One of the more vexing aspects of many if not most holiday albums is the fact that they are recorded and released during the holiday season. Not only does that make the reviewer's task more troublesome, it can't be good for sales either. Who would want to buy a Christmas-themed album in February or March, let alone June or July? The guess here is, almost no one. On the other hand, there must be some method to the madness, as every year, when Christmas draws nigh, another phalanx of holiday albums comes rolling off the assembly line.
Among this year's well-meaning albeit eleventh-hour offerings is Cool Yule by vocalist Emerson Corley's popular New Mexico-based Entourage Jazz. Yes, the album is chock-full of Christmas cheer and seasonal well-wishes, almost but not quiteplenteous enough to cause one to lose sight of its transitory shelf life. The charts, by pianist Roger Baker, are bright and charming, as are the performances by Corley's ensemble. Besides the usual holiday fare, EJazz throws in some tasteful outliers including "The Man with the Bag," "Christmas in New Orleans," "The Merriest," Steve Allen's "Cool Yule" and Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad." There are two instrumental tracks, "Winter Wonderland" and "White Christmas," with trim solos on "Wonderland" by tenor Lee Taylor and trumpeter J. Q. Whitcomb, on "White Christmas" by guitarist Dimi DiSanti and trombonist Micah Hood.
While Taylor is listed as playing only tenor, several of his solos sound more like an alto, so either he is doubling or the solos should be credited to alto saxophonist Sarah Griego. Taylor does play clarinet on the trad-centered "Christmas in New Orleans," sharing the front line with Whitcomb and Hood. The able rhythm section, as on every number, consists of Baker, DiSanti, bassist Maren Hatch and drummer Jon Bartlit. As Corley is the leader and sings on all save two numbers, it is time to weigh the axis on which the album rests, which is Corley's voice. As noted in an earlier review (Things Are Looking Up), she is classically trained and sings in "a clear if less than full-bodied voice" that could be considered jazz only in the sense that her band consists of jazz musicians. But as Cool Yule is essentially a seasonal album with a jazz veneer, that's less an impediment than it otherwise could be. And while Corley may not hit every note squarely on the head, she comes close enough to evade censure. In sum, a passing grade with these caveats: Cool Yule won't seem quite as pleasurable in midsummer, nor will its thirty-five-minute playing time.
Cool Yule; (Everybody’s Waitin’ for) the Man with the Bag; Let It Snow; I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm; Winter Wonderland; Christmas in New Orleans; The Merriest; What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?; Jingle Bell Rock; White Christmas; Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town; Feliz Navidad.
Emerson Corley: leader, vocals. Tracks 1-4, 7-9, 11, 12 -- Corley: vocals; Bruce Dalby: trumpet; Brad Dubbs: trumpet; J.Q. Whitcomb: trumpet; Sarah Griego: alto sax; Lee Taylor: tenor sax; Michael Christmas: baritone sax; Ben Finberg: trombone; Micah Hood: trombone; Roger Baker: piano; Dimi DiSanti: guitar; Maren Hatch: bass; John Bartlit: drums. Tracks 5, 10 -- Same personnel but omit Corley: vocals. Track 6 -- Corley: vocal; J.Q. Whitcomb: trumpet; Lee Taylor: clarinet; Micah Hood: trombone; Roger Baker: piano; Dimi DiSanti: guitar; Maren Hatch: bass; John Bartlit: drums.
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