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Music Review: Berlin Voices About Christmas

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My wife and I were completing the paperwork to get our flu shots and this melody kept going through my mind.  As soon as I recognized it, I asked myself, what brought this song to mind?  We had been listening to a new CD in the truck on the way to town and then it hit me.

“I wonder as I wander out under the sky,” is the opening lyric and title of track ten.

Hmmmmm… I also wonder.  Has anyone else dared to arrange a Christmas lyric to the driving beat of Brubeck’s jazz classic, “Take Five”? It’s a brilliant innovation and performed with style, precision, and confidence by Berlin Voices, one of Germany’s most popular jazz vocal ensembles. They’re onto something good and they know it! You can hear them smiling!

 

 

Esther Kaiser (soprano/alto), Marc Secara (tenor), and Kristof Benn (baritone) have worked together since 1998 when they sang in with the Federal Jazz Orchestra. Sarah Kaiser (soprano/alto) joined them in 2000 to form Berlin Voices.  Listeners will enjoy pleasing harmonies, precise diction, and enthusiastic performances from the four singers that describe themselves as “Four Voices — One Sound”.

On About Christmas (their second album) they are accompanied by a quartet of top flight musicians that lay down some hot jazz for the holidays.  In addition to a few special guests on some of the tracks, the quartet is: Hendrik Soll (keyboards), Bruno Muller (guitars),Christian von Kaphengst (bass) and Martijn Vink (drums).  Despite the great sounds these guys bring, it’s track three, “Stille Nacht”, done a capella, that really stands out.  Several other tracks feature as much as fifty-eight seconds of un-accompanied singing and in every case, the strength, character and depth of their individual talents are apparent as well as their melding into “one voice”.

Once of the nicest holiday surprises since Bob Dylan’s Christmas album last year is this production featuring two classic Christmas songs (“Gloria in Excelsis Deo” and “Es Kommt Ein Schiff, Geladen”) done to a guitar-driven samba beat. When “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” got to the samba, I had to check the liner notes — I thought the singer was Astrud Gilberto!



Release date for About Christmas is September 28 and it will be one of those Christmas albums you’ll enjoy long after the holiday season — it‘s great jazz.

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