A New York Holiday with Miranda Music

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A New York Holiday with Miranda Music

(Miranda Music)

December 19, 2016

Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes

Miranda-Music-A-New-York-Holiday-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212It’s obvious that the spirit of the season is alive and well at Miranda Music and with the fine artists included on this unique cabaret CD, A New York Holiday. Here, outstanding songs capture a lot of sweet emotions through excellent voices and thrilling arrangements. Sung by some of today’s established and rising stars from cabaret, the album stands out due to its abundance of heart on every single cut. Clearly, there are plenty of traditional and well-produced holiday albums on the market. Miranda’s A New York Holiday offers a top-notch potpourri of diverse selections that are exceptional on every level.

The easy-listening disc features 19 tracks with standard fare and a stocking full of surprises. Songs that have stood the test of time are mixed with newer and obscure tunes sure to become holiday favorites.

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This collection brings many tracks together in a loving package that is sure to dominate anyone’s holiday play list. While some of the album makes for laid-back evergreens of the season, like an ethereal “Silent Night”(with Pagan lyrics by Ellen Cannon Reed) sung by Lauren Fox with guitarist Peter Calo, Frank Loesser’s ‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” is given a moody, smoky treatment by Lina Koutrakos. Sue Matsuki offers a beautiful, infectiously fun “Sleigh Ride” (Leroy Anderson/Mitchell Parrish) with bassist Tom Hubbard. Songwriter Hugh Martin is represented on two cuts with Benjamin Niemczyk doing an understated reading on the beloved classic, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and Christopher Gines doing a superb job with “It’s Christmas All Over the World,” featuring the very effective backup choir. Producer Richard Barone’s toe-tapping “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” with some dynamite band solos is a favorite that simply rocks. These traditional cuts are outstanding. Add to the mix some unexpected surprises and the album is set apart from others. For instance, Hilary Kole does a masterful job on the Christmas story singing “I Wonder As I Wander” (John Jacob Niles) that is flawless, using her own arrangement on this beauty.

This is not your ordinary compilation by any means. It is a treat because of its varied takes on the holiday season – and life. Rick Jensen’s “You’d Better Say Yes,” sung by Marissa Mulder with Jensen at the piano, is a cheeky romp about the madness of Christmas (“… say yes to the mess that is Christmas!”). The pop-rock favorite associated with Darlene Love is captured in all its rafter-raising, gospel-esque glory by Marcus Simeone scaling the octaves on “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich/Phil Spector) that pulls out all the stops. Julie Reyburn rivets with a touching medley that fuses a moving “In the Bleak Midwinter” (Gustav Holst/Christina Rossetti) with Amanda McBroom’s “The Rose” with Mark Janas at the piano in a glorious cut. Sean Harkness and his sensitive guitar on his original “Holy Days” is haunting, as is Karen Oberlin who does beautifully looking-back on another time with “The Christmas Tree” (Fred Hersch/David Hadju). Other exceptional, outstanding artists represented on this dazzling album include Kathleen France, Maria Ottavia, Tracy Stark, Stacy Sullivan and Bill Zeffiro.

So many meaningful and pertinent themes are represented on this disc. However, if there is one resounding theme that sums up the album, it is its message of hope and humanity regardless of sectarian or non-sectarian beliefs at a time when it’s needed most. Perhaps this is best represented by Joshua Lance Dixon’s thrilling, heartfelt and definitive “Let There Be Peace on Earth” soaringly sung with a beautiful choral backup that is unforgettable.

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The track is universal and sums up what these holidays should be about. The song and Dixon’s treatment say it all. Rest assured, with this recording, your holiday music will be well-rounded… and uplifting. As far as holiday albums go, this album ranks up there with some of the best of them. The artists hold nothing back as they let loose an emotional current of funny, original and nostalgic gems that touch the heart.

The superb musicians outdid themselves on this album. They are: Tracy Stark (piano/keyboards/arrangements); Skip Ward (bass); Peter Calo (guitar); and David Stillman on drums. Guest musicians: Steve Doyle (bass); Dan Gross (drums); Sean Harkness (guitar); Fred Hersch (piano/arrangement); Peter Hess (baritone sax/clarinet); Tom Hubbard (bass); Mark Janas (piano); Rick Jensen (piano /arrangement); Donna Kelly (drums); Aaron Kimmell (drums); Hilary Kole (piano/ arrangement); Matt Sharfglass (bass); Gregory Toroian (arrangement); and Jon Weber (piano/ arrangement). And, a special nod to the lush Miranda Music choir.

John Hoglund

For over 30 years, John Hoglund has been a respected entertainment writer covering cabaret, jazz, theater and recordings. His writings have appeared in numerous outlets including the Bistro Bits column for Back Stage. John moderated seminars and forums for the International Cabaret Conference At Yale. He produced many celebrity fundraisers in NYC including one of the first benefits after 9/11: “HeartSong:The Heroes' Concert” at The Bottom Line featuring 36 major stars. He co-produced “HeartSong2: The Heroes' Concert” for Katrina victims at Symphony Space and “Miracle On 35th Street” with a star-studded lineup. Other fund raising efforts include the first benefits for Broadway Cares and God's Love, We Deliver. John served on the Board of Directors of MAC for 12 years. He is well known for championing new and rising talents.