With material as tried, true and in some cases worn smooth as Deanna Reuben
tackles on Christmas Is Here, the focus quickly shifts to her
own approach - and Reuben, a former classical and opera singer, delivers the goods.
Christmas Is Here features a slate of expected Yuletide chestnuts, from "Silent Night" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to "Silver Bells" and "The Christmas Song.
The revelations, however, come early and often - beginning with Reuben's
joy-filled, yet delectably measured delivery.
, whose classical career was cut short by a vocal injury, moves with a witty grace through the proceedings, ramping up for a bold finish.
"A Christmas Love Song," the Johnny Mandel favorite, finds Colombo's guitar moving to the fore - and his
ruminative lines only add to the smoky intrigue of Reuben's
loving take on the lyric.
Glenn Barratt - the engineer and mixer on this date - then adds a cheeky background vocal as Reuben appropriates Eartha Kitt's devilish whisper on "Santa Baby."
McKenna's brawny intro to "Silver Bells" is then the latest signal that Reuben
isn't about to settle for the rote route.
McKenna's retorts on "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and a wonderfully flirtatious version of "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" give both songs a deeper emotional resonance - and Reuben
matches him stride for stride.
Long's crystalline intro to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," shimmering and direct, then sets the stage for one of Reuben's
most controlled performances.
There's plenty of room for the treacly here, and she
walks that fine line like a circus acrobat.
Not everything connects.
Barry Ciabattoni joins Reuben in a game, but ultimately too safe, update of the Ray Charles-Betty Carter favorite "Baby, It's Cold Outside.
Artist: Deanna Reuben
's early background found her
enjoying Broadway show albums, taking piano and voice lessons, and singing in high school musicals.
was classically trained and after college became a choral director who performed with local opera companies.
The highpoint of her
early career was performing regularly with the 16-voice chamber ensemble The Washington Singers and singing as a soloist at Kennedy Center
and Carnegie Hall.
Damage caused by neck surgery in 2003 forced her
to end her
classical career and switch to singing jazz and standards.
career change has been successful and Christmas Is Here is her
fourth CD as a leader.
Although there are times in some of her
longer high notes when one can guess that she
might have once sung opera (she has perfect control over her
voice), throughout Christmas Is Here Deanna Reuben
shows that she
can swing, improvise with subtlety (mostly in her
phrasing) and sound quite comfortable in a jazz setting.
voice is lovely in all of its registers and one can easily understand all of the words that she
On "A Christmas Love Song," Deanna Reuben
shows off her
range, hitting some beautiful high notes.
Always taken as a humorous duet vocal, "Baby It's Cold Outside" has Deanna Reuben
sharing the stage with Barry Ciabattoni.
The music is delightful and Deanna Reuben
does justice to these beloved songs.
Christmas is Here (Deanna Reuben - No Catalog Number) is a straight ahead recording from vocalist Deanna Reuben
With fine arrangements provided by pianist Jason Long, Reuben assays a collection of popular Christmas songs with help from Long on piano, Paul Colombo on guitar; Steve Varner on bass, and Dan Monaghan or Byron Landham on drums.
has a nice easy-on-the-ears voice that lends warmth and understanding to the lyrics, and she
is delicate when she
should be and forceful when it matters most - fresh as a singing daisey.
dazzles here and is wildly on key throughout.
never lets us in a deep ingrossing beautiful cry for a romantic past most personal.
It's emotionally draining.
The Very Thought of You by Deanna Reuben
is one of the better ones that I have heard recently.
has a smooth an pleasant sound, straight ahead with a nice jazz feeling underneath.
To close the program, Reuben
sings "Cinema Paradiso" in Italian, accompanied only by the guitar of Colombo and the violin of Lee, and it is an interesting and daring, but effective way to close things out.
/ The Very Thought of You: A classically trained singer that found her
feet under her
in jazz, Reuben knows how to work a classic and deliver a solid performance.
has been a presence in the eastern Pennsylvania and mid-Atlantic states for over thirty years.
Yet, The Look of Love is her
Better late than never.
Now, the listeners who have been enjoying Reuben's music all of these years can take the music home with them, so to speak.
In addition, The Look of Love provides exposure for Reuben
loyal cadre of listeners.
In fact, anyone who enjoys romantic coverage of standards would enjoy her
career with opera, theater, and choral directing.
has opened for such acts as Yo Yo Ma, Marvin Hamlisch and Itzhak Perlman.
chose jazz standards and ballad form for her
first album due to their ability to allow her
to express her
emotions... and her
appreciation to the people who have encouraged her
With exacting articulation and pitch, Reuben
covers songs that allow her
to become involved in the meaning of the lyrics.
takes "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?
as one listens, it becomes evident that McKenna doesn't merely insert instrumental commentary during the rests, but rather he's an integral part of the recording as the liquidity of his playing effectively harmonizes with Reuben
, even as he anchors her singing during the dramatic high points.
On "Body and Soul," which Reuben
takes as a bossa nova, McKenna's affinity with Getz comes into full play as he
introduces the song with a strangely familiar sounds.
But no, it's not Getz and Gilberto, but rather McKenna and Reuben
That's the kind of insinuating appeal that Reuben
seeks when she
chooses a song, selecting an alternative arrangement that's consistent with her
There's "The Look of Love," of course, the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song of many years ago that Reuben uses as an encapsulation of all that she
intends to convey on the album.
Once again, it has a Brazilian feel, as Reuben and Company
elongate the words "look," "love," "in" and "eyes" for two measures, rather than one, adding a more haunting atmosphere to the song.
In fact, Reuben
is entirely consistent throughout the CD as all of the songs are taken at approximately the same tempo, playing to her
strengths as an interpreter of ballads.
On a few of the songs, like "If I Never Met You," strings and woodwinds appear, even though they aren't credited in the liner notes, as if Reuben
were on stage instead of in a recording studio.
captures the essence of romance through her
heartfelt interpretation of our favorite songs.
Most of the program, however, mellows out with soothing ballads that allow Reuben
to wear her
heart on her
McKenna partners with her
to add melodic grace.
© 2015 Deanna Reuben
All Rights Reserved.
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