Hardly anyone – including those folks Down Under, experiencing the balmy [or sweaty] days and nights of summer – needs reminding that in a few weeks it will be Christmas. Fewer people – no matter where on this ailing planet they live – is likely to forget that this will be the second Christmas under the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, a white Christmas notwithstanding. Remarkably the arts community, which has suffered loss of income like few other professionals, has still found time to create and release music – especially Christmas music. Some are doing an extraordinarily good job of it too. Carolyn Lee Jones is one of them.
Miss Jones lives and breathes the lyrics of each of these festive standards that make up the repertoire on Christmas Time is Here. She enshrines the words and phrases that we are so accustomed to hearing at this time of the year with flawless diction, articulating not simply the lyrics but awakening the emotions that are aroused by them. Words have meanings seemingly excavated from the depths of her soul and imbued with colours and tones that are perfect for the narratives that they are meant to convey. This is a gift that singers cannot learn; they are born with such a prodigious talent. This is why we experience the very emotions of the songs as if they are whispered into our mind’s ear by Miss Jones.
Her sensitive singing throughout the album is beautifully accompanied by a stellar cast of marvelous musicians who are fully attuned to her vision of the songs and her artistry. In return they perform with exquisite, idiomatic grace, interpreting each song with fresh appeal. Of course it helps that arrangements are exquisitely-crafted and offer a beguiling variety throughout the disc, from the sassy Latin-tinged “Christmas Song” with which the album opens, through an especially wistful “White Christmas”; a sensuous interpretation of “I’d Like You for Christmas”, a perky version of “Toyland” and playful versions “Jingles The Christmas Cat” and “Count Your Blessings [Instead of Sheep]”.
The apogee of the recording may well be felt in the exquisitely sculpted inventions of “Warm in December” as well as in the long inventions of “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”, all of which are classics that Miss Jones helps us re-discover in her singing which re-creates the magic of a perfect Christmas atmosphere, imbued with an alluring piety that is easy to fall in love with as well.
Track list – 1: The Christmas Song 2: Christmas Time is Here; 3: Warm in December; 4: Jingles The Christmas Cat; 5: You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To; 6: I’d Like You for Christmas; 7: Merry Christmas; 8: Red Christmas; 9: Santa Baby; 10: White Christmas; 11: Toyland; 12: Count Your Blessings [Instead of Sheep]
Personnel – Carolyn Lee Jones: vocals; Brad Williams: piano, Hammond BE organ  and celeste ; Jonathan Fisher: bass [1, 3] and cello ; Steven Heffner: bass [3, 4, 6, 12]; Lynn Seaton: bass [7 – 11]; Andrew Griffith: drums [1 – 6, 12]; Dennis Durick: drums and percussion [7 – 11]; Tom Burchill: guitar [1, 2, 5]; Todd Parsnow: guitar [3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11]; Tony Baker: trombone [3, 7, 9, 11]; Keith Jordan: flugelhorn  and trumpet ; Shelley Carrol: saxophone ; Mario Cruz: saxophone [7, 9, 10]; Dave Monsch: baritone saxophone [7, 9] and alto flute ; Veronica Gan: violin [10, 11]; Imelda Tecson: viola [10, 11]; Buffi Jacobs: cello [10, 11]
Released – 2021
Label – Catn’round Sound
Runtime – 43:36