Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) | Christmas Time Is Here (and Chanukah and The Solstice)

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Holiday: Jazz Jazz: Soul-Jazz Moods: Mood: Christmas
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Christmas Time Is Here (and Chanukah and The Solstice)

by Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein)

A hip and heartwarming holiday collection from singer and poet Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein): jazz, jazz-soul, and orchestral versions of Christmas standards, Jewish music, and originals on the season.
Genre: Holiday: Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Christmas Time Is Here
Lisa B
2:59 $0.99
2. Hine Ma Tov
Lisa B
2:53 $0.99
3. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!
Lisa B
2:37 $0.99
4. My Favorite Things
Lisa B
3:34 $0.99
5. Miracle
Lisa B
3:04 $0.99
6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Lisa B
4:05 $0.99
7. This Christmas
Lisa B
3:14 $0.99
8. Holiday In Oakland
Lisa B
3:18 $0.99
9. The Flame
Lisa B
5:02 $0.99
10. Winter Solstice
Lisa B
1:38 $0.99
11. Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental Version)
Lisa B
2:52 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
A hip and heartwarming take on the holidays, “Christmas Time Is Here (and Chanukah and the Solstice)” from singer and poet Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) offers jazz, jazz-soul, and orchestral versions of Christmas standards, Jewish music, and originals on the season. Lisa B’s fifth full-length CD is the first with mostly cover songs – sung with even more evolved assurance and expressiveness than is heard on her previous records. Three originals showcase her unmatched melding of spoken or rapped poetry with singing. The 11 tracks are: orchestral versions of “Christmas Time Is Here” (in both vocal and instrumental versions) and the traditional hymn “Hine Ma Tov”; jazz-trio performances of a flirty “Let It Snow,” an impassioned “My Favorite Things,” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” in a gospel shuffle, with pianist Adam Shulman, bassist John Wiitala, and drummer Alan Hall; the first recorded cover of Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu’s Chanukah song “Miracle” in a guitar-vocal duet with Andre Bush; a contemporary soul-jazz-house version of the Donny Hathaway gem “This Christmas”; a new anthem for Oakland, Calif., called “Holiday in Oakland”; the Sting-esque “The Flame” on finding the holiday spirit in community, featuring Lisa’s evocative, storytelling poetic rap as well as singing; and “Winter Solstice,” an intimate poem set to music. Co-producer Jim (James) Gardiner contributes tracks ranging from symphonic to soulful, and Anna Lissa Patterson offers downhome and lush background vocals on two songs.


"This is the sure-bet holiday music that should be playing in hipper households over the next few months. Tasty throughout... Familiar and welcome versions of the classics... some interesting choices that convey her sense of the holidays as well as let her serious side shine brightly... tossing some originals in the mix as well." - Chris Spector, Midwest Record
"Lisa B helps you cover a great deal of seasonal ground in this eclectic, fun and highly entertaining release.
The same basic principle applies for most people when purchasing Christmas music: Do you know the tunes and are the arrangements good? Lisa B scores well here… From a swinging jazz trio to more orchestrated versions of both Christmas classics and Jewish music, the recording is well paced and evolves well.

A rather hip twist for Christmas music would certainly be the three original tunes that showcase her unique talent of rapped poetry… Lisa B brings it from a traditional yet highly organic place that makes for an entertaining take on Christmas music sure to please a wider audience, if not a house full of friends!

If you are looking for some new Christmas music to cover a pretty broad spectrum of seasonal taste, then Lisa B’s artistic spin on the holidays should be right up your alley!" - Brent Black, @Critical Jazz blog and
An ambitious undertaking – covering three of the winter holidays – this one opens with the Vince Guaraldi/Lee Mendelson “Peanuts” offering – “Christmas Time Is Here,” and follows with the traditional “Hine Ma Tov,” a hymn for Shabbat (Sabbath) feasts.

Three originals are “Holiday in Oakland,” a pleasantly gospel-tinged celebration of the Bay Area; “The Flame,” which reminds us that, in Ms. Bernstein’s words [from her notes on the songs], “…being aware of others’ suffering—and our own—is painful, but the pain dissipates when we find the golden flame within ourselves, and take some action to help our communities.” The spoken word “Winter Solstice” is the third original.
The range is from the super-traditional to music-backed poetry… Don’t like a particular piece? That’s okay, stick around. Coming up will be something you’ll love.

I’ve cherry-picked my favorites from this disc for holiday listening (“Christmas Time Is Here,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” and the Sammy Cahn classic “Let It Snow.”) But there’s something here for everyone, and Ms. Bernstein’s energy is so palpable – you can’t help but be drawn in.
This disc is highly recommended.” – Doug Boynton,
Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) uses beats of poetry and her own Jewish heritage to authenticate and liven up the usual standard Christmas fare, in her fifth, self-produced album, “Christmas Time Is Here (and Chanukah and The Solstice).” Poetry in her rapping, jazz soul, and the showmanship in her pop-rock nature are organic manifestations of this artist’s progression…

Her Christmas album takes on a few traditional songs normally on replay around the holidays, such as Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson’s “Christmas Time Is Here,” and Sammy Cahn’s and Jule Styne’s “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!” She handles these with an exuberant, confident flair, always keeping the musical jazz notes happening.

