Emma Smith, Snowbound, Wingsor Castle Records ****

Christmas jazz usually brings me out in a rash. Not this. Perhaps because it's more of a winter wonderland holidaze sort of affair which is a far better tack. Five tracks. Never mind the quantity feel the quality. The hard driving Irving Berlin …

Published: 1 Dec 2022. Updated: 59 days.

Christmas jazz usually brings me out in a rash. Not this. Perhaps because it's more of a winter wonderland holidaze sort of affair which is a far better tack. Five tracks. Never mind the quantity feel the quality. The hard driving Irving Berlin classic 'I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm' covered by Billie Holiday in 1937 is a peppy opener and has excellent sax from the Tubby Hayes de nos jours - Alex Garnett. Emma Smith does vocalese after the words later in the track by scatting to the lead instrumental line. Corny mainstay 'Rudolf the Rednose Reindeer' is rendered uncorny and features a beefy baritone sax bass line (the first main riff of which resembles Led Zep's 'Whole Lotta Love') and then wailing guitar from Nick Costley-White, Emma going more soulful. And then the Hammond (Ross Stanley) enters the Joey D (RIP) domain.

The title track, a dreamy Russell Faith and Clarence Kehner song that was wondrously interpreted by Sarah Vaughan in a Don Costa arranged 1962 release on the album of the same name is where Emma shows her supreme command of the material. Shoot me but I skipped the Smith and Garnett penned 'Blues For Santa'. Not my cup of tea so far but will revisit to see if it grows on me.

Emma Smith Snowbound Artwork

But the cup of char that is more in keeping is 'What are You Doing New Year's Eve?' It's excellent. The Frank Loesser song was first recorded in 1947 by Kay Kyser and His Orchestra and later in the year by Margaret Whiting. Ella Fitzgerald from this distance probably did the best-known version recording the song in 1960 followed by Nancy Wilson in 1963 as did Patti LaBelle the same year. In more recent years Diana Krall did a wonderfully subtle treatment with the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra back in 2005 as did Clare Teal in 2013 with Pee Wee Ellis. Emma's treatment is a fine addition to the canon. And what a pleasure Snowbound is - yule be in your element if you dig a classic jazz voice and tops a purple patch of a year from Smith following the romp along bobby-dazzler, Meshuga Baby. SG

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Ezra Collective win best jazz act Mobo

Adding to chart success recently Ezra Collective were last night named best jazz act at the 2022 Mobo awards held at the OVO Arena. The London band broke the top 10 of the UK pop charts - a rare feat for a jazz act following the release of Where I'm …

Published: 1 Dec 2022. Updated: 59 days.

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Adding to chart success recently Ezra Collective were last night named best jazz act at the 2022 Mobo awards held at the OVO Arena. The London band broke the top 10 of the UK pop charts - a rare feat for a jazz act following the release of Where I'm Meant To Be which proved again how the five piece reach parts of a wider non-jazz consciousness that few UK jazz acts can dream of. The London band borne out of Tomorrow's Warriors are led by drummer Femi Koleoso with TJ Koleoso on bass, Joe Armon-Jones on keys, Ife Ogunjobi on trumpet and James Mollison on tenor saxophone. Influenced by grime, hip-hop, Afrobeat, jazz and more they interpreted Wayne Shorter Adam's Apple classic 'Footprints' on 2020's best-selling various artists compilation album, Blue Note Re:imagined. Featured guests on Where I'm Meant To Be include hitmaker Emeli Sandé on 'Siesta'. Rapper Sampa the Great, Kojey Radical in conversation a little with the late Tony Allen is on the thumping Afrobeat livener 'No Confusion' riffing off Gil Scott-Heron lyrically also feature. Words from the great film and tv director Steve McQueen are at the radical heart of the album who talks about black music ''breaking through'' and ''within the unrecognisable there is the familar''. The reggae feeling on 'Ego Killah' is also a big plus and including Charlie Chaplin's 'Smile' ubiquitous as a cover works well in context, certainly the sentimental choice. The Mobo jazz act category was supported by Jazz FM. Photo: press

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