Accent – Christmas All The Way – Accent Entertainment 36:34****
( Jean-Baptiste Craipeau – tenor 1- France; Simon Åkesson – tenor 2 Sweden; Danny Fong – tenor 3 – Canada; Andrew Kesler – tenor 4- Canada; James Rose – baritone – UK; Evan Sander – bass – United States; with guests: Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band #2, 6; The Budapest Scoring Orchestra (strings) #3,10; Rhythm Section Trio – #3, 7; Estonian Voices #9 )
The early winter weather in many parts of North America seem to be a fitting signal for the receipt of Christmas albums. While often the musical offerings are simply warmed over material, occasionally there is a release that provides a fresh approach to the traditional music. Such is the case for Accent – Christmas All The Way. Accent is a six voice a capella vocal group composed of young men from diverse backgrounds and geography.
Some readers may recall a period from the 1950s and 60s that produced The Hi-Lo’s and The Four Freshmen ( who came out of the Stan Kenton Band) each of which sang in close-harmony style and gained a certain popularity in jazz circles. Accent falls within that vocal category, but they have updated many of the vocal elements that were common in the aforementioned groups.
In this ten track release of Christmas selections, the group offers new and interesting interpretations of well known favourites starting with “Christmas Carol Medley” composed of Ding Dong Merrily On High,What Child Is This? and O Christmas Tree. In true a capella fashion, the group dances and prances through these traditional compositions highlighting their swooping vocal intricacies and range.
Supported by the dazzling Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, the group romps through “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” and “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! . Their full bag of vocal gymnastics blend perfectly with Goodwin’s arrangement on the first number, and they are equally effective on Elliott Deutsch’s chart for the second. Additionally trumpeter Arturo Sandoval delivers a biting solo on this number.
No Christmas album would be complete without the classic Mel Tormé number “The Christmas Song”. The group evocatively captures the essence of Tormé’s lyric with the appropriate feeling. It is also enhanced by a lyrical clarinet solo from Don Shelton who just happens to be a former member of The Hi-Lo’s.
The album closes with Adolphe Adam’s stunning “O Holy Night”. The full bodied orchestral arrangement was written Nan Schwartz and flawlessly executed by Budapest Scoring Orchestra and featured renowned harpist Gayle Levant. The group’s stratospheric vocalizing was arranged by one of the members Jean-Baptiste Craipeau.
Gather around the fireplace and enjoy this Christmas treat.
TrackList: Christmas Carol Medley; It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year; I’ll Be Home For Christmas; A Holly Jolly Christmas; Jul, Jul, Strålande Jul; Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!; The Christmas Song; Petit Papa Noël; Winter Winds; O Holy Night