June Bisantz has made a career of collections of original Jazz and she has been acknowledged widely because of it. Now in time for the holidays, Bisantz has put together a marvelous collection of holiday tunes from Arnold Miller and Connie Pierce, originally written for June Christy in 1961, called 7 Shades of Snow. It is wonderful.
The project was initiated in the Winter of 2020 as the pandemic closed venues and recording studios. Music and the creative force, however, will not be denied and 7 Shades of Snow is solid proof of that.
And what a discovery! That Bisantz should uncover this collection and manage to get it recorded with the Jon Burr Sextet at the height of the disaster, is extraordinary.
With bassist and bandleader Jon Burr are Mike Eckroth on piano, James Chirillo on guitar, Brandon Lee on trumpet, Marc Pfaneuf on saxophone, and Alvester Garnett on drums. Jon Burr did the arranging and producing.
This is not just a holiday collection—although it contains splendid examples of holiday sentiment—but a celebration of the Winter season.
The Merriest kicks off the album with its cool horn section and fantastic introduction to Bisantz’ warm vocals. Brandon Lee’s trumpet solo is short and tight but spot-on. The pairing of trumpet and Pfaneuf’s sax is excellent. Then Ring a Merry Bell carries right along and the fun continues. Again, the horns stand out but Burr’s warm bass solo is worth waiting for.
The ode to the holidays continues with Hang Them on a Tree with the lament-turned-celebration idea of getting rid of sadness and gloom by surrendering it all to the holidays. The beauty of the season is reflected in 7 Shades of Snow, the title song. A slow ballad makes this a wonderful palette for Bisantz’ vocal range and splendid artistry. She is a gem.
Sorry to See You Go is a farewell to the old year. This in itself is a harkening back to better days as no one was or is sorry to say goodbye to 2020 or 2021. In our times, Hit the Road Jack is closer to the mark. But’s remember what 1961 must have been like. And that’s the thing, too…June Bisantz lays on the nostalgia without being maudlin. It is a fond look back without the self-pity of our contemporary age.
She closes the album with Winter’s Got Spring Up Its Sleeve. This is a great tune with optimism and hope and a beautiful instrumental arrangement from Burr—as are all the tunes here. Seriously, what a great conclusion to a Winter’s reverie. It almost begs a celebration of Spring album from this crew.
June Bisantz and the Jon Burr Sextet have given us a wonderful soundtrack for a return to holiday joys and loves. 7 Shades of Snow is the best gift we could ask to find in our stocking.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
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