Baker's Holiday finds Chet Baker effectively paying tribute to Billie Holiday with mellow trumpet solos and occasional vocals. Baker is backed by a full sax section and a four-piece rhythm section that includes pianist Hank Jones; Jimmy Mundy contributed the colorful arrangements. His performance of ten songs associated with Lady Day (most of which he had not recorded previously) is often exquisite.
"Merry Christmas" is a Christmas album by American pop singer Andy Williams that was released by Columbia Records in 1965. This, his second holiday LP, is focused exclusively on 20th century compositions, unlike 1963's The Andy Williams Christmas Album, which, of its 12 tracks, had six with origins predating the turn of the century. For the six consecutive holiday seasons from 1965 through 1970, Merry Christmas charted on Billboard magazine's special year-end weekly Christmas Albums sales chart. The album spent two weeks as the number one selling Christmas album during the holiday season of 1966 and one week atop that same chart in 1969.
Guitarist Gabor Szabo's debut as a leader (after an important stint with the Chico Hamilton Quintet) is surprisingly successful. The reason this LP is a bit of a surprise is that the repertoire (in addition to two originals apiece by the leader and Gary McFarland) has a few unlikely songs by the Beatles ("Yesterday" and "If I Fell") and Burt Bacharach (including "Walk On By"). Usually jazz adaptations of rock songs in the 1960s are lightweight, but Szabo's original sound, the unusual instrumentation (two or three guitars, Sadao Watanabe on flute, Gary McFarland on marimba, bass, drums and percussion) and McFarland's clever arrangements uplift the music. The playing time at 35 minutes is a bit brief, but the performances are better than expected.
Ernie Hecks has been playing some lilting dance music at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel but it's only been within the past year that the disk-buyinq crowd has caught up with him. Here again art the smooth Heckscher sounds on pops and show tunes for more dancing and listening pleasure.