by Constance Tucker
David Benoit offers a collaborative album for the holidays with the remarkable Jane Monheit entitled, Believe. Benoit is joined by drummer Jamey Tate and bassist David Hughes, and the All-American Boys Chorus on a few selections. The live program consists of holiday standards and fresh arrangements of Vince Guaraldi’s classic A Charlie Brown Christmas material (this year is the 50th anniversary of its broadcast). Benoit’s original “Just Like Me,” clearly has Guaraldi’s musical influence throughout and is co-written with Guaraldi’s lyricist Lee Mendelson for the 2015 Peanuts film.
Believe’s title track comes from the film The Polar Express. The trio and the All-American Boys Chorus provide the backdrop for Monheit’s voice creating a beautifully grandiose music setting perfect for the season. The chorus also joins Monheit on the omnipresent “Christmas Time Is Here” that is preceded by “Guaraldi Medley,” which finds Benoit in fine form. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” is a standout number with its cut-time feel and Monheit’s impeccable scatting. “My Favorite Things” shows why Monheit is known for her melodic delivery and joyous spirit. Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song” is given an inspired reading by Monheit and the chorus; closing the set “My Little Drum,” which is Guaraldi’s arrangement of “The Little Drummer Boy,” features the boys’ choir, with elegance – leaving the listener wanting to run through the set again.
Overall, Believe is a classy jazz album that celebrates the Christmas season, this is the third release in Benoit’s holiday catalog and all have their charm, but this is the best and Monheit’s voice is excellent in this setting. Recommended
Track Listing: Santa Claus is Coming to Town; Believe; Christmas Waltz; Christmas Time is Here; Guaraldi Medley; My Favorite Things; Just Like Me; My Little Drum