There has never been a more unlikely, nor more compelling, musical mixology for the holidays. And like a truly modern Christmas miracle, it comes complete with irony, humor, and heart.
Here’s the recipe: Take one exceptional business executive with a Political Science degree from the American University of Cairo and decades of experience developing telecommunications operations across Southeast Asia. Combine this with a legendary Grammy-winning composer / producer who pioneered jazz/rock fusion as a member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the prog-rock band Journey.
Then season this mixture with an abiding love for Christmas.
The result is the long-running musical collaboration of Jennifer Saran and Narada Michael Walden, who for almost a decade have celebrated every holiday season by composing and recording a totally original, totally engaging new Yuletide song.
Why? Because this woman of international business with a parallel career as a jazz vocalist and composer, and her avant-garde musical partner (whose career took him from Kalamazoo to associations with Quincy Jones, Chick Corea, and Carlos Santana) have found common ground with a common love: Christmas.
Each year they let the world know that “Christmas is their Thang
.” Sometimes they enlist the help of the Motown’s mighty Temptations. Other times they bring in the Brazilian influence of guitarist José Neto. And every year they give the usual festivities a spirited and surprising twist of equal parts chill, cheer, soul, funk and fun.
For 2022, they are releasing a new single, “Songs of Christmas (Come Dance with Me)” — further exploring the festive vibe of their ongoing collaborations and reminding listeners to share tidings of comfort and joy year-round, long after the last candy cane has been devoured.
Walden built his dazzling reputation hit-by-hit, producing stellar chart-busters for some of music’s most iconic divas – Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston, while Saran shines a light on women taking their place in the upper reaches of corporate management.
In the recording studio, Saran’s polished sound evokes the tart and wily phrasing of generations of jazz greats, from Ella Fitzgerald to Sade Adu. But you won’t find a single note of cynicism in this sophisticated lady. “I’ll take any occasion to experience joy and share it with others through the gift of song,” Saran cheerfully admits. For Walden (who has adopted the name “Narada” given to him by guru Sri Chinmoy), music is a form of meditation and self-revelation, as well as a celebration.
Together, Saran and Walden have found a special chemistry in their Christmas stockings that has created irresistible additions to every holiday playlist. And this year is no exception.