She includes the unexpected, in “My Favorite Things,” an Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers’ masterpiece from The Sound Of Music, adding an especially straight-ahead jazz instrumental finesse fading toward the end. And then she works in the moving, orchestral Jewish hymn, “Hine Ma Tov,” which adds the necessary glean of spiritual grounding to the atmospheric, message-centered album. She was able to add a new translation to the traditional lyrics.

It’s when Lisa B attempts to incorporate her poetry and rap rhythms to the jazz, R&B, and Sting-esque beats of her and Jim Gardiner’s three original compositions that her daring bravado shows brightly…“Holiday In Oakland,” “The Flame,” and “Winter Solstice”…

… the nod to her current residence… “Holiday in Oakland”… is an effortless, breezy sweep through the decidedly R&B-gospel influences of that tough but tender city. In the song, her rap is flawless, and unobtrusive, because the “Bump City” references blend evenly, like redwoods, salsa in the dark, Tower of Power, the Pointer Sisters, and Digital Underground.
- Carol Banks Weber, jazz critic,

" "Christmas Time is Here (and Chanukah and the Solstice)" is a vibrant, diverse holiday record that sees Lisa B working through a number of Christmas standards, originals, and Jewish tunes with an energy that is enchanting.

The disc is Lisa B's fifth, and it isn't a traditional holiday record even as it contains tracks like "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Along with the usual fare, the San Francisco Bay-based performer engages with the Hebrew hymn "Hine Ma Tov" and Matisyahu's "Miracle."

…The album opens with “Christmas Time Is Here," a work of surprising dissonance that finds co-producer Jim Gardiner providing a big orchestral vibe complete with sleigh bells and Henry Mancini-style sweeps... her sense of melancholy as the song pushes toward its conclusion is an interesting touch.

The risk-taking continues with the aforementioned "Hine Ma Tov." It is another orchestral number accented by bells, but the arrangement is more subtle and Lisa's vocals stand out more.

"Miracle" uses the multi-track guitar work of Andre Bush. Lisa B varies her tone a number of times and matches the tricky cadence well, digging out new meaning from the Matisyahu tune while maintaining the original's sensibility.

Where things really get interesting is "Holiday in Oakland," a track with an old-school beat and a melody that really sings… when Lisa B raps the names of some Oakland musical legends… the metamorphosis in tone may stun some listeners, but it's a spirited move...

"The Flame" is another unique piece that features the spoken word talents of Lisa B… the most stimulating track on the record… it really presses forward with the intensity and life of the holidays. Lisa's sense for the theatrical makes the somewhat political lyrics pop with heat and intelligence.

"Christmas Time is Here" is… a courageous, risky, considerate record that ventures easily between the orthodox and the eccentric in the full spirit of all the holidays."
- Jordan Richardson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"The 2011 season gives us some fine new jazz and vocal albums... Pop singer Lisa Bernstein’s... lower register serves her best on "Hine Ma Tov,” with a shimmering, layered orchestration by co-producer Jim Gardiner. Her own tune... “Holiday in Oakland” funks along easily."
- Kirk Silsbee, Los Angeles Times

“The album opens with "Christmas Time Is Here," the Vince Guaraldi evergreen that we remember from "A Charlie Brown Christmas"… Lisa B…offers a reading that's less desolate, somehow, than versions by Diana Krall and Patti Austin. Gardiner's contributions here lend this version more aural depth, even while staying true to the song's basic introspective essence.

The second track, the Hebrew hymn "Hine Ma Tov," is a clever counter to the Christmas-dominated music in the air… a showcase for Lisa B's upper register…"My Favorite Things" gets its propers… She handles the song's calisthenic lyrics with aplomb, adding her own impromptu lyrics (a poet's prerogative…).

[On] "Miracle" … Lisa B taps into in a performance way more subdued than Matisyahu's driving, hip-hop powered version, but one fully suited to the calmer rhythms of the holidays (Christmas and Hanukkah).

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" swings with a jazzy flavor, powered by Adam Shulman, whose piano sometimes conveys a gentle dissonance that contrasts refreshingly with the song's fundamentally upbeat vibe.

[On] Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas"… Lisa B's version bubbles at the steady romantic simmer Hathaway suggests in the 1970 original.

And Lisa B wields her talent for mixmastering musical styles in "Holiday in Oakland," a paean to her California hometown that combines midtempo funk with a lyric tribute to some of Oaktown's musical heroes...

She revels in the spontaneity of the jazz ensemble (an improvisational parallel to poetry)… Her sound has ripened over 15 years of recording and performance, gaining a maturity and uniqueness that's nothing like the voices du jour that crowd the airwaves… Hearing her perform these holiday classics and the others, it's clear how that maturity has helped her. You're aware of a situational emotionalism, of her ability to express feelings based on the particulars of the lyrics… Just listen to her smoldery version of "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" You're struck by her command of range and diction, even while she not-so-sneakily conveys the sexier possibilities of a snowbound holiday.

