This album just debuted on the ZMR Music Chart at #33 for the month of November!
Are you in the Christmas spirit? Here is a different way to get into the festivities. Take a listen to A HOT AND SPICY CHRISTMAS, the new CD by Irene Nachreiner with Her Latin Jazz Band. This is not same-old, same-old. This album does not sound like any other seasonal CD in your collection.
First it is acoustic, gentle, Latin-jazz-world-fusion vocal music. Second, there are quite a few Christmas carols (centuries-old) here that I guarantee you have not heard before. Third, the few well-known standards you will barely recognize because of the new arrangements.
What this adds up to is a fresh-sounding Christmas recording, not like all the others you have heard for the past many decades. This one is different, invigorating and just plain fun. This is a great new holiday CD. And hurry and check it out, because Christmas is just around the corner. Happy holidays.
- REVIEW FROM: REVIEW CENTRE RATING: FIVE STARS
Irene Nachreiner With Her Latin Jazz Band - A Hot And Spicy Christmas
(Turquoise Water Music TWM3657)
Irene Nachreiner With Her Latin Jazz Band - A Hot And Spicy ChristmasI think this is the fourth album of Christmas carols and songs I've reviewed during this session, so pardon me if I sound a little jaded. But no, actually A Hot And Spicy Christmas is a very big cut above the others with its Latin flavour and, of course, Irene Nachreiner and her Latin Jazz Band are old friends in the sense that their previous albums scored very highly in my reviews.
Irene has searched out many little known carols and festive songs from old songbooks across Europe and given them a transfusion of Latin blood, giving many of these old tunes a much needed injection of swing. Examples of this are Fum, Fum, Fum, a 16th century traditional carol from the Catalan region of Spain, and Rocking, a 17th century Czech carol - and yes, it does rock out. There are also songs from France, Burgundy and Poland, plus Irene and her band have rearranged the original tunes to give them some modern relevance.
The rest of the tracks are:- Patapan/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Sweet Baby Jesus, Sing Now Of Christmas/Noel Nouvelet, O Come O come Immanuel, Ring Out Bells, Silent Night, Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant, Infant Holy Infant lowly, What Child Is This?, The Babe of Bethlehem, Cantique De Noel (O Holy Night), and I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.
So, another Christmas album - yes, but one with a difference and one that takes the carols out of church and onto a wider stage. The meaning of the festive season is retained and this showcases the universality of these songs. Recommended for those who hide behind a chair when the choir singers knock on the door.
Review from the Borderland, UK
There has never been a holiday album quite like A Hot & Spicy Christmas by Irene Nachreiner with Her Latin Jazz Band, and that was her plan. First Irene covered Christmas themes using her own distinctive, gentle, mostly-acoustic, Latin jazz sound that blends elements of pop, folk and world-fusion into the mix. She also did her historical homework and dug up several obscure compositions going back hundreds of years, some with new music sections and lyrics that she added. Plus her arrangements offer freshly-constructed twists that make these seasonal carols sound absolutely unique.
“A couple of years ago I realized I was hearing the same old Christmas songs on every radio station and at every mall and store,” explains Irene. “I started wondering why contemporary singers and musicians didn’t explore some of the lesser-known compositions from the past several centuries. I also wondered what Christmas music would sound like if given a Latin jazz treatment.”
Some of the other special surprises on A Hot & Spicy Christmas include Irene co-writing material with two legendary 19th Century poets -- Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). Tennyson penned the poem “Ring Out Wild Bells” and Irene wrote a chorus to go with it. “Even though it had been set to music before, my longtime collaborator and co-arranger Alex Varden and I created new music to make it more cheerful and fun. We got it out of the minor key.” Similarly on “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” Longfellow wrote the poetic verses, but Irene came up with words for a chorus, and she and Varden penned the music together. Nachreiner also took the familiar, traditional Gaelic folk tune “Bunessan,” and wrote her own Christmas words to it with instrumental interludes by Varden and called it “Sweet Baby Jesus.” In addition, Irene chose the traditional Polish carol “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” and because it only had two verses she wrote two additional verses to extend the song.
To keep listeners on their toes, Irene inserted a Russian dance theme by Tchaikovsky from “The Nutcracker Suite” into the instrumental section of “Fum, Fum, Fum,” put the theme from “O Christmas Tree” into “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” and added Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” into “Noël Nouvelet/Sing We Now of Christmas.” While most of the CD’s lyrics are in English, she sings Spanish on alternate verses on “Fum, Fum, Fum” (a 16th Century tune), French on the verses of “Noël Nouvelet,” and French throughout both “He Is Born the Holy Child” (a 18th Century carol popular in France, but seldom heard in the United States) and “Cantique de Noël” (better-known in English-speaking countries as “O Holy Night”).
