New York Voices – Let It Snow (2013)

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Jazz and holiday music naturally fit each other; some of our most beloved Christmas albums have been recorded by jazz artists such as Nat King Cole and Vince Guaraldi. Continuing this tradition, the vocal quartet New York Voices just released their holiday collection Let It Snow. Combining traditional tunes with rarely performed tracks, New York Voices allows jazz fans to enjoy the genre and Christmas music simultaneously.

Together for over 25 years, New York Voices comprises members Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan, Damon Meader, and Peter Eldridge. Similar to Manhattan Transfer, the foursome specializes in complicated and sophisticated harmonies. In addition to their recording career, they remain active in education, leading workshops and clinics for high school and college music students. In 2009, they established the New York Voices Bowling Green State University Vocal Jazz Camp, furthering their mission to teach jazz to younger generations.

They also bring this academic approach to their music, dazzling the ear with unusual harmonies and difficult tempos. Let Is Snow is no exception, as it features New York Voices’ classy take on carols.

Meader arranged the vocals and orchestration for each cut, and his expertise shines in virtually every track. The production is also stellar, with Meader and Elliot Scheiner creating a full sound that fully showcases the big band sound. As the flawless backing musicians play, the quartet performs appropriately cheerful versions of “Let It Snow,” “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” and the obviously titled “Merry Medley,” a mashup of “The Man with the Bag,” “I’d Like You for Christmas,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

A particular treat is hearing lesser-known Christmas carols. The group’s seamless blending of voices sets the mood for the contemplative “I Wonder as I Wander.” The celebratory “Holiday for Strings” imitates the Modernaires’ 1946 version. Why this track has not received more airplay or not been included in more holiday compilations is a mystery.

Not all of the jazz makeovers work equally well on Let It Snow. “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful” suffers from an odd tempo and awkward phrasing; clearly the song does not require such a radical rearrangement. On the flip side, New York Voices’ inspired pairing of “The Christmas Song” and “Christmas Time Is Here” effectively captures the nostalgia and slight melancholy that lingers throughout the holidays. Both songs were originally jazz compositions, of course, so they work well in the foursome’s repertoire. The swaying tempo of “We Three Kings” also benefits from a jazzy rearrangement that retains the song’s solemn tone while adding joy.

Let It Snow should be a part of any jazz fan’s collection, and will serve as the perfect accompaniment for holiday gatherings. The New York Voices’ sublime harmonies, however, demand close listening for full appreciation.

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Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole is a lifelong music enthusiast who maintains a stand-alone music blog called Listen to the Band. In addition, she is the internet columnist and a contributing editor for Beatlefan magazine. She also holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Kit O'Toole
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