Prime Cuts: Christmas in Manhattan, Sometimes I Wonder, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Overall Grade: 5/5
Some people are made to sing Christmas music. The show-biz persona of Ernie Hasse and his penchant for Frank Sinatra-esque jazz are perfect combinations to create an elegant sepia-toned Christmas affair. The ensemble of brassy horns, the swirling strings, and the the layered harmonies accompanying Hasse's impeccable and expressive chops, make this record magical. Oozing with lots of nostalgic moments perfect for sipping eggnog in front of a blazing fireplace, this album is perfect to bring out the warmth of the season. However, EHSS have not turned this album entirely into a sentimental escapade. Rather, the original tracks ("Sometimes I Wonder" & "Love You Remember") and the traditional carols ("I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and "O Holy Nights") go deeper than mistletoes and presents to the hope Jesus brings at Christmas.
Amongst the traditional carols and yuletide favorites, EHSS have littered the album with originals. "Christmas in Manhattan," a modern-day "Silver Bells" of sorts, is a standout. The song, quipped with lots of piquant details, brings us along a romantic stroll across the Big Apple. To coo life and freshness into "Jingle Bells," EHSS has juxtaposed the song with newly penned lines giving this classic a fresh sound. And the doodling of the piano on the lilting "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas" is pure bliss. Moreover, the dreamy harmony-stacked "Christmas Time," the doop-wop laced "Love You Remember," and the impish "Mr. Santa" all make the season extra sweet.
But not everything is fairy-floss and candy cane sweet. "Sometimes I Wonder" is a tear-jerker where the protagonist reflects upon how his dead parent will be celebrating Christmas. Not to be missed is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's ever-stunning "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" which was written not long after the Civil War when his son was brutally wounded and his wife had just passed away. Yet, despite such atrocities, Longfellow could still write: "God is not dead or does He sleep, the wrong shall fail the right prevail with peace on earth good will toward men." More God-honoring moments come with EHSS' acapella take of the majestic hymn "O Holy Night."
"A Jazzy Little Christmas," EHSS' first Christmas album in a decade, has everything you would expect from a festive record. On one hand, it's warm and classy flourished with lots of tunes tailored made for those romantic at heart. On the other hand, the record is not bereft of tunes that draw us to the feet of the Christ-child in worship. In short, this record captures the best of both possible worlds.