Various Artists

WNUA 95.5: Smooth Jazz Sampler, Vol. 16

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This two-disc set, which was sponsored by Chicago's smooth jazz station WNUA, brings together some of the finer hits of the previous year and adds a special bonus disc of familiar holiday classics reinterpreted by some of today's jazz and adult contemporary artists. In a surprising return to form, Michael McDonald leads the charge with his reinterpretation of Marvin Gaye's classic "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," and contributions from Daryl Hall and Paul Hardcastle are also worth seeking out. But the second disc is where the real fun starts. Fun, loose renditions of Christmas hits, courtesy of many of smooth jazz's most prominent names, show a different side to many of these artists who are often pigeonholed for a particular sound. Add legendary jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi and his superb holiday classic "Skating" from the Charlie Brown Christmas special, and it's an ideal disc to have on in the background at a relaxing holiday party with family/friends. And while this might not be exactly the thing for jazz aficionados to indulge in, smooth jazz fans will delight in the high-quality soulful renditions that are prevalent throughout both discs.

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