The pandemic has been a hindrance to a lot of musical traditions we’re used to, but thankfully, it can’t stop the release of grand holiday recordings by talented artists whose reminders of the joys that bind us, the friends and family we love, are even more crucial to reflect on this year.
On The Gathering, one of 2020’s most imaginatively arranged and produced seasonal offerings, renowned Southern California based soul/jazz vocalist Amber Weekes brings her delightful mix of charming, playful wit and dreamy, inviting sensuality to a set featuring fresh twists on classics we love (and thought we had heard every possible twist on); a sparkly holiday treatment of a Rodgers & Hart romance (“My Romance”) and a soulful, uplifting original title track that celebrates families and children with a kid’s choir and lush violin solo by the project’s multi-faceted producer/arranger Mark Cargill.
One of the most delightful and unexpected elements is the outros of some of the songs, which feature Weekes adding extra touches of cheer by riffing sassily on the more familiar elements. While her enchanting vocals and lively personality keep the party engaging throughout, true to its title, The Gathering is also a showcase for some of Los Angeles’ greatest jazz talents – ranging from guitar legend Paul Jackson’ Jr. (who adds his crisp, cool improvisation to a bossa kissed “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”), saxophonist Rickey Woodard (who adds feisty punch to “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”), and pianists Josh Nelson, Tony Campodonico and Eddy Olivieri.
Don’t wait till December to enjoy Weekes and this powerhouse ensemble. If there was ever a time when we needed a little Christmas NOW, it’s this year!