Ledisi: It’s Christmas

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Posted December 24, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Combinations of jazz, gospel and R&B merge together in Ledisi’s brilliant holiday collection

With a vocal hybrid of a jazzy Chaka Khan and a neo-soul adaption of Yolanda Adams, Ledisi is one of the most refreshing new artists to emerge on the R&B/soul scene.. In 2007, her big label breakout album Lost & Foundon the jazz magnet label Verve exposed to the real world the kind of raw talent this Bay Area singer possessed. “Alright,” an inspiration-embedded crossover song, rose to number 45 on the R&B charts and the love kept coming from the industry when her album was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist and Best R&B Album. For her second major label album release, Ledisi leaps into holiday material on It’s Christmas. More jazzy in the tradition of Ella Fitzgerald than her neo-soul-styled Lost & Found, It’s Christmas is a comfortable twelve track collection filled with lounge-like arrangements of treasured holiday favorites and four new originals co-written by Ledisi.

Opening and closing the project, Ledisi makes sure listeners learn of her faith in God using stirring gospel inclusions – the Richard Smallwood-penned “I’ll Go” and the funky R&B-ish “Thank You.” But the greatest and most accomplished track of all is her smoky traditional rendition of “Children Go Where I Send Thee.”Using the allegorical elements of Twelve Days of Christmas, Ledisi works a soulful Staple Singers’ presentation into a rocking groove covered by Teddy Campbell on drums, John “Jubu” Smith on guitar and Rex Rideout on a killer Wurlitzer.

Ledisi doesn’t slow down at all with her bright New Orleans-flavored pop “Be There for Christmas.” It has that innocent Hanson vibe and works well with the romantic joyride. “This Christmas (Could Be the One)”simmers into a warm Babyface-sounding ballad that allows her to dream of her earnest laying next to her love. By the song’s end, Ledisi belts out enough passionate notes to make the song a radio hit year ‘round. Her retelling of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” doesn’t drift away from the original.On “It’s Christmas,” Ledisi unites with jazz legend George Duke on piano. Also cozy in all of its glory are mellow takes on Berry Gordy’s “Give Love on Christmas Day”, and a brilliant lushly showcase on the Nancy Wilson version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” By album’s end, Ledisi rocks through the styles of blues, gospel, pop and jazz with ease and commands the tracks with the kind of grit that legendary divas possess.

Only disappointment to nick-pick over would be the timid jazz arrangement of “Silent Night.” The very relaxed nature of Ledisi’s vocals and calming brush percussion offer a different spin to the overcooked carol, but it doesn’t match any of the other selections.

Regardless of the mood, It’s Christmas is a very versatile holiday classic bound to become an annual stocking stuffer for true music lovers ready to hear holiday music done with lots of heart and soul. Hard to believe that you have to limit such a cool collection of music like this to one or two months in a year.

J MATTHEW COBB

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HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 23 September 2008
  • Label: Verve Forecast
  • Producers: Rex Rideout, Ledisi Young, Lorenzo Johnson, George Duke, Luther “Mano” Hanes
  • Track Favs: Be There for Christmas, Children Go Where I Send Thee, This Christmas (Could Be the One)


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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