We all know the Austin area is a young musician’s paradise, and that San Antonio has a rich tradition of great jazz most strongly associated with Jim Cullum and the Riverwalk radio program. What always surprises me though is how many acts are busy working these scenes that we don’t hear about at the national level. I feel like I’m more aware of local scenes than nearly anyone because of my efforts to review albums from younger bands, still I was only vaguely familiar with most names on this Christmas compilation featuring seven Central Texas jazz, blues, and western swing groups, and one solo pianist. A Christmas album might not sound like the best way to introduce yourself to a musician but I assure you everyone on this record brings personality into their performance. I think you’ll have a good idea who to look up the next time you visit the area.
Sarah Ulloa stands out as a singing drummer, Devan Jones provides a bluesy male vocal, and Noelle Goforth, in addition to having a marvelously Christmassy name, has a voice well suited to this material, it has a classic Doris Day clarity to it. Tracks include the classics like Jingle Bells, seasonally appropriate jazz tunes like “I’ve Got my Love to Keep me Warm”, and fun little swing numbers like “Little Jack Frost Get Lost”.
The album was produced and made possible by Chris Alvarado, director of the Dirty River Jazz Band and its expanded Dirty River Jazz Orchestra. They are trying to follow in Jim Cullum‘s Texas size footsteps by raising the profile of jazz in the area. Other acts include Devan Jones & the Uptown Stomp, Big Cedar Fever, Texas Moaners, Rent Party, Noelle Goforth & Friends, and Dr. Eric Daub as a solo pianist. As can be expected in any local scene many names reappear in multiple acts. The two our readers are most likely to recognize are David Jellema on cornet, and bassist Ryan Gould. A complete track by track break down is available on the Bandcamp page where the album is available.
For having a variety of bands the album maintains a great consistency and flow, one is not left with the impression of walking from room to room. It’s a sign of the care that went into production and post production as the Central Texas community came together last year to record it. Merry Christmas With Love was released last December as a fundraiser, believe me, artists still need the help just as much this season.