(DURHAM, NC - October 15, 2012) Nnenna Freelon's memories of Christmases past are reflected in every holiday celebration - the story, the anticipation, but most of all love, laughter, song and the gathering of family. Freelon’s parents passed away within a year of one another, leaving her to carry on their beliefs regarding the true gift of Christmas - the joy of spending loving moments together. This gift has resulted in the creation of a holiday album that extends the love of Christmas with each and every song.
An acclaimed jazz vocalist and six-time Grammy nominee, Freelon approached friend and fellow North Carolinian John Brown, a long-time member of her musical family, director of Duke University’s jazz program and leader of John Brown’s Big Band to record the album. The two, who have shared the stage and collaborated often during their twenty-year friendship, joined together to create Christmas, a selection of holiday songs. Brown produced the album and will release it on his label, Brown Boulevard. For Freelon, Christmas has always been a time of church and family, “The secular and the sacred were all a part of the celebration. And I love that it’s the one holiday where singing is in the forefront.”
Freelon has built a career on looking at standards from a non-traditional point of view. And since no body of material has been covered more than holiday music, the songs stretched Freelon and Brown’s abilities to explore new arrangements and present new takes on these seasonal classics.
The album kicks off with “Swingle Jingle Bells,” a new way to dash through the snow even more quickly thanks to a brisk arrangement by legendary saxophonist Frank Foster. The album transitions into “Spiritual Medley”, which includes “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” “O Little Town Of Bethlehem,” “Joy To The World” and “Angels We Have Heard On High.”
“Let It Snow” follows and then Freelon and Brown contribute their take on Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” in a nod to a more recent childhood holiday classic. Memories of early Christmas mornings helped Freelon transform Duke Ellington’s “I Love The Sunrise” into a beautiful tribute to the dawn of Christmas day. According to Freelon, an added level of excitement and anticipation has always been a part of the Christmas celebration and the next two tracks (“O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Little Drummer Boy”) reflect that sentiment.
Freelon’s bluesy vocal styling and a big dose of Hammond organ on "Silent Night" breathe unexpected vitality into one of the greatest holiday songs of all time.
According to Freelon, “We want folks to come away feeling the real friendship that was present in the studio.” Nowhere is that kinship more evident than on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” “John’s debut as a vocalist creates a track where we have fun with each other as only old friends can,” she said. The surprises continue on “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” which turns the slow Bing Crosby standard into a joyful New Orleans style romp.
Freelon and Brown have concerts scheduled in Durham, Charlotte, Greensboro and Washington D.C. in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Nnenna Freelon’s Christmas is set for release in early November and will be available via www.brownboulevard.com, iTunes, Amazon and traditional retail outlets.