Al Jarreau

Christmas

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If ever there was a singer suited for a holiday album it was Al Jarreau, whose friendly, honeyed croon always felt warm and welcoming. Those traits are evident on his 2008 seasonal album Christmas but so are his scatting roots, perhaps a little bit too much so for this to be the kind of soothing soundtrack to a Christmas party that it might initially seem to be, particularly as the first section of the album is loaded with just a little bit too much syncopation and swing. As Christmas rolls on, things settle down into a smooth quiet storm groove, never pushing too hard on either the vocal or arrangement front, which is a bit of a relief after the slightly overcooked first half. This back-end -- containing a silken "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," a light "The Little Christmas Tree" and a mildly funky "Gloria in Excelsis" -- is what Jarreau fans would hope, even expect, from an Al Jarreau Christmas album and it's the reason to give this a seasonal spin.

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