Jason Paul Curtis,
Lovers Holiday
(independent, 2012)

Are your family and friends growing tired of those musty old Sinatra and Rat Pack holiday albums that you somehow discover in the back of the record console each year? Then pop in something fresh that will sound familiar to you, but will be new enough to surprise and entertain your guests. With Lovers Holiday, super singer-songwriter Jason Paul Curtis gives us standards from the likes of Sammy Cahn and Cole Porter, and then tosses his own creations into the lineup as well. His dreamy-steamy vocals and the swing-band style will transform your garland-decorated living room into a trendy neighborhood nightclub. You'd better move the furniture aside to accommodate a bar and the inevitable dancing that will no doubt ensue.

Although this is his first album release, Jason Paul Curtis has logged substantial experience in musical theater productions. He counts Nat King Cole and Harry Connick Jr. as his major vocal influences. But as soon as I listened to the first few minutes of this recording, I immediately imagined a young Frank Sinatra. I don't think it's a stretch to make that statement. Yes, his voice is similar to Connick's, I suppose. It's a sound that's certainly easy on the ears.

What's a singer without backup musicians? Jason is accompanied by two extraordinary bands here: Swinglab and Swing Machine. They work together well on each tune to produce a professional sound.

Seven of the 12 selections are popular favorites. The piano framework for "Let It Snow" injects the tune with a sense of urban urgency. "Christmas Time is Here" is Vince Guaraldi's distinctive opening theme song from the holiday cartoon classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas. What a real and different treat it is to hear an adult voice on the melody line! As a nod to its source, a few youthful singers were assigned to la-la faintly behind the instrumental interlude. In this way, we are reminded of the sight of Schulz's caroling kids with their animated noses in the air.

The rhythm of "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home to" makes it suitable for cha-cha-cha-ing around the buffet table. It's followed by another Cole Porter tune, "In the Still of the Night." Then the metro feel returns again with Irving Berlin's snappy number, "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm." "You're Something," which was written by Steve Allen, was a song that was unfamiliar to me; and it got me thinking about Allen and what a great guy he was. Sammy Cahn's "The Christmas Waltz" is a perfect match to Jason's voice and style.

Intermingled with these familiar tunes are five of Jason's originals. In "Our Time of Year," he shares what he likes about the season. (Which turns out to be everything.) He outlines all of his previous good deeds for his partner in "Good This Year," just in case she hasn't been keeping track. This is a song with enough universal appeal that it could be picked up and performed by others. In the old days of the recording biz, this is the first original cut that could have been released as a single.

We feel Jason's frustration and dismay in "Blue Friday," as he accompanies his wife on a shopping spree on the day after Thanksgiving. While he insists that he'd do anything for her, the burdens of this particular task are nearly unbearable. "Oh baby, you know I love you / I couldn't want you more / But I must ask this of you / Why today, and why this store?" These playful verses end with the refrain, "All I want is you."

The title song, "Lovers Holiday," is mellow and wistful. Jason laments to his lover that they need to spend some quality time together, and he proposes some options. The final suggestion is "Let's take off the rest of the year, beginning tonight." In "Winter Wind," Jason once again sings about enjoying the season, especially when it includes lots of snow. "My baby keeps me warm in the winter wind," he tells us.

As previously mentioned, the two swing bands that Jason performs with are outstanding. A handful of the selections feature memorable flute or sax solos by Dave Schiff. Four of the songs -- "Let It Snow," "Good This Year," "Blue Friday" and "In the Still of the Night" -- include excellent, intricate walking bass lines supplied by John Dahlman. (In fact, in the last one, it's more like a running gallop.) Ray Mabalot is equally as stellar on the ivories.

Jason Paul Curtis is a native Texan who now makes his home in Virginia and the D.C. suburbs. Yet you'd never know he's a Southern boy, 'cause you never catch a hint of an accent. His music is sure to get your fingers snappin' and your toes a-tappin'. With Lovers Holiday, Jason proves that he's an all-around talent, both in performing and penning songs, as well as in producing this inaugural album. This CD will be a terrific addition to your party's background. Or, use it to wrap or open gifts by ... especially in the company of a special person. Here's to aiming best wishes in Mr. Curtis's direction, and to hoping that we hear again from him soon.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Corinne H. Smith

2 February 2013

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