Renowned for putting sultry, lushly swinging spins on a wide array of jazz and Songbook standards and beloved pop hits, Austrian song stylist Simone Kopmajer celebrated 15 years as a recording artist with a very prolific 2020 that included two full length albums, My Wonderland and now the delightful multi-faceted (and generous!) 16-track Christmas.
As one of those artists whose cool charm, sense of wit and rhythm and sultry magic could make the phone book sound sexy, the easiest thing for Kopmajer to do would have been to simply stick to lush arrangements of songs we’ve heard so many times. While the singer – working with Grammy nominated pianist John di Martino and his large ensemble – does that quite well (witness “Santa Baby,” the scat filled “Jingle Bells,” “Christmas Time is Here”), it’s the deeper, unexpected and culturally specific pleasures here that resonate the most.
So while certainly we’ll want to add her lovely duets on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (with her fellow Austrian Viktor Gernot) and “The Christmas Song” (with Allan Harris) to our romantic Christmas Eve playlists, anyone looking for some musical holly strewn off the beaten path should check out her festive English language original “The Most Wonderful Time” (featuring Anna Catharina) and especially her colorful renditions of the German language gems (“Reise Rieselt Der Schnee.” “Es Wird Scho Glei Dumpa”) that Americans rarely if ever hear but must if we want to understand Kopmajer’s roots more deeply.
This leaning towards pristine and jazzy Austrian-specific sweetness extends to a gently bluesy rendition of “Silent Night/Stille Nacht,” rendered in both languages. Other can’t miss tracks include a saucy rendition of Feliz Navidad” and the lush, sax enhanced Chris Rea obscurity “Driving Home for Christmas” –a sweetly soulful substitute for the same emotion of the way too often covered “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”