AMBER WEEKES – “THE GATHERING” – Independent Label
Amber Weekes, lead vocal/background vocals; Mark Cargill, string & horn arrangements/producer/ arranger/solo violinist; Josh Nelson, Eddy Olivieri & Tony Capodonico, piano; John B. Williams, Kevin Brandon & Adam Cohen, bass; Nathaniel Scott, Fritz Wise & Sinclair Lott, drums; Jacques Lesure, Doug MacDonald & Paul Jackson Jr., guitar; Andrew Carney, trumpet; Richard Heath & Munyungo Jackson, percussion; Rickey Woodard, saxophone. Nio Wilson, Marcus D. Cargill & JoAnn Tominaga, background vocals; Ernie Fields Jr., bagpipes; Gregory Cook, celeste; Andrew Carney, trumpet.
Amber Weekes has a bell clear voice, perfect for the ten holiday songs she interprets on her debut Christmas album. The gift is ours. Opening with “The Christmas Waltz” by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, enhanced by the muted trumpet of Andrew Carney, this is a lovely song that many have overlooked on their holiday albums. Amber Weekes introduces us to the lyrics with her perfect enunciation and pleasing tone. Mark Cargill adds strings and horns, like a satin pillow for Amber’s voice to lie upon. On her rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Amber pulls out every nuance of this arrangement, with tones warm and smooth as Christmas taffy. This vocalist throws in a familiar jazz standard “My Romance” and then continues reminding us of the holidays with songs like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Silent Night.” She performs “Some Children See Him” by Alfred Burt and it was a new song to my ears, with a lyric about Jesus being visible to the youth. The bagpipes by Ernie Fields Jr., were a pleasant surprise in this arrangement. The title tune was composed by Mark Cargill & Gregory Cook. This melody is catchy and Amber Weekes penned the lyrics. Cargill performs a stellar violin solo. They employ background voices that sound child-like and are sung in unison. I enjoyed Amber’s bluesy arrangement of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.” Her musical ensemble swings on “Winter Wonderland” and “Let it Snow.” Amber Weekes and her Los Angeles musicians offer us a little bit of everything to brighten up our holiday season.