Five centuries, seven languages, and six singers with 35 years of remarkable experience inform this rare collection of choral music. In the world-renowned King's Singers resplendent voices, ancient and modern choral music comes to life with all the blazing immediacy and timeliness of the gospel of the nativity. With 25 pieces of music–ranging from familiar works such as "Coventry Carol" to the obscure Tchaikovsky piece "The Crown of Roses"–the King's Singers move through this hallowed and festive set with the vocal mastery that only three-and-a-half decades of accomplished work together is capable of creating. A number of contemporary carols written in the last century by composers such as John McCabe, Philip Lawson, John Rutter, and others are balanced by pieces by Bach and a host of traditional works. Lawson's "You Are the New Day," performed with a string quartet, stands out as one of the more notable performances. Like most of their music throughout Christmas, it reminds listeners that the art of music often interprets divine aspects gladly realized here on Earth.
The beloved Brazilian guitar legend's resumé is so chock-full of varied musical experiences – jazz, pop, film scoring, ten years with Sergio Mendes – that his brilliant solo efforts can't help but include informal homages to different eras of his life. He starts out here getting straight to the heart of the matter, paying tribute to his fellow countryman Antonio Carlos Jobim with a self-contained plucky guitar/vocal duet of "Waters of March," which includes spirited scat passages. He moves into samba mode for a lively medley of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker tunes, "Groovin' High/Whispering," deferring to Toots Thielemans' always engaging harmonica for melody as he harmonizes gently; then they switch roles.
Billy Eckstine was looking back more than forward by 1960, and his second record for Roulette featured two remakes of familiar hits he'd enjoyed almost 20 years earlier. He also covered two average themes from forgottable movies, the first being the title song (from a Yul Brynner vehicle), the second being "Secret Love" (from a Doris Day film). It may read like a desultory date, and indeed it would have been if not for the presence of a solid jazz band and the surprisingly sympathetic arrangements of big-brass auteur Billy May.