Back in 2011, Billboard chart-topping contemporary jazz guitarist Chris Standring and award-winning pop/folk singer/songwriter Kathrin Shorr pulled off a remarkable musical coup for the holidays. Collaborating on a recording for the first time, the L.A. based artists created Send Me Some Snow, a compelling, playful and witty, purely secular Christmas album of all original material.
No “Jingle Bells.” No Chestnuts. No “Silent Night.” Just fantastic, warm and inviting, mostly lighthearted tunes celebrating the proverbial most wonderful time of the year with a unique vintage pop/jazz vibe drawing on traditions of the past while blazing fresh poppy, jazzy trails. I wrote of the collection at the time, “While evoking feelings of nostalgia for days gone by, the ten witty, charming and easy grooving originals make the perfect fresh accompaniment for a whole new set of inspiring Yuletide memories.”
To this day, the collection is, production-wise a lovely colorful outlier from the vibey, effects filled atmospheric retro soul sound Standring’s vast catalog of instrumental classics is known for. And Shorr’s airy/dreamy yet edgy and soul-piercing vocals are so delightful, Send Me Some Snow merits listening to even in the heat of summer. Its independent success over the years has led the duo to perform a highly-anticipated show every year at a local Southern California venue – including this year’s performance, dubbed “Chris Standring & Kathrin Shorr’s Xmas Extravaganza at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s.
Though Standring joked that his introductory set with his playfully swinging trio (longtime music partner Rodney Lee on piano, Kevin Axt on upright bass and Dave Derge on drums) was “the self -ndulgent part of the show,” he said he loved the opportunity to be loose and festival and play more traditional music. The quartet set the intimate, loungey mood - but often with a pulsating twist - with improvisation-filled renditions of songs we might hear on KOST 103 this time of year. They brought fresh magic to “I’ll be Home For Christmas,” a spacious and moody “The First Noel” and a hipster romp through “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”
Then Shorr, after making sure the audience made note of her first time wearing of a tasteful black dress, got right down to duo business, bringing sass, sultriness and breathy soul to poetic, wit-filled album highlights like “Send Me Some Snow,” the scat-tinged “Naughty or Nice” and the hilariously quirky “I Got a Thing for Jack” (as in Frost), as well well as a light swing through “Winter Wonderland,” a graceful, tinsel topped “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and and the semi-seasonal but always welcome “What a Wonderful World.”
Typifying Standring and Shorr’s artful balance between unadorned/traditional and wild/whimsical, they followed a beautifully restrained, strumming guitar driven duet of “White Christmas” the peppy and percussive (courtesy of Derge’s timely marching), New Orleans-styled “Mistletoe Moon.”
Adding perfect symmetry to the nearly 90 minute show, Standring then left the stage after inviting vocalist/guitarist Tim Burlingame to join Shorr, his wife, in sharing brand new holiday tunes from Paper & Ribbon, the latest release from their popular pop/folk duo they aptly dub Sweet Talk Radio. Lee, Axt and Derge swung amiably behind a short set of tasty holiday treats – “Snowbird” (featuring Shorr on uke), “Christmas All Year Long” and “Paper and Ribbon” – that no doubt inspired folks in the audience to seek out the EP and stream them at home.
Standring returned for a cozy stroll through “The Christmas Song.” By popular demand, he and Shorr came back for an encore, but charmingly, forgot the lyrics to whatever song they were planning to do. So they rolled again (in the spirit of the season, even more freewheelingly this time) through “Jack Frost.”
The crowd roared. Like I said, these are tunes you can listen to over and over, any time of year.