Holiday gift ideas from Michael Feinstein

Michael’s back in town next week to ring in the holiday season with a five show run from Wednesday to Sunday. He’ll be playing a selection of his favorite Christmas songs, tunes he describes as “having more emotional substance than songs that are just about Santa and jingle bells, or reindeer.”

Among his Yuletide repertoire are the melancholy-tinged “White Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “The Christmas Song” [Chestnuts roasting…]. As expected, he’ll also present some lesser known lyrics and underplayed gems, like “The Secret of Christmas” by Van Heusen and Sammy Kahn.

We asked the maestro if there were any new recordings on the market he thought that Feinstein’s regulars might like to find under their tree this year. Among his thoughts:

“I’ve heard some of the tracks from Seal’s Standards and I thought they were quite good.  I think he brings a certain amount of authenticity to the music that’s often lacking when pop stars record these songs.  Ahem, I didn’t mean to mention Rod Stewart there, did I?”

“I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Autumn Leaves,” and “Smile” are among the vulnerably sung, eloquently phrased selections on this unexpected pleasure.  A deluxe edition even includes a couple holiday songs—”Let It Snow,” and “The Christmas Song.” Alas, there’s no “Little Klummer Boy”

• “Next week, Verve Records is releasing a never-before-available live recording of Ella Fitzgerald from 1956, Ella at Zardi’s.  Somehow, in all these years, its never seen the light of day.”

The album includes 21 cuts, with Fitzgerald backed by the trio of pianist Don Abney, bassist Vernon Alley, and drummer Frank Capp. There are versions of classics here, including “”S Wonderful” and “How High The Moon” but for aficionados, the true gem here is the opening cut “It All Depends on You” with music by Ray Henderson and lyrics by Buddy G. DeSylva and Lew Brown. While popular versions of the song were cut by Frank Sinatra and Doris Day, it has never been included on a Fitzgerald album until now.

“The young singer-guitarist Kyle Riabko has a very interesting and authentic new take on great material.” His recently released album is Richard Rodgers Reimagined.

 “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'” kicks off this set with a healthy dose of the country twang often amiss in recordings of Oklahoma! And “Some Enchanted Evening” is rendered with finger-picking intimacy, its oceanic sweep replaced by the sound of a Jason Mraz-type, dipping toes in the water from a seat on the end of a pier.

And, while he’s to modest to bring it up himself,, if your loved ones don’t already own a copy, there’s A Michael Feinstein Christmassure to add some soulful sparkle to any holiday evening.