An Eden Brent Christmas with Bob Dowell
Little Boogaloo Records/Yellow Dog Records
Eden Brent is a three time Blues Music Award winner with ten nominations overall. She has won the Acoustic Artist of the Year, Acoustic Album of The Year and the coveted Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year Awards. Her last recording was 2014’s “Jigsaw Heart”; her third for the Memphis based Yellow Dog label.
Brent met trombonist/arranger Bob Dowell, an Englishmen, while both were on the 2008 Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. They began a romance and spent each Christmas since in Brent’s home in Greenville, Ms.; they were married three years ago. Dowell released his own debut album “Mississippi Slide” in 2017.
Brent laughs “I grew up loving Christmas albums by Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James…and I believed in Santa Claus a lot longer than most”. Is this a blues album? Dowell adds “It’s a pop album, really” as the music combines blues, jazz and Hollywood scores.
The band includes Brent, piano and vocals; John Bass, guitar; Tim Goodwin, bass; either Earl Lowe or James Sexton, drums; Alvie Givhan, piano; and a four piece horn section including Dowell, trombone; Marc Franklin, trumpet and flugelhorn, Kirk Smothers, baritone sax and flute; and Art Edmaiston, tenor sax. The musical arrangements are by Dowell.
The twelve track album opens with “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus”. Brent states she first heard the song sung by Mabel Scott. I first heard this and many other Christmas songs on various compilations including 1992’s The Alligator Records Christmas Collection where it was sung by Charles Brown. The song was first recorded by Patti Page in 1950. Brent’s vocal is superb.
“Santa Baby” is the sexy and lighthearted song that was a huge hit for Eartha Kitt in 1953; Dowell gives the song a Count Basie styled bluesy swing. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” was first released by Frank Sinatra in 1948. “Merry Christmas Baby” was recorded by Charles Brown in 1947 when he was still with Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers. “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)” written by Mel Torme and Robert Wells was recorded by The Nat King Cole Trio in 1946 and re-recorded by Cole in 1961.
Two tracks are from the songwriting team of Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne. “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” was recorded by Vaughan Monroe in 1945 and reached #1 on the Billboard chart; it was recorded by Dean Martin in 1959. “The Christmas Waltz” was recorded by Wally Stott and His Orchestra in 1959.
“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” was composed by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie in 1934, it was a huge hit in 1945 when it was sung by Bing Crosby with The Andrews Sisters; Dowell gives the song a New Orleans treatment. “That’s What I Want For Christmas” was a hit single for the late Jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson in 1963. “Winter Wonderland” first recorded by Ted Weems and His Orchestra in 1934 was popularized by The Andrews Sisters with Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians in 1946.
“Blue Christmas” was made famous when it was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1957; Elvis’ band included Scotty Moore, Bill Black, D.J. Fontana and The Jordanaires. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” written by Frank Loesser was featured in the 1949 film “Neptune’s Daughter”, it was popularized when it was recorded by Ray Charles and Betty Carter in 1961; here the vocal duet is performed by Brent and Dowell.
Four of the songs feature Brent on piano and she shows why she was the 2010 BMA Piano Player of The Year. Dowell is superb as he leads the four piece horn section that decorates his arrangements like lights on a Christmas tree. This is a superb Christmas album that just might be the best stocking stuffer of the holiday season.