"Christmas Time Is Here" is its own full-on embrace of the holiday spirit, but we don't just get the usual yuletide suspects… But even in her performances of the standards we recognize, there's invention and promise worth a second listen. Or a third. Or ...”
- Michael E. Ross, blogger on Short Sharp Shock, critic on PopMatters, The Root, and elsewhere, writing on Amazon

"Jazz vocalist Lisa Bernstein has an interesting selection of tunes on her earnest... progressive Christmas album."
- Rachel Swan, East Bay Express



1. The composition “Christmas Time Is Here” evokes nuances of Christmas that aren’t found in any other song – a keen awareness of the holiday’s beauty as well as the unresolved melancholy underneath it. When co-producer Jim Gardiner (whose background includes writing for the Seattle Symphony) told me he wanted to make an orchestral track, I was thrilled, and I was even more thrilled when I heard his mixture of Henry Mancini and Steve Reich, sleighbells and dissonance. With my singing, I aimed to convey the sense of experiencing Christmas privately even amid the surrounding jolliness, and a vivid encounter with “the spirit” at the tune’s end that both redeems and amplifies its haunting atmosphere.

2. The Hebrew hymn “Hine Ma Tov” continues the orchestral approach. It uses both of the traditional treatments of the song, stately and folk-danceable. Since the song is often heard at Shabbat feasts and sometimes on Chanukah, I couldn’t resist it –especially as it gave me the chance to write a new translation of the lyrics.

3. “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!” is the tune that sparked my desire to do this record – swinging, flirty, continuing the theme of the fire in the fireplace and underlining the passion and connection that the fire signifies. This track introduces the marvelous live trio of Adam Shulman, piano, John Wiitala, bass, and Alan Hall, drums.

4. “My Favorite Things” has loomed large in my life since I encountered both the John Coltrane and Julie Andrews classic versions at about the same time, and I’ve been singing it for years. The musicality and fervor of the band, including Alan’s hard-driving drumming and Adam’s passionate solo, helped inspire me to innovate some new lyrics after it, which continue the motif of finding and honoring one’s own truth.

5. “Miracle” is a duet with the sparkling, multi-track guitar work Andre Bush, in my first time working with him, though we’ve known each other for many years. It’s the second Chanukah song on the record (though it’s worth noting that all the tracks on the record except 6 and 7 have at least one Jewish writer). The American Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu released “Miracle” in December 2010, contributing a much-needed additional Chanukah song to the holiday repertoire. Both lovely and rousing, it speaks in the voice of someone who is overtaken by his/her private spiritual communication with God but still filled with zeal to encourage all who are listening to keep searching, and to believe that “him who searches will find.” With its many references to candles, fire, shining, sunrise, and light, Miracle again reminds us of why we conjure up brightness during the dark time of the year.

6. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” brings back the trio, with a gospel-shuffle arrangement by Adam Shulman that adds some downhome joy to the spectrum of celebration on this record.

7. I’ve always loved Donny Hathaway’s performance of “This Christmas,” which he co-wrote, and it was a perfect fit for the record as a playfully romantic song for the holiday in which happiness extends to family and community too. You may not notice that helping to propel the tune are tasty shifts from 4/4 to 3/4. Background vocalist Anna Lissa Patterson, with Jim Gardiner’s expert mixing, creates a lush bed to play in.

8. “Holiday in Oakland,” the record’s first original, celebrates the Northern California city – or the Town, as locals call it – where I’ve lived for 20 years. A rap at the center lauds some of the musical greats who originated here. The holiday I keep saying we should take isn’t limited to Christmas! The old-school track by Jim Gardiner calls up Bump City, and the inspired background vocals by Anna Lissa Patterson, an Oakland native, truly represent. This song was made entirely in Oakland.

9. Also an original, “The Flame” lights the fire again, but reminds us that sequestering ourselves with loved ones during the holiday can’t seal us away from the world’s tumult and destruction. Being aware of others’ suffering – and our own – is painful, but the pain dissipates when we “find the golden flame in ourselves” and take some action to help our communities. Starting out spoken in time to a lush track, the song ends with a cappella singing that returns to the song’s initial reference to a timeless flame that curls in the dark of winter and the Name within it, hidden but bright. And it recasts the hearth as one that we make together, to create peace on earth.

10. I wrote “Winter Solstice” as a poem, as opposed to a rap or a spoken-word piece, and it’s spoken in free verse, out of time. Still, the lovely track adds enormously to its flavor. What you hear is a one-take vocal with musical accompaniment by Jim that emerged rapidly – a testament to the communication finely honed between us over almost two decades of collaboration.

11. We couldn’t resist offering an instrumental version of “Christmas Time Is Here” to close the record. Allow yourself to come full circle, and amid the orchestra’s strings and brass and timpani, to experience your own Christmas – the spirit that is you, and the other spirit that is near.



to write a review

Greg Owens

Nice new take on the holiday album
I really liked this CD. It has many of the classics delivered in unique and tasteful ways plus some killer originals. It's great to have Chanukah and Solstice songs here too because so many of us have diverse families and friends. My favorites were the original "Holiday in Oakland" and "Favorite Things" which has super cool additional lyrics.