Margaret Carlson

This Christmas...My Favorite Things

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Kansas City jazz singer Margaret Carlson's Christmas album is a mixture of traditional and commercial holiday fare. Most of the tunes have been given a jazz inflection. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is upbeat and syncopated, while "Jesus Loves Me" is a mixture of reverence and swing with Kim Park's flute playing a major role. "Silent Night," however, is treated with its usual respect and done with the appropriate level of spirituality. The commercial material allows Carlson to be more adventurous, letting herself go on such cuts as "My Favorite Things" and "This Christmas," typically opening with wordless vocals side by side with Park's flute or alto sax. One of the more enticing tracks is "What Child Is This?," which features calls and responses between Carlson and Park, this time on soprano sax, before seguing into a swinging, staccato scat. With her deep, rich voice, Carlson pays more attention to the music of the tune she's singing than to its message. Even the popular "Deck the Halls" is transformed into a swinger with a Latin beat. Some religious carol purists may find this type of activity a bit objectionable. But religious holiday songs need not be so respectful that they eventually become predictable and thus relegated to the category of background music. Kudos to Carlson and to main arrangers Frank Mantoothand Danny Embrey for giving these tunes a new, bright musical paint job. Recommended.

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