The roster of local artists releasing CDs for the holidays has grown this year. Here is a glimpse of their efforts.
'The Christmas One'
Award-winning solo pianist/composer Becky Archibald has taken a radical departure from her more understated piano approach on her fourth CD, The Christmas One. "I am trying to be more open or reckless," she said. Archibald does play assertively on all 13 of these traditional carols. She turns the bridge of "The Christmas Song" into a jazz romp. Archibald admits that jazz is becoming a learning influence. "It's starting to creep out of me more and more; I love those sounds."
Surprisingly, Archibald says she loves Count Basie's piano playing and listens to it over and over. You can hear her go into stride playing on "Deck the Halls" and adopt a bluesy approach on "O Come Emmanuel."
You can hear Archibald live Saturday, Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m. in the Indiana History Center's Basile Theatre for "An Intimate Christmas," a concert and CD release party. Also appearing will be The Maple Trio performing for their CD release, A Carrollton Christmas. Becky Archibald's Yule offering adds some sparkling tinsel to this holiday season.
Dr. Stan Hillis:
'Heart of the Season'
Jazz alto sax/flute-playing cardiologist Dr. Stan Hillis has released his second CD and, like his first seven years ago, he puts his heart into jazz renderings of popular and traditional Christmas tunes. He has played these songs at mini holiday concerts in CARE Group clinics around the state.
Hillis is joined by such friends as Steve Allee on piano, who arranged the tunes; Frank Smith on bass; Kenny Phelps, drums; Jeff Conrad, flugelhorn; Charlie Smith and Sandy Williams, guitars; Tom Meyer, reeds; and Kevin Kaiser, percussion.
Hillis says this CD concept wasn't his. "Believe it or not, the idea came from my son, Dr. Matthew Hillis."
Hillis shows his chops and love of playing bebop on this seasonal outing. Hillis' alto solos are burning away on "Sleighride" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." Allee's arrangement is unique, with a Latin flavor on "Joy To the World," featuring a brightly flowing flute solo from Hillis.
I asked him if he had preconceived which instrument he would play on specific tunes. "I would probably say nine of the 14 tunes were preconceived. I had in mind either the flute or the saxophone. The others were determined by which key Steve Allee wrote the melody in that made me more comfortable for jamming on the tune."
All of the proceeds from the sale of Heart of the Season will benefit the CARE Group's non-profit branch Cardiac Research Education Foundation of Indiana Inc. and the American Heart Association. Heart of the Season will warm up any holiday festivity with Hillis and friends' performances and is available at most Indianapolis Borders and Westfield/Carmel Barnes & Noble bookstores.
There are other holiday CDs of interest by local artists: A Cathy Morris Christmas; Marvin Chandler and the Jack Gilfoy Quartet's When a Child is Born; Dave Hepler's Tidings; Tommy Wills' Happy Holidays and Kelleen's Simply Beautiful.
A great jazz orchestral holiday performance takes place Saturday, Dec. 10 at the Jazz Kitchen when the Buselli Wallarab Jazz Orchestra performs Duke Ellington's masterful interpretation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. BWJO's artistic director, Brent Wallarab, has praised this work as a benchmark of modern orchestration for a classical work. If you have never heard how Ellington added a new dimension to this holiday favorite then don't miss the Buselli Wallarab Jazz Orchestra's exciting performance. Shows are at 7 and 9 p.m. Admission per person is $20 first performance, $15 second performance.