Everything about this new CD is just right — starting with the cover design by Chris Wilkinson that so wonderfully evokes the work of Alex Steinweiss — and it will be a comforting pleasure even when this holiday season is over, when the last tree has gone away to recycling.
And I write this as someone who detests snow and doesn’t celebrate Christmas. But I live for melodic small-band swing, and Jonathan Stout knows how to create that with his Campus Five, ornamented by the sweet-tart vocals by Hilary Alexander and a memorable guest appearance by Mikiya Matsuda.
Listen here! Or, more politely, listen here.
And here is a leisurely conversation between Jonathan and swing dance instructor Bobby White about the new CD:
The details. The band is Jonathan Stout, guitar and arrangements*; Hilary Alexander, vocals; Albert Alva, tenor saxophone; Jim Ziegler, trumpet and vocals; Christopher Dawson, piano; Samuel Wolfe Rocha, bass; Josh Collazo, drums. Special Guest: Mikiya Matsuda, steel guitar on “Mele Kalikimaka.” (*All arrangements by Jonathan, except “Christmas in New Orleans,” and “Winter Wonderland” by Jim Ziegler.)
Here are a few samples — the theme du jour being dropping temperatures:
and an ode to self-care:
and the obligatory transformative ballad of the season:
The tune list (with beats per minute specified on the CD) is SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN / LITTLE JACK FROST GET LOST / BUTTON UP YOUR OVERCOAT / SEND ME YOUR LOVE FOR CHRISTMAS / LET IT SNOW! / MELE KALIKIMAKA (featuring Mikiya Matsuda on steel guitar) / CHRISTMAS TIME IN LOS ANGELES / RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER /I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM / HANNUKAH, OH HANNUKAH / CHRISTMAS IN NEW ORLEANS / WINTER WONDERLAND / JINGLE BELLS / WINTER WEATHER / FROSTY THE SNOWMAN.
A few words from me. There are so many musical virtues of this disc. The horns, Jim and Albert, are a perfectly matched pair, sweet and hot. Those with a historical sensibility will understand when I refer to them as “modern Keynote Records.” They would have been perfect on Fifty-Second Street, and they blaze forth splendidly now. Jim is also a prize of a singer — in the offhand wink-at-the-audience characteristic of so many great trumpet players. The band’s featured vocalist, Hilary Alexander, has a sweet hip croon, endearing and convincing.
But for me the joy of this CD is in the rock-solid and completely flexible rhythm section, led by Mister Stout, the illegitimate child of Allan Reuss, although we don’t talk about his parentage in public. I have marveled at Christopher Dawson’s subtle blend of Teddy Wilson and Bill Evans (with Basie and Fats looking on admiringly) for years, and Messrs. Rocha and Collazo are tops in their line: this foursome could swing Mount Rushmore, and on this disc they do not have to.
Feeling a chill as the year nears its end and the skies are grey, the days are shorter? Warm up your ears and your hearth with this new offering. Digitally, tangibly, metaphysically here.
May your happiness increase!