As I mentioned in yesterday’s 3D Jazz Trio review, I only received two Christmas jazz releases for 2020. Fortunately, both were strong enough to review. The other holiday title came from Austrian singer Simone Kopmajer (website) and is simply named Christmas, which hints at the direct nature of this album. While Christmas in 3D was also direct–it’s basically a very talented piano trio taking on the holiday classics–Kopmajer is focusing on bringing Austrian holiday traditions into the mix, using musicians from both the US and her homeland and recording these performances in both countries.
That means you get “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” right next to “Es Wird Scho Glei Dumpa,” and a fluid mix of “Silent Night” and “Stille Nacht.” The binder, in fact, is Simone Kopmajer and her rich and lovely voice. She knows how to keep the cutie-pie affectations under control in “Santa Baby,” and she brings a fire and passion to the folk songs, which sometimes have genuine folk arrangements. I am curious about the inclusion of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” however–is it a statement on preserving traditions or a simple challenge to take another look? (I think a lot of the damage goes away if we just tweak the line “What’s in this drink?” She doesn’t.)
What makes Christmas worthy as part of your holiday music traditions? It doesn’t display the same jazz purity as Christmas in 3D, but it might appeal to more of your holiday guests during your big family Zoom call. (See what I did there?) As snobby as I can be about Christmas music and pop musical in general, I found myself under the spell of Simone Kopmajer. A lot of it has to do with her lovely and straightforward singing voice
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve been receiving a lot of “female voice” jazz recordings, and there are quite a few where I question the actual singing style. I was raised on classic rock and New Wave and punk, so I’m not clinging to the idea of a classically trained voice, but there are times in the last few weeks where I’ve asked myself, “Is this really singing? Who thought this was a good idea?” It was just a pleasure to hear Simone Kopmajer settle in and deliver performances that seem to embody the holiday spirit, as bruised and battered as it is this year.