The spirit of Christmas past, present and future overspreads this charming holiday album by virtuosic bassist Jennifer Leitham's working trio (Andy Langham, piano; Randy Drake, drums) on which she offsets a program comprised mainly of established seasonal favorites with some tantalizing curves (for example, her own "Future Christmas," a.k.a "The Global Warming Winter Holiday Blues," or Bob Dorough's clever "Blue Christmas" not to be confused with Elvis Presley's version from the '50s). Such uncommon departures seem only proper, as there are at least two salient features that set Leitham apart from most other bass players you're likely to encounter. First, she sings (on five of the album's eleven numbers, making this more a quartet than trio). And secondare you ready for this?she's also left-handed, placing her among a relatively modest number of those who play bass for a living.
Methodology aside, what matters is that Leitham's full-bodied bass serves as an unerring compass throughout, whether soloing or lending support to Langham or Drake (with whom she playfully spars on "Little Drummer Boy / Big Bass Girl"). She uses the bow to good effect on the lovely ballad "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." As for Leitham's voice, it is light and pleasing on Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here," "Feels Like Home for Christmas" (a variation on "I'll Be Home for Christmas"), "Nature's Blessing" and her own "Future Christmas," a clear-eyed look at holiday seasons to come as seen through the unblinking lens of global warming. On "Blue Christmas," Leitham adopts a gravelly, Scrooge-like burr to underscore Dorough's acidulous lyric, an artifice chosen, she writes, because Dorough's song was beyond her normal vocal range. The result is jarring but effective.
The trio is showcased on two of the session's more animated numbers, "Angels We Have Heard on High" and a blazing rendition of "Jingle Bells," while Leitham rings down the curtain with a lustrous and sure-handed a cappella version of "O Tannenbaum." In between, Leitham and her teammates blend neatly together as a working unit should, with no missteps or blemishes. Thanks to their enterprise, the outlook for Future Christmas seems bright indeed.
Angels We Have Heard on High; Future Christmas (The Global Warming Winter Holiday Blues); Christmas Time Is Here; Feels Like Home for Christmas; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; Nature’s Blessing; Little Drummer Boy / Big Bass Girl; Winter Wonderland; Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern); Jingle Bells; O Tannenbaum.
Jennifer Leitham: bass, vocals, sleigh bells, water drops; Andy Langham: piano; Randy Drake: drums, sleigh bells.
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