December 2019 — This month in the JAZZ ROOM, we top off the holidays with the music of Vince Guaraldi, whose style is best recognized from the Peanuts Christmas specials. Because the holidays is a season of family and nostalgia, we asked some of our performers to share their special traditions with us.
Paul Longstreth, featured pianist
Imagine a jolly gaggle of professional vocalists and musicians barreling down the brisk damp streets of New Orleans. As they make their way past Canal street you hear the Jazzy notes of Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer.
Paul Longstreth’s favorite holiday traditions is joining with his friends, a group of professional musicians, as they sing through the French Quarter.
“My family is huge into Christmas. The family gathering itself on Christmas Eve and Christmas day is a long-standing tradition for us.” His family is spread throughout the country now, but they still make time for each other and sweet potato crumble on Christmas.
For the JAZZ ROOM’s holiday concert Paul wants you to come prepared. “We are going to do some caroling when I do my set. So, I hope people are ready to not only listen but to make a beautiful and joyful noise.”
Ariel Pocock, featured pianist
Growing up with two classical pianist parents, you would think holiday food and music would be pretty conventional. For Ariel Pocock that wasn’t necessarily the case.
“We make traditional Transylvanian food because my grandmother is from Transylvania.” Then, “we had our classical friends over for the holidays. They would get tipsy and play things like Flight of The Bumble Bee really fast and it would be like a party trick.”
For her, the holidays are more about knowing how to enjoy yourself and not take things too seriously. “As musicians, we are always gigging on Christmas.” “Even if things are stressful you can still enjoy decorating and cooking with your friends and drinking wine and playing music too fast.”
Ariel wants audiences to know that although you will be hearing Christmas classics you will also hear the sound of musicians having fun by adding their take on the music. “If you are already a fan of the Vince Guaraldi music Keep an open mind.” “Come prepared to hear music that you know and love with a little bit of a spin to it.”
Emily Braden, guest vocalist
The matriarch of Emily Braden’s family, her grandmother, bolstered a love for soul, jazz and Oyster stew during the holidays. I have the best memories of spending Christmas Eve at her house, preparing food together and listening to music.” “There are a couple of home videos, that are really sweet, of us as kids sitting in the chair with her singing Christmas carols.”
Included as must-haves on her holiday playlist are Elle Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Donnie Hathaway, and Stevie Wonder. The emotional rich lyrics of soulful Christmas music really help define for her why Christmas isn’t just for the young and she never tires of the songs.
Emily will be singing Donnie Hathaway’s This Christmas and Ella Fitzgerald’s Jingle Bells on December 13th at the Jazz Room. She wants listeners to know that she has a special love for Charlotte audiences and the musicians that she’s connected with over the years.
Mercury Carter, guest vocalist
The aroma of collard greens, cornbread, and sweet potato souffle fills the air as Mercury Carter and his mother sing and decorate the family Christmas tree. This holiday tradition goes back as far as he can remember. “We just sing the whole time and it’s all ways so much fun.” The fellowship of family and friends, as well as the presence of soul music, really illustrate his ideal holiday experience.
Mercury will be singing Aretha Franklin’s First Snow In Kokomo at the Jazz Room on December 13th. “It’s not your conventional Christmas song but she’ definitely talking about Christmas time in a soulful and poetic way.”