Apologies for the long update – there’s a lot to share!

GRAMMY CONSIDERATION

First of all, we had a “soft release” on September 4th – this means that the CD was available for pre-order via various outlets.  The reason for the soft release was to meet the September 30 deadline for Grammy Award eligibility.  Well, we submitted and were accepted onto the initial nominating ballot for this year’s Grammys in 2 categories!  The album is nominated in the category of “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album,” alongside other illustrious nominees like Tony Bennett, Seth MacFarlane, Kristin Chenoweth, Josh Groban, Barry Manilow, and Billy Vera.  The chances of the CD making it onto the final ballot is slim, but it still feels amazing to have our work be considered alongside such amazing artists!  First round ballots are due on November 4, and sometime in late November, the final 5 nominees will be announced.  Nomination or not, I’m planning to attend the 58th Annual Grammy Awards in February!

The second category we’re nominated in is “Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals” for Kelly Park’s fantastic arrangement of “You’re All I Want For Christmas!”  I’m so thrilled that Kelly got recognized for this work.  When I first decided I wanted to record this song, the only versions previously recorded were ballads, most notably by Bing Crosby and Al Martino.  While lovely, as a ballad I found this song to be too syrupy-sweet and frankly, a little boring.  I asked Kelly to come up with an up-tempo, swingin’ big band version, and he NAILED it!  The first time I heard the arrangement, I got goosebumps, because it was like he could hear what was in my head.  Way to go, Kelly!  You’ve got my vote!!

CRITICAL REVIEWS

Even before the soft release, we started working on getting the all-important reviews of the CD to help marketing efforts at the time of the street release.  We approached Christmas music blogs, independent reviewers, and established print publications.  While many of the reviews are yet to be published (most will be out in the late November/early December timeframe, simply due to the holiday aspect of the album), the reviews we’ve gotten have been fantastic!

The most important print review has come from Downbeat, the preeminent jazz publication in the world.  The editors gave In The Holiday Spirit FOUR STARS and will be including it in their prestigious “Best Albums of 2015” list (full review here)!  The biggest jazz website, AllAboutJazz.com,  just released their review today, giving the CD 3.5 stars out of 4, saying “One of the more engaging aspects of Holiday Spirit is that it consists almost entirely of newer and lesser-heard Christmas themes, some of which may take their place in coming years as holiday classics.”  You can read the full review here.

The two largest Christmas music blogs have also weighed in on the CD.  Merry & Bright says, “It would be a perfect soundtrack to trimming your tree on a cold December night, accompanied by a nice clove and cinnamon spiced hot toddy.”  My favorite review comes from the biggest Christmas music blog, the interestingly named Stubby’s House of Christmas.  The reason I like it so much is because the reviewer really “got it” – that we were setting out to make a CD that would fit comfortably alongside the classic holiday albums from the 1940s/1950s “Golden Age of Christmas Music.”  Martin John (AKA “Stubby”) says, “If you grew up listening to the classic crooners–Sinatra, Dino, Tony Bennett–no doubt you pull out those holiday albums every year.  And, at least once as you listen to those timeless classics, the thought that ‘they just don’t make ’em like they used to’ crosses your mind.  We’ve been fortunate that Mr. Bennett is still going strong, even gracing us with new holiday recordings from time to time.  But you have to look a little harder to find that, yes, every once in a while, someone makes ’em like they used to. As an album that harkens back to the days of Sinatra, Martin, Bennett, and Crosby, ‘In The Holiday Spirit’ should get your Christmas music season started on a high note.”

RADIO AIRPLAY

And finally, the hardest nut to crack for any indie musician is getting their music played on the radio. Fortunately, because of the rise of Internet radio that isn’t controlled by the three big corporate radio conglomerates, it’s not impossible to get significant airplay on web radio, especially if you’re a “niche” artist and can appeal to specialty stations such as those that play Christmas music all year ’round.

We’ve been fortunate to get significant airplay already on some of the biggest Internet Christmas stations:

Christmas Songs Radiolisten on TuneIn
Countdown2Christmas Radiolisten on TuneIn
KringleRadiolisten on TuneIn
ChristmasRadio.comlisten on Live365
The Sounds of Christmaslisten on Live365
SOMAfmlisten on iTunes

We have also submitted to many jazz/standards stations, most of whom won’t start playing holiday tracks until after Thanksgiving.  One of those stations is MartiniInTheMorning.com, who has always been so supportive of my work.  For the last two years, listeners have voted to include me on the station’s annual “Top 100 Christmas Songs,” and hopefully that will happen again this year!  I’m currently scheduled to make my annual on-air holiday visit with Brad “Martini” Chambers and “Mother” Miriam on Friday, December 4.  You can listen to it via TuneIn or iTunes, or through the station website.  And for the 13 of you that contributed to the IndieGogo campaign at the “Dancer” level, be sure to listen in for your worldwide “shout out” of thanks!

THANKS

Finally, I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who decided to take a chance and invest in this project via IndieGogo.  I truly could not have done it without you, and I am so grateful for your support.  I’ve felt a great deal of responsibility to deliver on the promises I made to you, and I hope you are pleased.

Love & gratitude,

Russ

PS – If you are local to the San Francisco area and contributed at the eligible levels to the IndieGogo campaign, your CD will be available at my 10th Annual Christmas in San Francisco show at Feinstein’s at the Nikko on Friday, December 11.  If you are not local, CDs and other perks will go out in the mail in late November after Thanksgiving here in the U.S..