Michael Franks: Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
Michael Franks (vocals)
Jazz to the World (Blue Note CDP 72438 32127 2 9)
Artie Traum (acoustic guitar), Veronica Nunn (background vocals).
Composed by Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne.
Recorded: West Shokan, NY, 1994
Rating: 87/100 (learn more)
Jazz to the World is my favorite Christmas CD. I like jazz and I like Christmas. Lots of times these hybrid holiday "[name a genre] Plays Christmas Classics" albums come off as corny affairs. Not so for this CD produced by jazz executive Bruce Lundvall and Bobby Shriver for the benefit of the Special Olympics. It is full of engaging interpretations presented by a varied cross-section of outstanding jazz performers.
If Michael Franks had been born 30 years sooner, it is quite possible that it could be his voice you hear on some of our most admired Christmas songs. His voice is full of the wonder of a young child, yet possesses the intonation and chops of a seasoned jazz crooner. With apologies to Gene Autry, Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and other iconic holiday performers, Franks's expressive voice would have been perfect for "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "White Christmas," "The Christmas Song" and so many other holiday favorites. The all-star jazz band on this cut doesn't have much to do, but they and Franks make the tune swing enough to justify its inclusion on a jazz record. Franks did release his own Christmas album in 2004 named Watching the Snow. It contained no recognizable standards, however.
Many of you may know of my disdain of anything that reeks of Smooth Jazz. (Pardon me while I gag.) There are moments of smoothness in this cut and some of the others on Jazz to the World. Every year, in honor of the holiday season, I declare a moratorium with regards to my total and complete hatred of Smooth Jazz. I do this out of respect for my family and social community and for fear of being called a grinch. But the fact is that I don't expect jazz musicians to play their guts out on Christmas carols. I want them just to have fun like everyone else. A strongly spiked eggnog or two usually helps me get over the guilt of not being 100% consistent.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky