In collaborating with guitarist Axel Fischbacher and pianist Walter Fischbacher, vocalist Elisabeth Lohninger has stepped right smack dab in the middle of international Christmas magic.
Christmas in July is a beautiful mix of music from the far reaches of the globe, with Lohninger lending her talents in nine different languages.
“Christmas is a significant holiday in numerous parts of the world,” says Lohninger. “In countries as far-flung as Japan and Brazil, people celebrate Christmas with songs in their native language: folk songs, songs written for church and even pop songs…they are a harbinger of light, hope and life.”
Christmas in July combines the music of the world with the straightforward jazz tradition, best exemplifying the mood in “Giant Chestnutz/Christmas Song.” The piece makes use of John Coltrane’s chord progressions from “Giant Steps,” at least to start, and ropes it into a traditional Christmas tune that swings its proverbial chestnuts off.
Lohninger’s gift has really come to life when she blends vocal genres. I first stumbled on the Austrian-born vocalist with her Songs of Love and Destruction, a deeply emotional record that explored some broad subjects with startling intimacy.
Christmas in July is jazzy and full of life, vibrantly popping through music from Brazil, Italy, Sweden, Japan, and the United States.
“Potpourri De Navidad,” a Mexican piece, is a spicy number that works Walter’s piano over a number of tones. Lohninger sings beautifully, engaging through the song’s twists and turns. And then there’s the gauzy and haunting “Von Himmel Hoch O Englein Kommt,” a German traditional that is blessed by Axel Fischbacher’s lovely guitar playing and Ulf Stricker’s brushwork, and the rockin’ take on “Stille Nacht.”
For a more subtle, almost ethereal holiday record, Lohninger’s Christmas in July is wondrous. Led by a charming, intelligent vocalist with a cunning, tight band providing snow-kissed atmosphere, this is one Christmas album worth spinning again and again.
Article originally published as part of Music Reviews: Christmas with Doug Munro, David Ian and Elisabeth Lohninger at Blogcritics.org