Ronny Whyte - Whyte Christmas [ACD-341] CD Review by Don Albert
Date Posted: 2012-01-03

Jazzaholic by Don Albert: I’m not a great one for Christmas CDs, normally they all have a sameness and tunes are repeated over and over again. Boring.

So I was a little skeptical when Ronny Whyte (who spent a short holiday with friends in Durban recently, and knocked everyone out a special dinner party), sent me his new CD ’Whyte Christmas’.

From the outset I was hooked by tenor saxman Harry Allen blowing a bluesy intro which led into a swinging version of “Sleigh Ride”. He also adds a groovy obbligato to Whyte’s vocal. Whew what a start.

Next comes the wonderful Matt Dennis song “Violets for Your Furs”, again Allen blows some melodic lines while Whyte’s vocal is intimate, as if he is in your lounge and singing only to you.

“It’s Always Christmas in New York” is a lightly swinging original by Whyte with clever lyrics from Roger Schore. His nod to Ol’ Blue Eyes comes in the form of “Mistletoe and Holly” written by Frank Sinatra in 1957. Once more Allen excels.

A 1985 Tricia Walker tune “Evening in December” is a real family Christmas song. The wonderful Daryl Sherman joins Whyte for “That Holiday Feeling” which has a certain joie de vivre about it. I think it became too tempting for Whyte to leave out Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song”, so it’s there as well.

Burt Bacharach’s “Winter Warm” gets an outing, and I must mention that guitarist John Hart seems to just tweak every track he appears on. Allen joins Whyte again, and the two blow the cobwebs out of “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”

The coupling of “Christmas Dreaming” and “White Christmas” is a little stroke of genius, and seems so obvious when you hear the lyrics which segue into each other in such a natural manner as Whyte sings “I’m doing my Christmas dreaming a little early, because I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” Sammy Cahn and Julie Styne are represented by their 1954 song “Christmas Waltz”, and. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” comes complete with the verse, while Allen takes his solo at a nice ‘walking’ tempo.

For all those people who you haven’t seen in 40 years, and weren’t in your crowd anyway, who come up to you and say “Don’t you remember me? “ the answer is in my absolute favorite on this album, and alone worth the price of it. It is “I Don’t Remember Christmas”, written by David Shire with wonderful lyrics from Richard Maltby.

Then there’s a brilliant send up with lyrics by David Levy of the above song, especially for Jewish listeners titled “I Don’t Remember Purim”. It’s hilarious and a wonderful present for any Jewish occasion.

Whyte sings with sincerity and displays an understanding of the lyrics, which he treats with utmost respect. Although he doesn’t feature too much of his piano playing it’s obvious he’s a schooled artist of the keyboard. Bassist Boots Maleson and drummer Vinson Vega never intrude, yet they keep things quietly under control.

For more info e-mail Ronny Whyte ronwhyte@verizon.net

Don Albert’s Jazzaholic column will be posted on Artslink.co.za every Thursday. Don Albert is a saxophonist and jazz journalist. He spent 12 years with The Star Newspaper on the Tonight! Section writing about jazz. Currently he writes jazz CD and book reviews for Financial Mail and is the South African Correspondent for Downbeat (USA) and Jazz Journal International (UK). He has presented radio programmes on jazz and served as judge at prestigious competitions. He has also won numerous awards.


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