Jamie Leonhart & Chris Abad Bring Christmas To October

cjjlbw1.jpgIt may have been a bit out of sync with yesterday’s balmy, October weather, but the holiday spirit was in the air.

And so it was that — just as the sun began to set on a crisp, fall afternoon — I retired to our cramped walk-in closet and began assembling my little MacGyver recording studio. I powered up ProTools, and cued up our track, and began tinkering. Twenty minutes later — just as the doorbell rang — I emerged to say to Abbi, “I would have to pick the world’s most-recognizable Christmas tune.”

Yup, it’s time for another holiday benefit album.

Last year’s “A Family Holiday Benefit” CD and show raised well over two grand for 826NYC (a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills), so we’re doin’ it again.

This year, I’m helming the project with Rebel Spirit Music, a community network for fans, artists and industry professionals. So the official title is “Rebel Spirit Music Presents: A Holiday Benefit, Volume II.”

We’re recording our “all-star” cover, John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” this Sunday at Brooklyn’s Kingsland Studios. Once again, Chris Abad, Tony Maceli, and Jamie Alegre will act as house band. And once again, the list of participating artists is pretty impressive (and completely different from last year, save for Casey Shea, Chris and me). The big release party is scheduled for Monday, December 1 at Tribeca’s Canal Room. And yes, there will be a music video.

For our contribution, Jamie and I were originally going to record, “Let It Snow.” But it became apparent that we didn’t have the time or inclination to arrange what surely demanded better than an acoustic guitar. So then I suggested a real pretty, “Killing The Blues”-inspired “Silent Night.” But Kailin Garrity recorded that song on last year’s album. So I decided to use and ace in the whole…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (my apartment, that is), Chris and Jamie Leonhart were at the door. We sat and talked politics a while (Jamie’s been putting her money where her mouth is, twice canvasing for voters in Philadelphia), then hit play on the iPod…

“I – I’ll – have – a – bluuueee Christmasssss without you…”

Yup. The King. Elvis Presley. “Blue Christmas.”


Jamie and I pieced out some harmonies, then retired to the closet to bang ’em out. We endured a few bouts with the giggles (you try singing that song straight faced in a 4×6 walk-in closet), and I had a tough time with the low unison part (which, Jamie — who, you’ll recall teaches voice — is often more difficult for singers to hear than harmonies), but managed six tracks in twenty minutes. Suddenly, the vanilla version of “Blue Christmas” that Ryan, Tony, Chris and I had recorded last fall sounded lush and warm. Next, it needed some rock.

Enter Chris.

He took his seat on the wooden, lavender stool while I kneel just behind him facing my Powerbook. There wasn’t one foot of wiggle room between us. Still, in short order, he busted out a bluesy, arpegiated line, plus a nice solo to compliment my ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek spoken lines (“Darlin’, I’ve been missin’ you real bad…”).

We knocked the whole song out in an hour or so, wrapping just in time for Megan Abad’s arrival, and a big delivery of Thai food. Which, at the end of the day, was the big idea for the whole Holiday Benefit all along: make friends, make music, have fun, do good.

With friends like Jamie and Chris, and music like we’re makin’, how can we not have fun? How can it not do some good?

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