The 442’s, Peter Martin And Friends Celebrate The Holidays On CD And In Live Performance

The members of the 442s really didn’t plan to record a holiday album this year. The group features jazz musicians Sydney Rodway and multi instrumentalist/composer Adam Maness in combination with St. Louis Symphony musicians Bjorn Ranheim on cello and violinist Shawn Weil, and had just released its second recording, “Relay,” this past June.

But according to Maness, the offer of an open date at the Washington University School of Music’s E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall in Dec. 2015 set the wheels in motion for the release of “Home for Christmas” at the end of November.

“Last year, Jennifer Gartley of WashU’s music department offered the Theater at 560 to us,” recalls Maness. “So we decided to do a Christmas concert. Then we invited people to play with us that we liked and hung out with.” Those invited included noted vocalists Erin Bode and Brian Owens, as well as acclaimed musicians pianist Peter Martin and drummer Montez Coleman. The resulting concert was a success, both musically and in terms of attendance.

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“The concert had really great attendance,” recalls Maness, “and people kept asking if we had any CD’s with that Christmas music available. Peter sent out a group text asking everyone if we would be interested in recording a holiday CD, and we all decided to do it. We found a time when all of us who live here were in town, and then decided to fly in Jeremy Davenport from New Orleans in for the very quick recording session in July.”

Davenport, a University City native who grew up playing music with Martin, now has his own club, the Davenport Lounge, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the French Quarter. “We recorded it in two days the old school way,” says Maness, “with everyone playing and singing in the studio at the same time. It also went fairly quickly, because we already had the music together from the concert, and just added some new arrangements of other songs and stuff for Jeremy.”

That live studio recording approach carried over well when the 442s, Martin and the other musicians returned in concert Tuesday, Dec. 20 at the 560 Center to celebrate the release of “Home for Christmas.” Performing in front of a sold-out crowd, the performance opened with Martin turning in a soulful solo take on “Amazing Grace” at the piano that segued into “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” with the various members of the 442s playing in the audience, then uniting on stage. As the song concluded, Coleman, Davenport, Owens and Bode also joined in.

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The rest of the concert featured the musicians in various combinations; from an intimate duo performance of “Christmas Time is Here” by Bode and Ranheim to ensemble groupings that highlighted Owens singing “Count Your Blessings” and “White Christmas,” with Davenport singing and playing trumpet on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Blue Christmas.”

A rousing version of “The Holly and the Ivy” featured the full ensemble supporting Bode’s vocals, bringing the crowd to its feet, and an a capella version of “Silent Night” had them singing along with the musicians to close the concert.

For those still searching for a last-minute gift, “Home for Christmas” is available for download or CD purchase.

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