It's clear from the outset that San Francisco-based singer Russ Lorenson and the admirable Kelly Park Big Band are definitely In the Holiday Spirit on Lorenson's sparkling new CD, a few measures of which are all but certain to lend that same seasonal feeling of happiness and generosity to almost any listener. Lorenson, a clear-voiced tenor, sings from the heart, and his warmth and geniality are contagious. As for the band, it is a swinging companion on whose unwavering support Lorenson can always rely.
One of the more engaging aspects of Holiday Spirit is that it consists almost entirely of newer and lesser-heard Christmas themes, some of which may take their place in coming years as holiday classics. There's no trace of "customary" seasonal fare to be found until the penultimate track, "The Little Drummer Boy," and even that evergreen is paired with the more recent "Peace on Earth." Lorenson "duets" with himself on "Drummer Boy" and is joined by members of the San Francisco Boys Chorus to enliven the buoyant finale, "It's Christmas Time All Over the World."
The temper is upbeat throughout, starting with the ebullient "Shake Hands with Santa Claus" by Milton DeLugg (best known for Nat Cole's hit, "Orange-Colored Sky") and lyricist Bob Hilliard. It's a good bet that the tunes that follow, even though charming, are similarly unfamiliar to all but the most tenacious bibliophiles. Raise your hand if any of these ring a bell: "Holiday for Two," "Let's Share Christmas," "Let Me Be the First to Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Jingles, the Christmas Cat," "You're All I Want for Christmas," "Mrs. Claus," "Warm in December," "The Christmas Blues," "Santa Claus Is Near," "It'll Be Christmas Before You Know It," "A Winter Romance," "Kissin' by the Mistletoe." No? Then welcome to the fraternity.
Guitarist John Pizzarelli had a hand in writing "Let's Share Christmas" and "Santa Claus Is Near," while vocalist Steve Lawrence co- authored "Let Me Be the First." Hugh Martin, who wrote the music for the classic Christmas film Meet Me in St. Louis, composed "It's Christmas Time All Over the World." Lorenson, a Danny Kaye look-alike whose tributes to Tony Bennett and Bobby Darin have been well- received, gives every song the best he has to offer, which is quite a lot. Whatever the mood or tempo, his sunlit personality comes shining through, helping to make In the Holiday Spirit a genuine pleasure to hear and applaud.
Shake Hands with Santa Claus; Holiday for Two; Let’s Share Christmas; Let Me
Be the First to Wish You Merry Christmas; Jingles, the Christmas Cat; You’re All I
Want for Christmas; Mrs. Claus; Warm in December; The Christmas Blues; Santa
Claus Is Near; It’ll Be Christmas Before You Know It; A Winter Romance; Kissin’
by the Mistletoe; Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth; It’s Christmas Time All
Over the World.
Russ Lorenson: vocals; Rich Armstrong: trumpet; Marcel Marchetti: trumpet,
flugelhorn; Tony Malfatti: saxophones, flute; Rene Jenkins: trombone; Terrence
Brewer: guitar; Kelly Park: piano, keyboards, sleigh bells; Daniel Fabricant: bass;
Kent Bryson: drums; The San Francisco Boys Chorus (Gabryl Adarne, Chase
Becerrill, Adam Boegel, Ethan Chen, Lucas Dong, Ryan Huckleberry, Desmond
Ongpin, Daniel Ostrom, William Poulter, Eli Priwer, Sam Rosen, Zachary Tang,
Karell Washington): backup vocals on (15).