In A Yuletide Groove: Harmonica Jazz for the Holidays is the new Christmas CD from harmonica player Chris Bauer. Known for playing jazz standards, classic bebop tunes, and cool Latin swing on the chromatic harmonica, Bauer created an upbeat mood on Yuletide Groove that is part festive and part kindled with a fireside glow.
"The overall theme was to produce a record that you could put on while decorating the tree or during a holiday get-together," Bauer proclaims.
When he decided to make the CD, he chose Rob Paparozzi, the lead singer of the reformed jazz-fusion combo Blood Sweat and Tears, to produce it citing, "Rob and I go way back. We were at harmonica events many years ago but never formally met until about twelve years ago, once again at a Harmonica Festival. Rob is a super talent on harmonica and vocals. He had released a CD a couple of years back called Etruscan Soul that is fantastic. I told him then that I wanted him to produce my next one. When I decided to do a Christmas record, I called on him. Rob has a tremendous sense of song...intros, tempos, feel, voicing, etc and I knew he would be able to orchestrate that for this project."
Bauer tells, "The tunes selected were some of my favorite Christmas tunes. Others were picked because they worked great on the harmonica. 'Ave Maria,' in particular, was my Mom's favorite so that one was added in her memory."
He remembers when he first heard his mother play "Ave Maria" for the family. "That was on the Carpenters Christmas record, and Mom loved Karen's voice and how she sang it." For the Yuletide Groove recording, he reveals that they "saved Ave Maria for the end. Originally, we decided to leave it out since it didn't really seem to fit the overall concept of the record." He recalls, "Rob and I talked about it alot and decided it would be a great way to close out the CD and honor Mom. My wife Patty is a classically trained pianist, and since it is more of a classical tune than a jazz or pop number, we thought it would be best for her to come in and record it."
He confides about the songs chosen for the recording, "I grew up with every one of them," and asserts that the arrangements were "Collaborative for sure! We had basic frameworks that Rob added intros to a few or I offered up arrangement concepts. Glenn and Matt suggested alot of arrangement thoughts too."
The musicians on the recording include Matt Parrish on bass, Glenn McClelland on piano, and Dave Mohn on drums. He explains how they all came together. "Guitarist Chris Ziemer and I work in a trio so I knew him. I already knew Dave from sitting in with him on a couple of local gigs. Glenn and Matt were recommendations. Rob (Paparozzi) recommended Glenn from their Blood Sweat and Tears days together, and Matt was recommended by the engineer, Glenn, and Dave."
He provides, "I'll be doing a couple of holiday parties with my New York trio, so Chris Ziemer will join me and our bassist Steve Marks for those gigs. I'll probably do a couple of smaller venues as a solo utilizing backing tracks."
Bauer's concert schedule can be found on his website (chrisbauermusic.com) along with other tidbits about the music man. Born and raised on New York's Long Island, he was influenced by his father to pick up the harmonica as he shares, "I grew up with the harmonica in my house since my father Bob had a harmonica trio called The Harmonikings. Dad played the chord harmonica, two feet long (instrument), and went on to play with Jerry Murad's Harmonicats years later."
He discusses, "From a harmonica standpoint, my influences were Jerry Murad and Toots Thielemans among other harmonica players. From a jazz standpoint, I would say Miles Davis, Paul Desmond, Art Pepper are definite influences."
In a Yuletide Groove has a nostalgic feel for both Bauer and his audience who have heard these songs possibly all their lives. The tunes are presented from the perspective of the harmonica and imbued with harmonious textures that are both traditional and slightly off the beaten path treaded by those before him. Bauer makes his own mark on classic tunes with his Christmas CD, which can be passed onto burgeoning generations in his family and others.