Lisa B's style goes back to a bigger more traditionally stage sound that occurred at the same time Mel Torme and others were blending an icy fire neath cool waves. At times, perhaps almost perversely, I got the feeling that, though she does not do so here, Lisa Bernstein (her full name) could belt 'em out like Ethel Merman should she get the itch to. There's that edge amidst a often boppy cabaret swing carefully restrained to observe holiday modes while escorting many of the tunes away from church and cloister and over into the neon streets of the big city.
Attention is also paid to the fact that the holidays are not the exclusive domain of the Christians (who nonetheless always seem to do their best to make it that way, don't they?), and so the Yiddish traditional Hine Ma Tov is covered as well as Matisyahu's non-denominational Miracle. Three of the selections are Bernstein/Gardiner originals, and Lisa B's definitely a jazz swing aficionado, best shown in Holiday in Oakland, which carries a Lani Hall-ish refrain and tributary vocal middle eight.
Problems, though. A little too often, the timbre of the vocals takes a slightly canned intonation as against the more studio-ish atmosphere of the backing ensembles (sometimes just Jim Gardiner and his synths), and the effect can be a tad jarring. Too, the keyboard orchestrations oft suffer from much the same effect, especially in This Christmas where the patch choices and sonic blend don't quite cohere nor erect a definable atmosphere. The C.W. McCall-ish The Flame recited story-poetry is something that's either going to be regarded as hokey or side-genre novel, not sure which, so tuck this CD away as 'good amateur' material needful of more work and better familiarization with the intricacies of sonic entablature…though I really liked Gardiner's arrangement of the instrumental version of Christmas Time is Here (had it been a symphony rendering…oh man!). Christmas Time is Here is not quite my cup of tea, but I'll be sending it to someone I know will love it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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