Natasha Miller’s first holiday release The Season avoids the major pitfall
of utter sameness that usually plagues Christmas music by offering a unique
blend of different jazz styles that normally would not accompany “Christmas
Songs.” Miller’s vocals are as pristine as newly fallen snow on Christmas
morning and are perfectly highlighted--as a well decorated tree--with the
wonderful arrangements and solo features on the recording. The recording
itself was partially recorded at Yoshi’s of Oakland, CA on December 12th,
2005 and in the recording studio.

The recording opens with the Irving Berlin classic “White Christmas,” with a
New Orleans accentuated groove arrangement by Miller featuring trombonist
Adam Theis and drummer Jeff Marrs. In fact it does snow occasionally for a
White Christmas in the Crescent City, as it did Christmas Eve 2004. The
Season next moves into a medley of songs of “Let It Snow,” “Rudolph the
Red-Nose Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” with a swingin’ blues flare that
features a brilliant piano laden arrangement by Josh Nelson. Nelson is also
featured on the next tune “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” with a bluesy-gospel
oriented piano solo masterfully played and executed.

“Little Drummer Boy,” features Latin-Jazz guitarist Steve Erquiaga in a
soulful and silky smooth rendition that will have you hummin’ Pa rum pum pum
pum (ba bum). Saxophonist Rob Roth and bassist John Shifflett melt away the
cold with some hot solo playing in “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
While a sweet, swinging samba may not be the first rhythm to come to mind in
conjunction with a song about Christmas, Miller’s rendition of “The
Christmas Song” quickly dispels any doubts about such a twist and
combination of flavors. Brazilian Cachaça mixes well with Chestnut Liqueur
and Eggnog as a drink pairing with this song. Santa swings right in with
style in “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Sweetness and melody prevail in
the Bobby Sharp tune “As the Years Come and Go.”

Miller’s talent and range is exhibited in full upon singing “My Favorite
Things,” which shows her exceptional promise as a jazz singer. Rob Roth’s
saxophone compliments Miller perfectly on this track, a task which is not
easy to fulfill for a tune in which Coltrane was specifically known for
playing. Beauty may be the only way to express Miller’s singing with
Erquiaga’s arrangement and playing of “One Hand One Heart,” that features a
solo acoustic guitar introduction from “Somewhere”. A final medley of song
of “Amazing Grace,” Silent Night” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” was
arranged by Josh Nelson and features Sheldon Brown on soprano saxophone.

“Twas the Night Before Christmas” is notable for the resounding theatrical
performance by Miller’s father Martin and the improvised musical
accompaniment by Josh Nelson on Piano and Tim Bulkley on drums. The only
downside to this recording results when Christmas is over since the musical
merits warrant year-long listening. Forget the rules and play it all year

Monroe James Lawrence - (Dec 19, 2007)