By C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz
Holiday music is its own discrete industry. Each October and November sees an uptick in releases devoted to the Christmas Season. The repertoire is well established with a core of compositions derived from the Middle Ages to the present day, including both religious and folk and popular music. While the holiday songbook is predictable, it also remains open to reinterpretation and expansion, revealing an additional stream of programming creativity. A Very Chimytina Christmas
reflects the fertile nature of the seasonal repertoire presented in a simple yet sophisticated manner brimming with clever conception and performance.
The “band” Chimytina is nominally vocalist Martina DaSilva and bassist Dan Chmielinski, the name a clever eutection of surnames. DaSilva is a New York City native, broadly educated, who draws from early jazz, opera, and chamber music when assembling a program. Her association with Scott Bradlee’s PostModern Jukebox brought DaSilva national and international attention while also informing her arranging and orchestrating abilities. Chmielinski holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Juilliard School. He is a member of pianist Joey Alexander‘s trio, rounded out with drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr.. Both DaSilva and Chmielinski are in their mid-twenties, promising much more inventive and entertaining music for the future.
While A Very Chimytina Christmas is touted by “Martina DaSilva, Dan Chmielinski, & Friends,” this is very much a duo recording. Voice and bass make for a compelling performance format, promising a dramatic exposition when executed correctly. The “& Friends” part proves expertly curated collaborations achieving very specific creative ends as evidenced, for example, by Lucas Pino‘s tart tenor saxophone playing on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and Joel Ross‘s vibraphone on “When You Wish Upon a Star.” This latter inclusion, along with “Diamonds and Pearls” demonstrate the thoughtful expansion of the holiday repertoire (in the same way that “My Favorite Things” became forever associated with Christmas after the debut of the 1965 musical The Sound of Music).
The Postmodern Jukebox connection proves valuable for the sheer creativity employed. In their arrangements, DaSilva and Chmielinski interpolate clever allusions. George Michael’s “Last Christmas” is injected with a potent “Under the Boardwalk” vibe beneath the song’s holiday experior. The waltz “My Favorite Things” is infused with an evergreen and juniper ambience softened by Ross’s contrapuntal vibraphone recalling the Third Stream investigations of the mid-1950s Modern Jazz Quartet. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” features Chmielinski’s deliberate chording and strumming, augmented by the second bass of Ben Wolfe.
A Very Chimytina Christmas shows off the best of youthful creativity, that gracefully productive muse presenting old and well-worn music is new and exciting ways. DaSilva and Chmielinski possess a deeply embraced and realized musical approach that is surprising and compelling.
Track Listing: Greensleeves; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; The Christmas Song; Last Christmas; Diamonds and Pearls; You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch; Present de Natal; My Favorite Things; Santa Claus is Coming to Town; When You Wish Upon a Star.
Personnel: Martina DaSilva: vocals; Dan Chmielinski: bass; Lucas Pino: tenor saxophone; Gabe Schnider; guitar; Joel Ross: vibraphone; Ben Wolfe: bass.