Now here's some music to cozy up to. You can almost feel the warmth of a fire place, smell some spruce and pine, see the falling snowflakes and taste the heaven of hot chocolate in these sounds. Master pianist Mike Renzi, a septuagenarian mainstay of the vocal community whose work has supported everyone from Mel Torme to Lena Horne, and singer Jim Porcella, a lesser-know talent hiding in plain sight, join forces to spread some cheer on Christmas Is: December Duets.
There's an easy rapport at play right from the first notes of this album's swinging "Cool Yule" opener, where Renzi artfully and capably underscores his own harmonic invention with a firm left hand bass line. Then the charms of the season take a deeper hold with a slightly adorned trip through "The Christmas Song," a happy-go-lucky look at "The Holiday Song," a waltz across the floor on "Our First Christmas"enhanced with bass and drumsand a measured and tasteful "Blue Christmas."
All but one song on the program end before the four-minute mark, and more than half don't even make it to three minutes. Yet time is so clearly on this pair's side. They say what they need to say, waste no space, and move on to the next story, be it an overlooked gem like "Christmas Is" or "A Christmas Love Song," a cheery charmer like "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" or "Winter Wonderland," or a jazz-grown favorite like "Snowfall." Renzi, not surprisingly plays as pure class. His skill set, which includes arranging, accompanying, soloing and orchestrating on the fly, is broad. And good taste marks his every move, be it a subtle suggestion or mood-altering modulation. Porcella, playing his part, wraps each melody and lyric in the right packaging. Nobody ever needs another Christmas album, but it's hard not to want one when it sounds like this.
Cool Yule; The Christmas Song; The Holiday Song; Our First Christmas; Blue Christmas; Christmas Is...; I've
Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (From "On the Avenue"); A Christmas Love Song; Snowfall; Winter