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Steve Masakowski and the Masakowski Family: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

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Steve Masakowski and the Masakowski Family: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Holiday Music...with an edge.

The holiday season always provides plenty of inspiration for musicians. Jazzers are especially affected, having produced many notable records, beginning, with the Vince Guaraldi trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy, 1965). That recording provides a convenient jumping off point for discussing the Masakowski Family's Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, which contains several performances derived specifically from that recording.

The Masakowski Family is paterfamilias and guitarist Steve Masakowski (who discharges all arrangement duties here); daughter and vocalist Sasha Masakowski; and son and bassist Martin Masakowski. Joining the Family for this 2019 live recording at New Orleans' Snug Harbor, are pianist Shea Pierre, drummer Jamison Ross and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis from that "other" prominent New Orleans musical family.

The Masakowski Family last recorded together, releasing N.O. Escape (Self Produced) in 2017. Discussion of a Holiday release had been in the offing for some time, becoming reality late last year, one looking much different from the one we presently inhabit. What the Family provided here is a nine-selection recital of holiday favorites presented with a NOLA improvisational edge. HYMLC is jazz recording using more contemporary holiday fare as its vehicle, recorded live in performance before an appreciative audience; the best place to experience such music.

All of the selections presented are given extended readings, the shortest, a staccato-delivered "Winter Wonderland" clocking in at a healthy 5:37. The concert pivots on a four-song Christmas suite, including "the Christmas Song," "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," "Christmas Time Is Here," and "Skating," the latter two central to Guaraldi's 1965 album. Featured prominently is the accomplished guitar of Steve Masakowski, who, through his sharp arrangements and deft single-note playing, elevate these performances above pedestrian holiday recordings. Also well-featured is pianist Pierre, who possesses all of the positive gris gris necessary to infuse these canonical songs with a NOLA patois.

Jason Marsalis provides a tinkling vibs environment, full of tradition and improvisation, rounding out a classic Geroge Shearing ensemble, with its requisite sound. Sasha Masakowski sings in a coy, coquettish voice, adding a bit of informed innocence mixed with the season's seasoning of nostalgia, love, and gratitude. Her wordless singing on "Skating" is warm and exacting, pushing the nostalgia meter to ten. HYMLC succeeds well at being both a holiday and jazz recording made by serious musicians who know how to have fun at work.

Track Listing

Winter Wonderland; We Three Kings; The Christmas Song; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas; Christmas Time Is Here; Skating; North Wind; Little Drummer Boy; Sleigh Ride

Personnel

Album information

Title: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Self Produced


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