Hanukkah may be a little late this year (Dec. 25), but two new Hanukkah CD releases are ahead of the time.
How hip can Hanukkah be? Take a 15-piece big band with modern swing arrangements of traditional and contemporary songs celebrating Hanukkah and lay on leader/vocalist Kenny Ellis, who has been a cantor for over 15 years, and you have a breakout new holiday sound of substance. The CD roars right out with “Swingin’ Dreidel” (originally titled “I Have a Little Dreidel”). Ellis belts away on this, and he was told, “It was like Sinatra does Dreidel.” Most of the tracks reflect Ellis’ love of the big band sounds of Basie, Les Brown, Buddy Rich and Henry Mancini. He contributes originals “Hanukkah Candles,” a ballad with strings, and “Hanu-calypso.” The arrangement of “Rock of Ages” (“Maoz Tzur”) is sung with vocal backing over jazz standard melody “Killer Joe,” and the blending just swings away. It’s worth the price of purchase of this CD just to listen to Kenny Ellis’ hip take of “Twas the Night Before Hanukkah.” Its hilarious.
Rating 4 Stars
Kenny Ellis’ Hanukkah Swings in many ways: “bashert” or “meant to be."
The Hanukkah Lounge
Craig ’n’ Co.
This is an eclectic mix by 12 artists of laidback, instrumental new age music for the holiday. The styles range from chill, smooth, techno, new age and cool big band to ambient grooves. Eight of the songs are contemporary versions of traditional tunes. Trumpeter Frank London & Curah’s original “Drey Dreydele” features London’s muted solo over a brass ensemble. Especially interesting is the fusion of cultures by The Afro-Semitic Experience on “Descarga Ocho Kandelikas” with rhythms and melodies of an Afro-Cuban vibe. The traditional “S’Vivon” gets a heavy dance groove from Bob Parr. The Hanukkah Lounge is available at www.celebrateseries.com or 800-627-2448.
Rating 3 Stars
The overall feel is kick-back, with emphasis on mood techno music that is smooth and reflective for the holiday.
Holiday jazz shows
With just over a week to go for Christmas, there are a couple of Yule-themed shows coming up that would be of interest to jazz lovers for some pretty cool holiday sounds.
• The Jazz Kitchen’s Holiday All Star Jam Friday, Dec. 16 will have a variety of jazz styles by local artists for you to enjoy. Scheduled for your Yule enjoyment are Mary Moss, Bill Lancton, Cynthia Layne, Rob Dixon, Steve Allee, Kenny Phelps and many more. Shows are at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Admission is $10 per person.
• The Buselli Wallarab Jazz Orchestra will perform an all new Christmas concert Sunday, Dec. 18 at the Indiana History Center’s Frank & Katrina Basile Theatre. The performance is called “Carol of the Bells: A Holiday Celebration in Jazz.” Guest performers will be Everett Greene and Larry Greene. Shows are at 2 and 7 p.m.
• Smooth jazz guitarist Peter White will head up “A Peter White Christmas” show featuring trumpeter Rick Braun and saxophonist Mindi Abair Tuesday, Dec. 20 at the Music Mill. Show times are at 7 p.m. (sold out) and 9:30 p.m.
• Gregg Bacon and James Simmons play smooth jazz on pop hits for dining Tuesdays at Cafe @ Ray, 946 S. Meridian St.
• Bill Lancton and Dave Murray serve up soft string jazz at Agio, 635 Massachusetts Ave., on Thursdays, 6 to 10 p.m.
• The Stardusters Band will play the Friday Night Swing Dance Dec. 16 from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. at the Fountain Square Theatre, 1111 Prospect St.
• Steve Corn and Fred Withrow play warm jazz for diners Tuesday and Wednesday, and Bruce Polson and Fred Withrow play Thursday at Maggiano’s, 3550 E. 86th St. Music 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
• Brix Bistro, 65 S. First St., Zionsville: Tuesdays, Daniel Young; Wednesdays, The Evanston Trio; Thursday, Davis & Devitt. Music 6:30 to 9 p.m.