Judith Kay - Voice/Music Director
Ron Thomas - Piano
Chris Berg - Acoustic Bass
Chuck Holdeman - Bassoon
Tony Miceli - Vibraphone
Recorded February 6, 7, 8 and 9, 1997 at Sonic Studios, Philadelphia
Produced by: David A. McClintock
Engineered by: Sean D. McClintock
Mixed by: Sean D. McClintock & David A. McClintock
This is one of those rare gems that combines innovation and stellar performances in a collection suitable for background music or the undivided attention of listeners.
Vocalist Judith Kay's Not Your Usual Christmas Album features a combination of well- and lesser-known songs, backed by a piano/bass/bassoon/vibes quartet. Unlike numerous albums where jazz performers essentially lend their accent to traditional holiday fare, this is true jazz with the instrumentalists digging in with spice and flair.
Kay's vocals are low-key and somewhat less than virtuosic on what are mostly somber pieces, yet she warms listeners better than most with her clarity and passion - sort of like a Joni Mitchell-type singing political fare for a heartfelt cause.
"I Wonder As I Wander" is a slow, dark tale punctuated by Chuck Holdeman's almost weepy bassoon and pianist's Ron Thomas' simple yet chamber-like melodies on his lower keys. "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" is a 1587 composition that progresses with hymn-like precision and minimalistic performances, which proves advantageous since the quality of the near-solo passages likely top any group harmonic effort. "Fum Fum Fum" and "Mary Had A Baby" are both bouncy tunes that inject a bit of life, with Kay's low-key singing keeping things in character even as her cohorts take advantage to liven up their contributions.
This ranks with Dianne Reeves' Christmas Time is Here as one of the best female vocalist Christmas albums I've encountered this year.
EXCERPT from a 12/04 review by Mark Sabbatini on allaboutjazz.com