And if that isn’t enough, the few well-known Christmas songs get unusual arrangements -- “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is not only paired with the French carol “Patapan” but the chorus goes in a completely new direction; “O Come, O Come Immanuel,” originally a very slow 12th century a capella Gregorian chant, is re-conceived as an upbeat syncopated reggae-like cumbia tune. Nachreiner, who also plays some keyboards on the CD, takes a 17th century lullaby called “Rocking” (that children traditionally sang on Christmas Eve in the Czech Kingdom) and turned it into a rocking pop tune with dueling electric guitar and violin. Other tunes are done as rhumbas, waltzes, calypsos or bossa novas. This recording additionally features more complex backing vocals than her previous CDs.
A Hot & Spicy Christmas and two other CDs by Irene Nachreiner with Her Latin Jazz Band (Summer Samba and A Song of You) are available at IreneSings.com, CDbaby.com and numerous digital download locations on the web including iTunes, Rhapsody and eMusic.
Irene brings many experiences to her passionate musical performances. She has performed for audiences from Los Angeles to Paris to Martinique to Bora Bora. She has studied singing, piano (for ten years), acting (B.A. cum laude at UC Irvine), modern jazz dancing (for 15 years), screenwriting, and comedy troupe improvisation.
On A Hot & Spicy Christmas, Irene’s voice is backed by top Latin musicians with the core group all from Brazil -- her longtime guitarist Marco Tulio (Pat Metheny, Thalia, Paulo Russo), keyboardist and pianist Rique Pantoja (Carlos Santana, Ernie Watts, Ricky Martin, Gilberto Gil, Luis Conte, Lee Ritenour, Kirk Whalum), bassist Nelson Rios (Airto Moreira & Eyedentity, Alex Acuna, Emmett Spooner, Cafe-Fuego, Abraham Laboriel) and veteran jazz pianist Frank Zottoli (John Pisano, Peggy Lee, Stan Getz Trio, Johnny Mathis, Pointer Sisters) They are joined on various tracks by two drummers/percussionists -- Richie Gajate Garcia from Puerto Rico (Sting, Phil Collins, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Diana Ross, Hiroshima) and Brian Boyce (The Archibald Leeches, Plan B Entertainment, Musical Theater Guild, Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra). Appearing on four tunes is violinist Jesus Florido from Venezuela (Dan Hicks and the Hotlicks, Nicholas Gunn, Zubin Mehta, Itzhak Perlman, Whitney Houston). Flutist Scott Martin (Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Ray Charles, Chick Corea and Eddie Palmieri) is on three songs. On “The Babe of Bethlehem,” 14-year-old trumpet player Adam Hall makes his recording debut. Janie Wallace and Alex Varden join Irene on backing vocals.
“All of the musicians I work with must be knowledgeable about Latin music and world-fusion as well as jazz improvisation,” states Irene, who is hands-on with her recordings from start to finish. She selects the music and the musicians, produces the albums, does the initial arrangements herself and the final arrangements with the band, and even does the mixing.
Irene’s international heritage includes her mother coming to America from Ireland and her father from Russia. Latin music entered Irene’s consciousness at an early age. She was born in East Los Angeles, California’s heartland of Latino culture, and growing up she listened to radio stations that played all kinds of Latin jazz, bossa-novas, sambas and rumbas. Irene started formal piano lessons when she was eight. Her early influences included classical music, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and The Beatles as well as the Latin sounds of Sergio Mendes & his Brasil Bands and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. And through her brother she was introduced to rock bands such as Cream, which influenced her take on “Rocking.”
During college, Irene, who is fluent in French, went to study in Paris for six months. She graduated with honors from the University of California, Irvine, with a Bachelors Degree in Drama. She began taking dance lessons (ballet, modern jazz and tap), wrote scripts and produced a couple of television documentaries, performed in Southern California theater productions, studied screenwriting at UCLA, and performed regularly with a comedy improv troupe. She became a video editor at CBS-TV for shows such as “The Western Edition of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and “The Price Is Right.” Irene served a term as a member of the Board of Governors at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and served for almost fifteen years on the Primetime Emmy Awards Committee.
In the late Nineties, Irene began studying singing. At first she sang classic standards from the Great American Songbook (Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, big band numbers), before turning full time to Latin jazz. As her love of Latin music deepened, she was inspired by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Elis Regina, Flora Purim, Gloria Estefan, Astrud Gilberto and Celso Fonseca. On a trip to the Club Med resort in Tahiti, Irene was invited to sing in their theater which began her professional singing career. This led to an invitation to perform there several times each year, and to sing at other Club Meds. She also performs regularly in clubs in the Los Angeles area. Irene has had many songs chosen to appear on compilation CDs released throughout Europe and Asia by Universal Music.
According to Irene, “The idea behind A Hot & Spicy Christmas is to offer listeners some seasonal music that they cannot get anywhere else. Hopefully my recordings will give them a welcome respite from all the other music they are hearing during the holidays. The other concept for the CD was the selection of music centered around the Christmas story, the celebration of Christ’s birth and ringing in the new year. You won’t find any tunes here about reindeer, snowmen or jolly chubby guys.”