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When I Think of Christmas

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Album Review

Chris Bennett has never pretended to be someone who sticks to straight-ahead jazz 100 percent of the time; she sings jazz, but she also performs a lot of pop — and for Bennett, pop can mean either adult contemporary or traditional pop of the pre-rock variety. Some jazz enthusiasts wish she would record straight-ahead jazz exclusively, but in fact, Bennett is appealing in both jazz and non-jazz settings. When I Think of Christmas is the Los Angeles resident's first Christmas album, and once you get past the Christmas-oriented lyrics, it is fairly typical of her musical outlook — one that is relevant to jazz as well as pop. Bennett's more jazz-oriented side asserts itself on the familiar "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," Claude Thornhill's '40s classic "Snowfall" (which receives a bossa nova treatment), and a surprisingly bluesy arrangement of "Do You Hear What I Hear," which alludes to Miles Davis' "All Blues." But there's no getting around the fact that much of the album is straight-up pop, which could be anything from a '40s-like performance of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" to the adult contemporary approach she favors on the sentimental "It Wouldn't Be Christmas" (a Bennett original). If Bennett feels the need to divide her time between jazz and pop, there is no reason why she shouldn't — as long as she does so tastefully, that is. And even though a few of the tracks are a little too schmaltzy for their own good, When I Think of Christmas is tasteful more often than not and paints a generally likable, if imperfect, picture of Bennett's jazz and non-jazz talents.

Biography

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Chris Bennett is a fine singer based in Los Angeles whose style crosses over between pop and jazz and whose voice can be quite haunting. Both of her parents played piano (her mother was an elementary school music teacher) and she was studying piano and dance by the time she turned five. Bennett majored in music and dance at the University of Illinois and went to graduate school at UCLA. She started appearing in nightclubs at that time and for a period settled in Germany. As a pop songwriter, she...
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When I Think of Christmas, Chris Bennett
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