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Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas

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Album Review

Generally, jazz has not been kind to the harp — only a handful of harpists have had success in the genre, especially as soloists. Among those few who have flourished is Corky Hale. During the 40 or so years Hale has been active as a performer, she has appeared with Mel Torme and worked in big bands headed by Harry James and Jerry Grey, among others. Another entry on her resume, not related to jazz, is a three-year stint with Liberace. Joined by Kirk Smith and Tom Walsh, Hale's jazzy Christmas album runs the gamut from popular songs of the season such as "Winter Wonderland" to the traditional "Silent Night." The album also allows Hale to show her prowess on the piano, which she considers her primary instrument even though her fame has been gained with the harp. Her uncomplicated, unaffected approach to the piano is heard to good effect on a melodically embellished "Auld Lang Syne." The celeste is also used on a cut or two. But it is the harp that's the star of the album. Hale shows that in her hands, the harp can be remarkably flexible. She can make it sound like a piano getting a similar harmonic and rhythmic output. This technique is heard on the "Dreidel Song," which is sung at Hanukkah, and "Winter Wonderland." Hale's harp handles laid-back material like the Mike Stoller/Jerry Leiber "California Christmas," giving the tune a jazz-blues feel. "White Christmas" gets a bouncy, swinging treatment. Born into the family that founded the Hechts Department Store chain, Hale has emerged as a creative practitioner of this age old instrument which counts its beginnings in ancient Egypt. This album is enjoyable to listen to at any time during the year, not just the holidays.


Born: 1931 in Freeport, IL

Genre: German Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Her name sounding like a combination of bad wine and bad weather, Corky Hale is known on one hand as a jazz harpist gentle enough to appeal to the easy listening crowd. On the other hand, plenty of hands being needed for the harp let alone what is to follow, she is a multi-instrumentalist with abilities in both the string and woodwind families. She is also a singer, at least one talent that hands are not a requirement for. Getting all of this together required starting early: piano at three, harp...
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Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas, Corky Hale
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