If you find yourself in London this Christmas Eve—and why would you not be there that night?—you ought to spend the evening in the company of Nick Shankland and Kitty LaRoar in the cabaret at Scarfes Bar (from 8:00 p.m. till midnight). Whoever or whatever the jazz muse is, he/she/it has decided to hang out with these two musicians and their friends the last few years.
And they released a Christmas E.P. this year, Christmas Dream, a collection of holiday standards that they treat like the ideas are new to them and the sentiments freshly felt.
I have been a fan of Kitty LaRoar and Nick Shankland’s music for a couple years now, and each recording brings new pleasure with repeated listens. Her voice and his piano accompanied me through this challenging 2016 and helped make it less so. Last year they released an E.P. for Valentine’s Day (titled Valentine’s Eve, with saxophonist Ed Jones) … if they dedicated themselves to recording music about every holiday on Earth, I would be happy to take that global tour with them.
This is because whatever the subject of any particular song may be, the philosophy underneath it is love. Kitty’s voice encourages adjectives: professional music reviewers (which I am not) employ words like “sultry,” sumptuous,” “lovely,” “naughty,” “mischievous,” “fun.” I do not smoke, but now I feel like I ought to start.
And next to that voice is Nick Shankland’s piano, with which he hands Ms. LaRoar the melody and then trusts that it is in good hands while he can explore the history of music, find some edges to the melody, and then return to her. A duet between a piano and voice.
Video clips that I have seen of the two live in performance with their friends bring to mind a happy glimpse of memories of good times with bright friends: it is a high-wire act and they make it look and sound spontaneous, bright, worth spending a Christmas Eve with.
Some samples: “Christmas Time Is Here” by Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi:
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane:
Christmas Dream is available through Amazon, iTunes, and Kitty LaRoar’s web site.
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