Minneapolis jazz-pop acoustic trio The New Standards (The Suburbs' keyboardist/vocalist Chan Poling, Semisonic and Trip Shakespeare bassist/vocalist John Munson and vibraphonist Steve Roehm) followed their outstanding showing at City Winery in March with the New York debut of their celebrated holiday show at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium Thursday night.
They brought along a drummer and three-piece horn section, plus stellar special guests including The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, Mike Doughty, and fellow Minneapolis visitors Jeremy Messersmith, Aby Wolf and Lucy Michelle.
As at City Winery, The New Standards, whose repertoire is mainly favorite rock era songs delivered in the acoustic jazz format of preceding pop standards, opened with The Replacements’ “I Will Dare.” The “Christmas plaid”-clad trio then followed with “seasonal favorites” including Bowie’s “John, I’m Only Dancing,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (replete with call-and-response shouts and a tap dancer) and “Silent Night,” sung by Wolf and featuring a New Standards minor key arrangement giving a whole new slant on the Christmas standard—exactly in the manner of the group’s secular songs.
“Ghost Riders In The Sky” was accompanied by slides screened above that transposed the Christmas story into a Western, which was furthered by Doughty’s key-changing “Ring Of Fire,” here illustrated by three cowboys--presumably wise ones--standing outside a saloon, upon which the bright star of Bethlehem shined down.
The set also included “Christmas Time Next Year,” a New Standards original featured in The New Standards Holiday Songbook, a thin pamphlet also containing other New Standards Christmas songs. Munson explained that the songbooks, which were for sale, approximated the promotional holiday songbooks distributed to families by insurance companies, that he so fondly remembered from childhood.
“It’s a memory I hold dear,” he said, preparing to sing “Christmas Time Next Year.” The song, he added, is about “wanting to have Christmas over and over again.”
Perhaps the New Standards' Christmas show will likewise become a perennial Lincoln Center holiday tradition.
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