Sunday, December 14, 2008

Putumayo Presents: A Jazz & Blues Christmas (2008)

Even if you're not a big fan of World Music you have to admit that nobody can put a compilation together better than Putumayo. The love, care, and research the organization works into each of their CDs is superb, right down to the cover art and liner notes. Their new release, A Jazz & Blues Christmas, is no exception.

This brief ten song disc is only slightly longer than thirty-three minutes but its richness will leave jazz and blues fans in anything other than a state of blues. In their detailed liner notes Putumayo says that, "This holiday collection exemplifies the close relationship between jazz and blues. Both genres developed side by side and most of these artists go from one to the other seamlessly."

The artists Putumayo blends together on the disc include some of the giants of music, including Ray Charles, jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, Charles Brown, and Riley B. King and his long-necked girlfriend who goes by the name of Lucille.

Many unknown artists are featured including Randy Greer whose great uncle, Sonny Greer, played drums for Duke Ellington. His father owned a jazz club in San Francisco and called Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus friends. So, while Greer is not a household name, his pedigree is impeccable. On "Wrap Yourself In A Christmas Package" Greer's smooth but bluesy vocals are accompanied by the Ignasi Terraza Trio from Barcelona, Spain. Other little known acts are Riff Ruffin, retro-swing band Mighty Blue Kings, and Canadian jazz vocalist, Emilie-Claire Barlow whose "Santa Baby" rivals Earth Kitt's original. Before hearing this disc none of these names meant a thing to me. Even now, their brief biographies in the liner notes are the only education I've received about any of them. Once again, here is proof that talent and fame are frequently unrelated.

The music on this album may be earthy but it is also tasteful. There are no weak tracks anywhere. Hitting the skip button on your CD player will not be necessary.

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