Isahiah J. Thompson – A Guaraldi Holiday (ENG review)

Outside In Music - Street date 12/01/2023
Jazz, Noël
Isahiah J. Thompson – A Guaraldi Holiday (ENG review)

In holiday albums, not all are created equal, but “A Guaraldi Holiday” stands out for several reasons. The first reason is the exceptional composer and pianist, Isaiah J. Thompson, who has already given us the beautiful album “The Power Of Spirit,” which we have extensively featured on Bayou Blue Radio. So, we could only expect a high-quality album with his latest release, and that’s exactly what we got!
Isaiah J. Thompson has an impressive track record, being the winner of the 2023 American Pianists Awards and the Cole Porter Jazz Scholarship from the American Pianists Association. Hailing from West Orange, New Jersey, Isaiah J. Thompson, a conductor and composer, began his musical journey at Calderone School from a very young age. He continued his studies with Jazz House Kids and NJPAC Jazz For Teens and was later admitted to the Juilliard School, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in 2019 and his Master’s in Music in 2020. On stage, he has performed alongside Ron Carter, John Pizzarelli, Christian McBride, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Steve Turre, and Buster Williams. Here, he successfully takes on these festive tunes inspired by the Peanuts gang, with the album culminating in tracks like “Linus and Lucy.”
This album is joyful, festive, inventive, well-paced, and features some guest artists who add to its celebratory atmosphere, including John Pizzarelli, Tyreek McDole, Anthony Hervey, Robbie Lee, Alexa Tarantino, and hopefully not forgetting anyone. I am personally astounded by Tyreek McDole’s vocal performance on “Little Birdie,” where he unleashes his voice like a trumpet in such a harmonious manner that “Little Birdie” must be soaring in the sky with sheer happiness.
Here, the fun factor is certainly as high as the original composer of most of these songs, Guaraldi. This is all thanks to the genius of Isaiah J. Thompson, who, while preserving the essence of the compositions, adds an intelligent and sometimes comical layer to them, as seen in “O Tannenbaum,” a title often associated with a certain level of stuffiness but is elevated to a comedic status through the instrumentation.
A succession of humor, love, warmth, and discoveries, this album will bring joy to everyone during this festive season. And honestly, even if you’re allergic to Christmas, all you need is a love for jazz, and you’ll be delighted, especially when listening to the final track, “Linus and Lucy,” a genre-defining masterpiece in its arrangements and performance. This is a new “must-have” according to the editors at Bayou Blue Radio and Paris-Move.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, November 4th 2023


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