<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> The Edge Review
Sound & Spirit: cd reviews
by Don Strong
" A Christmas Prayer”

Recording, publishing and marketing your first CD can be a daunting challenge to any performing artist, even a seasoned one. In June 2001, Minneapolis-based multi-instrumentalist James Kellerman took a long inward-directed look and decided to step out of the box of limiting ideas that keeps us from realizing our dreams. Jim’s personal challenge was to manifest his long-time wish to create a CD of uplifting Christmas music. During the recording process, the tragic events of 9/11 spurred him to redouble his commitment and passion. In Jim’s words, “Insecurities and doubts vanished as my response to the suffering and hatred was made clear – make the music of peace and beauty.”

A Christmas Prayer is a sweet, beautiful blend of 14 mostly instrumental, traditional songs in styles fro light classical to light jazz, featuring some of the top musicians the Twin Cities has to offer. “In Dulce Jubilio” opens the disc with a joyful, spritely, traditional dance featuring Jim on Piccolo, flute and clarinet along with members of his ensemble Anna Vasquez on cello, Mark Anderson on percussion, Dean Magraw on guitar and Paul Straka on French horn.

“A Cradle in Bethlehem,” arranged by jazz master Adi Yeshaya, features, the rich baritone vocal of Bruce Henry, a lush string section and Jim’s gorgeous clarinet and flute solos. One of my favorite holiday ballads, “Christmas Time is Here” by Vince Guaraldi, (from the Charlie Brown TV show) is played with a jazz quartet with Adi on piano, Tom Lewis, bass, Nathan (“Mr. Tasty”) Norman, drums and Jim on flute. Jim’s flute tone is warm and full like a Christmas evening in front of a blazing fireplace.

Thanks to the help of percussionist Marc Anderson and guitarist Dean Magraw, “Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella” gets fired up with a rollicking, Afro-Brazilian-Celtic groove in the style of Paul Winter. Victor Herbert’s “Toyland” should gently pull on everyone’s heart strings, with great string arranging by Adi and Jim’s mellifluous flute and vocal work. Jim’s voice is mellow and sincere and announces softly that he should be singing more for us, while his original song “A Christmas Prayer” is a worthy new addition to the holiday repertoire.

Jim’s vision and hard work has paid off artistically and critically as his 14 song debut CD received top honors at the 2002 Minnesota Music Awards, winning for Best Classical Ensemble Recording. A Christmas Prayer will richly appeal to many music fans on your holiday list.

I heartily invite you to hear The James Kellerman Ensemble live, performing music from A Christmas Prayer on Saturday, Dec. 7 at Central Presbyterian Church in Downtown St. Paul.

DON STRONG is a poser, independent CD producer and sound designer who creates cinematic music for film and theatre. Currently, he’s writing Hip-Hop Hamlet, a musical play for Stages Theatre Company. Don also teaches creativity workshops, performs nationally and volunteers as an ordained member of the clergy. He can be reached at (952) 903-4078 or via the internet at www.donstrongmusic.com. Feel free to comment and make suggestions for CDs to be reviewed!

Copyright © 2002 Don Strong

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