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Friday, December 22, 2017


Baby It's Cold Outside

BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE, Chris Pasin and Friends (Planet Arts) 
by David McGee

Here’s a holiday outing that should satisfy traditionalists and adventurous spirits alike, a true rarity. Trumpeter/flugelhorn master Chris Pasin, whose resume includes several years touring as a soloist with Buddy Rich and backing giants on the order of Sinatra, Torme, Sarah Vaughn, Nancy Wilson, Ray Charles and Tony Bennett, as well crafting his own projects with some of New York’s finest jazz players, has brought some Gotham friends together, along with upstate New York-based vocalist Patricia Dalton Fennell (in a dual role as vocalist and producer), and given the holiday season the scintillating Baby It’s Cold Outside.

For those more interested in new insights into seasonal warhorses, Pasin and friends offer a five-and-a-half-minute journey through “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” featuring discursive solos by Pasin on trumpet and pianist Armen Donelian, as well as a tasty drum-and-bass dialogue between Jeff Siegel and Ira Coleman, respectively, plus a couple of nice tempo changes for added texture. Similarly, “We Three Kings of Orient Are” is almost unrecognizable when Pasin soars into upper register impressionistic flurries before giving way to Donelian skittering across the keys and taking the melody line into uncharted waters over the course of six-and-a-half minutes. And though Donelian gets a might Baroque on another six-and-a-half-minute journey through “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel,” the arrangement features only him and Pasin (on trumpet), and in staying close to the identifiable melody and improvising some ruminative passages, the duo achieves remarkable beauty serving to enhance the song’s majesty.

Vocalist/producer Fennell stands out every time she takes the spotlight, starting with the first cut, a warm, engaging “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"; through a fun, sexy romp through the title track, which finds her and Pasin not singing but speaking the lyrics in a sensuous pas de deux between a lusty woman and a man caught off-balance by her fleshly importuning; and culminating in a powerful, reverential rendition of “Greensleeves” (well, actually it’s “What Child Is This,” the Christmas story set to the music of “Greensleeves”) accompanied only by pianist Donelian, who works some florid variations on the melody during his solo but mostly supports the singer in spare, stark fashion. Fennell sounds so casual, so confident, so unaffected in her conversations with the musicians you can’t help but return repeatedly to her performances. In a beautiful bit of sequencing, “Greensleeves” is followed on the disc by Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here,” with no vocal but rather Pasin’s trumpet sounding the familiar theme and establishing the captivating mellow mood.

Patricia Dalton Fennell
Patricia Dalton Fennell:
‘…we have to make art, make beauty
— that’s what makes life worth living.’
Ms. Fennell has quite a resume herself. In addition to her vocalizing, she founded Albany Health Management Associates in upper New York State, to which she brought her skills as a clinician, therapist, researcher and acknowledged expert on the understanding and treatment of chronic illness. In the 1980s she was a hospice worker when the movement was in its formative years, which led her to question, “If we can treat the dying this well, why can’t treat the living this well? Why can’t we treat the chronically ill this well?” She went on to develop a new model for the care of the chronically ill and thus far has published three books on the subject, one of which has become a textbook used the world over. This CD, the second she’s recorded with Pasin and company, she sees as inseparable from her mission with AHMA. In a profile of her posted on the WAMC.org website, she closes with a statement that might well be the mission statement for Baby It’s Cold Outside too, in that one of the album’s great gifts to listeners is its sheer humanity: love of the songs radiates from the performances. The black and white cover shot may suggest the bleak midwinter, but on the inside, abundant soul abounds.

Says Ms. Fennell: “We have to provide care for those who can’t care for themselves — that’s service. We have to discover and treat, to improve life and prevent suffering — that’s clinical science. And we have to make art, make beauty — that’s what makes life worth living.”

Cue the music.