Audio Mixer: Jordan Purvis.
Recording information: Spin Recording Studios.
Photographer: Jiro Tcholakian.
Simply Christmas is the first holiday album from show biz triple threat Leslie Odom, Jr. It appears just three months after the S-Curve release of his reworked solo debut, Leslie Odom, Jr., which in turn arrived a year after the TV actor, singer, and stage performer originated the role of Aaron Burr in the Broadway smash Hamilton: An American Musical. Though fans of the chart-topping cast album certainly aren't excluded here, Simply Christmas should especially please admirers of his jazz-styled eponymous album, as he presents similarly elegant versions of seasonal favorites ranging from Schubert's "Ave Maria" to 2008's "Winter Song" by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. Arranged mainly for piano throughout, with bass, drums, acoustic guitar, and rare keyboards and trombone, it's got small dinner parties and nostalgic winter evenings in front of the fireplace in mind. He and his accompaniment manage to make moving renditions of overplayed tunes such as "The First Noel." They do so with restrained performances that showcase the singer's interpretive ability, which honors a consistently wistful tone over grandstanding. Even knowledgeable jazz audiences needn't wince at seeing "My Favorite Things" on the track list; Odom's refined take on the oft-covered show tune-turned-jazz standard features a piano solo by Tommy King that's the most vibrant moment in a rendition that simmers with longing. Later, a light touch by vocals, bass, and acoustic guitar makes for an equally poignant version of the Carpenters' "Merry Christmas Darling." On record saying that he made Simply Christmas after getting requests for a Christmas album "a few times a week," Odom may need to brace himself for ongoing harassment after this exquisite set. ~ Marcy Donelson