— Rob Lester, TalkinBroadway.com
“To be honest, what I want for Christmas is always What I Want for Christmas or something like it – meaning holiday songs I like that don’t get recorded as much, plus a singer being able to surprise me with a fresh take on something that’s been overexposed. Russ Lorenson has done it. This vocalist, still quite new at the game, has been diligently working on his craft. Judging by this album, he’s made tremendous strides in finding his own way with a song and his sound. This has been the album I find myself coming back to quite a bit. It fulfills the potential evident in his debut CD, A Little Travelin’ Music. He works with several of the same musicians, led by the ace pianist-arranger-producer Kelly Park, and does repeat one track from that album, the affectionate “Christmas in San Francisco.” (That’s where he’s based, and he has some Christmas-oriented and other gigs there, as noted on his website, where the albums can also be sampled.)
Russ’s clear and enthusiastic voice is well suited for ringing out with holiday cheer. He opens with the recent “My Favorite Time of Year,” written by the young jazz pianist/singer Peter Cincotti and family, a lively tune that’s as straightforward and uncluttered as Russ’s general sensibility. Another refreshing choice comes right away: “I Guess There Ain’t No Santa Claus” (Johnny Mercer/ Barry Manilow/ Eddie Arkin) – it’s sort of the blues with a light touch and a wry smile. A perky and playful little novelty Bing Crosby and others once played around with, “Little Jack Frost, Get Lost,” is brought back and tossed around like a snowball in a four-song medley about the cold weather. From the score of White Christmas, Russ digs into “Snow,” joined knee-deep in glee by terrific Terese Genecco, Kristopher McDowell and Alexandra Kaprielian.
The revelation comes with, of all things, Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s “The Christmas Waltz.” Most singers play up its ingratiating swingy rhythm and make it a light bit of fluff. Here, it is very much slowed down, and – eureka! – a serious, tenderly romantic piece of material has been lurking there all these fifty-plus years. Russ makes the most of it in this five-minutes-plus version, letting us linger languorously over the images, giving them an added weight and importance. What a beauty, and Kelly supports him all the way with thoughtful piano accompaniment and graceful solo. On the other hand, or the other side of the coin, a jaunty “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” doesn’t really work for me, because how can you ignore the sad last line “if only in my dreams”? Though I’ll admit that the zippy pace of the melody itself is nevertheless invigorating this way, like a brisk blast of cold air on a winter’s walk.
When you’re in the mood to vent about the glut of cute-factor famous Christmas songs, and thus suffering from sugar poisoning, enjoy “If I Hear Another Song About Christmas,” another song about Christmas. But this one throws darts at very specific warhorses, and has its own comic twist, handled well here by our singer. Russ, who has also been performing a Tony Bennett tribute, has some of that man’s mix of warmth and humor and definitely a hearty helping of his joie de vivre.”
— Richard Banks, ChristmasReviews.com
“With Halloween behind us and the Christmas season in full swing, the only thing we don’t have here in central Texas is enough chilly air to make me believe Santa Claus time is just around the corner. We also have had a dry spell in these parts, with little in the way of new Christmas music for several weeks. So, expecting to get stiffed again today, I was overjoyed to find Russ Lorenson’s What I Want For Christmas in the mailbox. It blew in like a blue norther, changing the atmosphere from warm to cool in an instant.
Russ Lorenson’s silky-smooth cabaret vocals put me in mind of cooler weather almost immediately. With such easy listening favorites as My Favorite Time Of Year and I’ll Be Home For Christmas leading the way, Lorenson and his band put me in mind of clear, cold nights of times spent in cooler climes. Indeed, cool is the word for this piano (Kelly Park) and saxophone (Tony Malfatti) laden sound, a sound which recalls Bing Crosby’s pleasant crooning. Not surprisingly, Lorenson’s quartet with guest vocalists Terese Genecco, Kristopher McDowell, and Alexandra Kaprelian was Snow, popularized in the movie White Christmas. This was a wonderful track, but remembering the story of White Christmas only served to remind me of how difficult it is to achieve holiday takeoff speed when the weather just won’t cooperate. But a central Texan can dream, can’t he? And this season, I have What I Want For Christmas to help me.
Cabaret and easy listening fans will want to take note of this great new release, along with anyone looking to take up the pipe and the cardigan and get in the mood for the season. That’s what I want for Christmas.”
— Bill Wood, Kalamazoo (MI) Gazette
“Russ Lorenson…offers a cabaret Christmas with this release, which has a 1940s feel to it. Lorenson’s selections are not commonly played or sung around the holidays, helping this CD stand out.”
— Jason Victor Serinus, Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity Magazine
“This time it’s (Russ Lorenson), smiling his way through the holidays with some swinging arrangements…From “Christmas in San Francisco” to a medley that includes songs by Irving Berlin and Julie Styne, you’ll find no angst here. Add a glass of wine, lots of tinsel, and close the shutters to anything but the Christmas lights.”
— Gerry (“Dr. Christmas”) Grzyb, Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent
“Russ Lorenson’s “What I Want For Christmas” is a treat for fans of the cabaret vocal style.”
Russ Lorenson has established a reputation as one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s leading interpreters of jazz standards, with a sound and approach that place him at the intersection of Broadway, jazz, and pop – the very essence of…