The holiday season typically brings an expected harvest of albums. But, every once in a while, a seasonal release seeks to surprise, delight and refresh our love for the music of snow and celebration in a new way.
Grammy Award winning multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and composer Ted Nash and NYC singer/songwriter Kristen Lee Sergeant have brought something of this high caliber to the party in Holidays: a markedly distinctive record for the season.
Ted Nash is well known as a bandleader and as a member and arranger for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He is paired with Kristen Lee Sergeant, a vocalist and songwriter who has been singled out for her intelligent lyrics and dramatic styling of song.
Nash and Sergeant aren’t just occasional partners on the bandstand (Nash has appeared in several of Sergeant’s releases), they are partners in life with all that entails, including a collaboration in wine called Two Notes, now in its fourth vintage.
Holidays capitalizes on the best of what a coupling like this can bring. Nash’s memories of holidays spent making music with his family of legendary Hollywood studio musicians infuse many arrangements with a gravitas and depth that Sergeant treats with an actor’s grace; and as Nash’s more adventurous arrangements buck at conventionality, Sergeant gamely answers in her interpretation, and supplies some original lyrics that add bracing clarity.
What results is an album that is at once nostalgic and provocative.
The album begins and ends with two statements about love (or at least, desire) keeping us all warm in the cold. On both “Snowbound” and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” the synergy between these two artists keeps the storm at bay.
In more familiar songs, like “My Favorite Things” and “Sleigh Ride,” there is an exhilaration and invention that can’t be denied, while in songs like “What are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” and “A Christmas Song,” the renditions embrace tradition while still feeling very present and personal.
In less expected material, the duo shows the power and precision of both arrangement and performance at their best. In Sherman Irby’s arrangement of “A Child is Born” and a stunning “Solstice” by Brian Byrne (arrangement by Nash and lyrics by Sergeant), the sensitivity of Nash’s direction and Sergeant’s interpretation are crystalline. In contrast, the free-wheeling, beatnik “Blue Xmas” finds fun urbanity amidst the commercialism of the season.
The gifts given in this recording are many — the diverse band in assembly is a joy to hear, and the dialogue between Nash’s unmistakable voice as soloist, arranger and bandleader is meshed in duet with Sergeant’s taste and sensitivity in voice and word.
Holidays offers their spirit of the season that spreads its arms widely and with abandon.
released November 24, 2023
Ted Nash - conductor, tenor & soprano saxophones, flute (4)
Kristen Lee Sergeant - vocals
Sherman Irby, Steve Kenyon, Ben Kono, Chris Lewis & Paul Nedzela - woodwinds
Tatum Greenblatt, Marcus Printup, Kellin Hanas, & James Zollar - trumpets
James Burton, Jennifer Krupa, Matthew McDonald - trombones
Adam Birnbaum - piano
Jay Anderson - bass
Jared Schonig - drums