Kevin Dozier: Christmas Eve

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Kevin Dozier

Christmas Eve

Reviewed by John Hoglund

In an age of anxiety, some things are needed more than ever. As Jerry Herman reminded us in Mame “we need a little Christmas, right this very minute.” With his 2020 MAC-nominated CD, Christmas Eve, Kevin Dozier offers just that. Long after the winter holiday season fades, certain discs stand the test of time and stay with the listener. Dozier, who has been a relevant part of the cabaret community for over a decade playing to SRO audiences, previously recorded three well-received albums that were honored by MAC and the Bistro Awards. His latest album, Christmas Eve, deftly produced by Grammy-nominee Paul Rolnick, has the brilliant Alex Rybeck serving as music director and leading the band. Some Christmas albums are required listening especially for those who remember when such classics were the norm with male singers like Nat “King” Cole, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, and Tony Bennett to name a few. Too, some Christmas albums are runaway winners from the first Noël to the last.

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Add Kevin Dozier to the list.  

Containing an embarrassment of riches and mashing traditional and newer gems, it’s enhanced to perfection by Dozier’s well-placed, supple tenor. This is particularly so on several of the contemporary standouts such as the album’s title cut with words by the late Carol Hall and music by cabaret’s Rybeck. Told from the heart of a child, it’s touching in its message: “if ever I’m lonely, I believe there’s an open door where I can still remember.” I could not ask for more. Rybeck, always innovative, outdoes himself with a lush arrangement that is achingly beautiful.

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Wistful words that touch on feelings of loneliness and childhood memories with such care fused with rich melodies make the song a classic for the 21st century that deserves wider exposure. A child’s perspective is also prominent on the simple ditty, “Sleep Well, Little Children” by Alan Bergman and Leon Klatzkin. This candy-cane lullaby has a sweetness that is unique. The David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner beauty, “My Grown-Up Christmas List,” is given a warm reading that tugs at the heartstrings with another rich arrangement that rings of truth. A unlikely pairing of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Kim Gannon/Walter Kent) made famous by Bing Crosby and “Goodbye for Now” (Stephen Sondheim) from the movie Reds, works with ease. One is a WWII ballad and the other from a movie about communists. This bold entry is unafraid and shows the depth of creativity that permeates this disc. In lesser hands, this could have been problematic, here, it is a triumph, as is this entire special holiday album. Other standouts include more traditional songs, such as tender interpretations of “Silent Night” (Mohr/Gruber), “The Christmas Song” (Wells/Tormé), “Angels We Have Heard On High” (Chadwick), and a rousing opener, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” (Sears/Willis) with “The Christmas Waltz” (Cahn/Styne).  There are other hidden gems all making for an album well worth listening to all year round.

This jewel of an album has some beautiful musicianship with the likes of Alex Rybeck on piano and synths (also with Jamie Lawrence and Paul Rolnick), Jared Egan and Paul Guzzone on bass, John Redsecker on drums and percussion along with Paul Guzzone and Paul Rolnick, Kevin Kuhn and Paul Rolnick on guitar, Paul Rolnick on ukelele, Krystof Witek, Conway Kuo, and Maryjo Stilp on violins, Eleanor Norton on cello, Bud Burridge on trumpet, Dan Willis on tenor sax and oboe, Jim Papoulis on flute, and Robbie Kondor on accordion.

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.