It’s that time of year again, when Halloween ends and the next thing anyone knows, it is Christmas. Or at least almost Thanksgiving and Christmas music is heard from public address systems and television commercials. With a twist on America’s traditional favorites, Jake Ehrenreich with the Roger Kellaway Trio presents “A Treasury of Jewish Christmas Songs.” The album is intended as a “cool jazz tribute to the Jewish songwriters.” The collected tracks do exactly that. What listeners will notice is the decidedly jazz flair to songs that some have sung since childhood.
The teaming up of Ehrenreich and Kellaway brings a great deal of talent to the project. The two are joined by Bruce Forman on guitars, Dan Lutz on bass and Kevin Winard on percussion.
About Jake Ehrenreich and Roger Kellaway
Ehrenreich is a musician, author and playwright. He is featured in the film “The Last Laugh” with Mel Brooks and carl Reiner. His Broadway appearances include “Dancin’,” “Barnum,” “They’re Playing Our Song” and toured internationally in “Beatlemania.”
Ehrenreich’s recording career and performances include working with artists like Whitney Houston, Richie Havens, Greg Allman and Tito Puente. Ehrenreich is included in the Brooklyn Jewish Hall of Fame and is the son of Holocaust survivors. A Brooklyn native, he is known for being the star and creator of the record-breaking musical “A Jew Grows in Brooklyn.” The production has been turned into a bestselling book. Ehrenreich received a Special Congressional Citation the same year he was inducted into the Brooklyn Hall of Fame, 2016.
Kellaway is a Grammy winner and Academy Award nominee. The pianist and composer had more than 250 albums to his credit, including almost 30 film scores. Among them, Clint Eastwood’s “INVICTUS” and Barbara Streisand’s “A Star is Born.” Nationwide audiences were exposed to Kellaway’s work as he composed and performed “Remembering You” the closing theme for the popular sit-com “All in the Family.” As a musical director, Kellaway has toured with Tony Bennett, Van Morrison, (the late) Bobby Darin and Joni Mitchell.
Jake Ehrenreich with the Roger Kellaway Trio: “A Treasury of Jewish Christmas Songs”
The album is a full package of 13 songs. That includes the bonus track, “The Christmas Song.” So many of the songs, well, all of the songs, sound like Christmas done perfectly. A collection of secular songs have a style that reminds listeners of big city Christmases and all the trimmings and traffic tie-ups that accompany such settings and occasions.
“A Holly Jolly Christmas”
The piano here is lively the lines roll and bounce and the mood is set. Ehrenreich’s classic voice will no doubt remind some listeners of Tony Bennett. He sings with a what can only be called a New York verve. his vamped phrases make the songs unique all sound like they are derived from the Big Apple. In terms of performance, Ehrenreich’s smooth phrasing adds a touch of cool to songs that most people associate with animated children’s specials. The bass works beautifully with each of Kellaway’s style turns on the piano. The rich feel of the music reminds listeners about what is special about jazz.
A sprinkle of piano opens the song. The vocals are gentle in the sparse soundscape. The unassuming opening paves the way for the song to morph into the spry example of guitar and piano motifs. Here “sister snowman” is built, and toward the end, a slowed down bass run introduces a new motif. It is a send up of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” In this case, the boots are made for walking over a “winter wonderland.” The twist shows the trio and the singer having fun. It is almost like being at a live show and hearing a performer do something surprising.
Ehrenreich and Kellaway perform songs audiences think they know, but with subtle and not-so subtle twists. The talent of the performers allows them to have fun and take audiences on a ride through classic songs, assuring that the tracks never get old.