What our critics are listening to
12:19 PM, Dec 24, 2012
MANY, MANY ARTISTS
GOOD KING WENCESLAS. Like you, I have a tough time coming up with just the right holiday music this time of year. I’m referring, of course, to Boxing Day. There are simply too few songs celebrating Boxing Day, a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages that calls for masters to present their servants with boxes of gifts. But Christmas, which takes place before the traditional celebration of Boxing Day on Dec. 26, does throw the old UK holiday a bone: “Good King Wenceslas” is actually a Boxing Day song. It celebrates the notion that the rich have a duty to look out for the poor, a concept dismissed as socialism in today’s politics. So as you trudge through your neighborhood singing carols such as “Good King Wenceslas,” rest assured that this is a song with a message: “Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.”
VARIOUS ARTISTS. Holiday tunes reach a crescendo on Christmas and I crank my favorite medley from the time I rise until I nod off at night. Never mind sugar plums, the voices of Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child and Yolanda Adams dance in my head. The iPod shuffle starts with “Winter Paradise” from Destiny’s Child’s 8 Days of Christmas, followed by “O’ Holy Night.” Then I jump to Carey’s Merry Christmas and listen to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/Glora (In Excelsis Deo)” and “Jesus Born on This Day.” Lastly, I bring it home with Christmas With Yolanda Adams. Her version of “Little Drummer Boy” is one of my all-time favorites. And because I love Adam’s gospel-meets-jazzy vibe on “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” I play this tune twice before I start the medley all over again.
THE JOE LOCKE QUARTET
WISH UPON A STAR. For many years, excellent jazz artists have gone through a rite of passage by recording “with strings.” Vibist Joe Locke and his quartet join the tradition, and find themselves framed brilliantly by Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra in Nebraska. The arrangements by quartet pianist Ryan Cohan and frequent Locke cohort Tim Garland beautifully blend jazz improvisation into a symphonic format, without diminishing either element. The music includes two Locke originals, a Garland tune, and a handful of evergreens. And, it’s on the standards where the combination of symphony and improvised jazz truly soars. Note to RPO Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik: Locke grew up in Rochester and has many fans here, and symphony arrangements clearly exist. Does it spark a homecoming idea? Locke is playing a local show on April 20 as part of the Exodus to Jazz series.