Review for "Yuletides"


Zupe’s first instrumental Christmas CD, 1998’s Christmas Piano, has over the years become one of central Pennsylvania’s best-selling local Christmas albums, warranting repeat pressings to answer continuous customer demand. Zupe’s fan base has increasingly asked for a sequel, and a Christmas album featuring vocal performances.

This holiday season, Zupe answers those requests with Yuletides, a 14-song set featuring traditional and modern holiday classics interpreted in a wide variety of flavors. Besides singing, Zupe brings his full instrumental arsenal to the fore, as he tinkles the ivories, plays the trumpet and provides keyboard arrangements. In addition, Zupe’s longtime collaborator Dave Nichols plays guitar, Bill Smith provides bass, Jerry Mason plays drums and Steve Mosura contributes mandolin.

Zupe runs the gamut from upbeat and joyful to reverent and solemn over his song selection, offering some surprises along the way. His updates of “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Joy to the World” are bright and cheerful; and Zupe offers a unique tropical-flavored spin on “O’ Come All Ye Faithful.” Zupe channels Elvis Presley on “Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me,” and unleashes his heartiest blues howl on Leiber & Stoller’s “Santa Claus Is Back in Town.” Renditions of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” and “The First Noel” receive jazzy arrangements, along with a slow lounge-jazz rendition of “The Chipmunk Song." Backed by the United States Air Force Singing Sergeants, Zupe provides a solemn German and English language treatment of “Silent Night,” and offers gentle interpretations of Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song,” “The First Noel” and “O Holy Night.” A calm and reflective version of “Auld Lang Syne” provides the album’s finishing touch.

Zupe and his cast give tasteful, vibrant performances throughout the disc. Arranging and producing the disc, Zupe again displays his talents as a musical craftsman; everything sounds in place, and all of the vocal and instrumental performances serve the melodies and moods of the songs. Just like Christmas Piano, Zupe’s Yuletides also provides a timeless holiday season listening experience, and a perfect soundtrack for any Christmas season party or gathering.

Jim Price - Pennsylvania Musician