Off The Beaten Path. Each year, I seek out new holiday music, usually in the jazz and classical realms. There have been several notable releases this year, including offerings by the Nagel-Heyer bunch and Cyrus Chestnut, among others. However, the music that immediately captured my attention this season I found being sold at a local holiday goods offering by the artist himself. I found the artist, Steve Barta, studied and urbane...like I was to find his music.
The Artist Formerly Known As... Steve Barta is a Colorado Springs-based pianist-composer who has been releasing recordings on his Source Music label for the last several years. A longtime associate of flautist Herbie Mann, Barta has released a variety of jazz and seasonal recordings, and returns to the latter genre with Herbie Mann on The Twelve Days of Christmas. Supported by his working trio members, Kim Stone and Ronnie Shaw, and augmented by Mann and Don Griffin on guitar, Barta follows up two exceptional solo piano holiday discs ( That Christmas Feeling and Noel ) and a multicultural extravaganza ( Christmas Around The World ). Twelve Days is the most overtly jazzy of Barta's holiday releases, and that is what makes it so fun.
Mr. Barta employs an exquisitely soft touch and sensibility while steering carefully through the traditional ("O Christmas Tree", "Sleigh Ride", and "Let It Snow!") and more contemporary ("Skating", "Linus and Lucy", and "My Favorite Things"). Herbie Mann and Don Griffin join Barta on a decidedly Bossa version of Mel Torme's "Christmas Song". The playing across board is tasteful. Barta's arrangements are equally tasteful and informed. He judiciously uses his string section to add a down filler to his arrangements, increasing their warmth. This holiday music is worth seeking out and may be acquired from Source Music's website ( http://www.sourcemusic.com/ ) or by writing to Source Music, P.O. Box 1543, Colorado Springs, CO 80901.
Track Listing: O Christmas Tree; The Christmas Waltz; Sleigh Ride; Skating; Linus And Lucy; What Are You Doing New Years Eve?; Christmas Time Is Here; Silver Bells; Let It Snow!; The Christmas Song; Air On The G String; My Favorite Things; The Twelve Days Of Christmas. (Total Time: 52:33)
Personnel: Steve Barta: Piano; Kim Stone: Bass; Ronnie Shaw: Drums; Herbie Mann: Flute; Don Griffin: Guitar; And String Orchestra.
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith. We hung out at my Aunt Kate's Soul Food restaurant in Harlem after the matinees at the Apollo where I listened to their stories. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician from then on. My mother wanted me to play piano, but my Aunt bought me a guitar. I've been playing ever since.
At my mother's early prompting, I first sang Blue Velvet at my Catholic elementary school...and all the nuns came running in and asked me to sing again, so I knew I must have sounded pretty good. I've been singing ever since.
I met Tony Bennett in Miami and he inspired me to return to New York. He was a great mentor.
The best show I ever attended is mpossible to say, I've seen so many great shows. From Tony Bennett to Pat Martino, Return to Forever to Weather Report...I've seen some great performances.
My advice to new listeners is don't let jazz intimidate you, the music has something for every listener and it is our American gift to the world.