This is a very special EP and it so becomes its lead vocalist in an intimate sort of way. The repertoire of six songs are culled from a 1961 album by the incomparable June Christy entitled This Time of Year. The songs especially written for Miss Christy by Arnold Miller and Connie Pearce became classics when she sang them. To have to recreate them must clearly have been quite a tall order for Jon Burr – who arranged these songs – and for Miss Bisantz to follow Miss Christy’s album from sixty-one years ago. But Mr Burr put his multifaceted artistry [as an arranger, bassist and leader of this ensemble] to splendid use here.
Of course, what is, first and foremost, undeniable is the fact that he couldn’t have done so for a more worthy artiste than the vocalist this time around: June Bisantz. It seems as if this music albeit from so many years ago is, in a way, something that presaged the uncommon artistry that Miss Bisantz now brings to it on 7 Shades of Snow. After all each of the songs whisper to her in a very special way and in the slate of her heart and she, in turn gives them very special meaning throughout. They are sultry songs that evoke the misty loneliness of winter which shrouds many people for whom Christmas is a wistful, often lonely affair. And Miss Bisantz embraces this emotion with near-mystical empathy.
The vocalist inhabits the lyrics as if she is putting on a second skin. The result is each work represents an endlessly fascinating tapestry woven by the vocalist and the ensemble behind her. Miss Bisantz’s performance has inimitable textural projection. Lyrics are unravelled with requisite emotion and clarity of line, rhythmic rigour and an overriding sense of expectancy and flair. Thus words and phrases escape her lips with pinpoint delicacy, the rest of the musicians informing the melodies and harmonies with quicksilver contrast and a lightness that seems to illuminate an inner dialoguing between the various harmonic voices led by Miss Bisantz’s own voice, glorious in its shadowy, sultry grandeur. Clearly a recording to absolutely die for…
Track list – 1: The Merriest 2: Ring a Merry Bell; 3: Hang Them on the Tree; 4: 7 Shades of Snow; 5: Sorry to See You Go; 6: Winter’s Got Spring Up Its Sleeve
Personnel – June Bisantz: vocals; Mike Eckroth: piano; Jon Burr: bass; Alvester Garnett: drums; James Chirillo: guitar; Brandon Lee: trumpet; Marc Phaneuf: saxophone
Released – 2021
Label – Arabesque Records
Runtime – 17:36