Adrian Cunningham and La Lucha • New Holiday Classics

New Holiday ClassicsLa Lucha is an open-minded jazz trio based in Tampa Bay, Florida that consists of pianist John O’Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas, and drummer Mark Feinman. Adrian Cunningham, in addition to being a witty columnist for The Syncopated Times, is a versatile and swinging tenor-saxophonist, clarinetist and flutist who usually plays traditional jazz. And the Arbors label has released hundreds of exciting swing, Dixieland, and classic jazz albums through the years.

Surprisingly, the combination of La Lucha, Cunningham and Arbors has resulted in the release of New Holiday Classics, an eclectic set of Christmas-related songs composed by Gloria Munoz and Mark Feinman that, while including some jazz, also ranges from 1960s pop tunes and reggae to r&b. While the first number, “Florida Holiday,” and “It’s So Good To Be Bad” (the ninth of ten songs and one with fine tenor and piano solos) are jazz, most of the rest of the set is outside the area that interests most readers of this magazine.

Hot Jazz Jubile

Adrian Cunningham sings on six of the songs in a nice light-toned voice. Guest vocalists Camila Meza (who is excellent on the festive Latin tune “Nochebuena”), Jamieson (fine on a couple of r&b/pop songs), and Clairdee (taking a solid ballad vocal on “New Year’s Day” which is arranged by Dick Hyman and utilizes a string quartet) all have their spots. The catchiest new tunes are “Snowfall” (no relation to the Claude Thornhill song), “It’s So Good To Be Bad,” and “Nochebuena.”

Although I wish that it had included more swingers, listeners with open ears towards other styles of music will most enjoy New Holiday Classics.

New Holiday Classics
(Arbors ARCD 19480, 10 selections, TT = 35:38)

UpBeat Records

Since 1975 Scott Yanow has been a regular reviewer of albums in many jazz styles. He has written for many jazz and arts magazines, including JazzTimes, Jazziz, Down Beat, Cadence, CODA, and the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, and was the jazz editor for Record Review. He has written an in-depth biography on Dizzy Gillespie for He has authored 11 books on jazz, over 900 liner notes for CDs and over 20,000 reviews of jazz recordings.

Yanow was a contributor to and co-editor of the third edition of the All Music Guide to Jazz. He continues to write for Downbeat, Jazziz, the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, the Jazz Rag, the New York City Jazz Record and other publications.

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