Following the release of Keb’ Mo’s deeply thought-provoking album, Oklahoma, that brought worldly issues to the forefront, the seasoned musician returns to lift spirits with a heartfelt feel-good holiday album, Moonlight, Mistletoe & You, slated for release on October 18, 2019 via Concord Records. After 25 years performing under the moniker “Keb’ Mo’,” the widely respected artist has finally gifted his eclectic global fanbase his first Christmas album, offering a melting pot of influences and original songs.
New age music and ancient shrines seem to work well together, as evidenced by top-selling concert CDs and videos (now DVDs) by Keiko Matsui and Yanni over the years. Kitaro's idea for a greatest-hits collection performed at the sacred Yakushiji Temple in Nara, the ancient Japanese capitol, is more about beauty and intimacy than sheer spectacle, although it would be fun to imagine this dramatic presentation in its native setting. The music on this double disc was taken from three live concerts in the summer of 2001, the first concerts ever presented in the temple proper. Not that you need the background to be swept away into the dreamy mysticism that defines Kitaro's twist on the universe, but this temple is the resting place of the ashes of Genjo Sanzo, the seventh century monk who walked the Silk Road from Japan to India, returning from India with the sacred texts that introduced Buddhism into China and Japan.
Widely regarded as one of Canada's best jazz singers, Russian-born, Toronto-based vocalist Sophie Milman changes tact slightly for her fourth studio album, In the Moonlight. The twinkling piano chords, shuffling, brushed stroke rhythms, and gentle brass instrumentation which defined her previous output are still very much in evidence, but having traveled to New York to record with producer Matt Pierson (Jane Monheit, Michael Franks), the Juno Award winner has capitalized on the opportunity to expand her sound by inviting a string ensemble on board for the first time in her career. However, avoiding the temptation to smother the timeless, smoky, jazz bar arrangements in layers of bombastic layers of strings, the pair only use their newly recruited musicians sparingly and when needed, with only the Duke Ellington standards "Prelude to a Kiss" and "Day Dream," and the Umbrellas of Cherbourg number "Watch What Happens" offering anything more than the occasional orchestral flourish.