it could readily pass muster as a song from a Perry Como Christmas Special.

Be A Santa is very definitely a Yuletide album, but it's not one that should be consigned to oblivion for the remaining 11 months of the year. The arrangements and the performances have a quality that ensure the tunes will be just as welcome on a cloudy and wet September evening—after all, a good song isn't just for Christmas.

Track Listing: Santa Claus is Coming to Town; What Are You Doing This New Year's Eve?; Winter Wonderland; Sleigh Ride; Christmas Time is Here; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; A Modern Christmas Tale; The Man With The Bag; Be A Santa; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; White Christmas.

Personnel: Lea DeLaria: vocals; Janette Mason: piano, Hammond organ; Julian Siegel: saxophones; Martin Shaw: trumpet; Anthony Kerr: vibraphone; Simon Little: acoustic bass, electric bass; Mark Fletcher: drums; Geoff Gascoyne: acoustic bass (5, 8, 10).

Title: Be A Santa | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Warner Classics & Jazz


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Slægt CD/LP/Track Review Slægt
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 24, 2017
Read An Eye on the Future CD/LP/Track Review An Eye on the Future
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 24, 2017
Read Cherry ‎– Sakura CD/LP/Track Review Cherry ‎– Sakura
by John Sharpe
Published: September 24, 2017
Read Blow, Strike & Touch CD/LP/Track Review Blow, Strike & Touch
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 24, 2017
Read Elusive CD/LP/Track Review Elusive
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Transitions CD/LP/Track Review Transitions
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 23, 2017
Read "Ziljabu Nights - Live at Theater Gutersloh" CD/LP/Track Review Ziljabu Nights - Live at Theater Gutersloh
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 22, 2017
Read "Onward" CD/LP/Track Review Onward
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 2, 2017
Read "Luck Child" CD/LP/Track Review Luck Child
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "A Tribute to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers" CD/LP/Track Review A Tribute to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 9, 2017
Read "Cross-Platform Interchange" CD/LP/Track Review Cross-Platform Interchange
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 4, 2017
Read "Soul Trio" CD/LP/Track Review Soul Trio
by Anthony Shaw
Published: August 24, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.