Tag Archives: CD Releases

Laura Dickinson 17: Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne-cover

Just in time for the holidays comes an album from Grammy-winning music producer, vocal contractor and studio singer Laura Dickinson. Her album “Auld Lang Syne” was released November 20, 2018 and is a program of songs centered around the Christmas holiday season. This album is thought as a loving tribute to a time of year when people sincerely open their hearts to family and friends, and count their blessings while reflecting on the year gone by.

The record features excellent big band arrangements by top names like Johnny Mandel, Brent Fischer or James A. McMillen and brilliant vocal arrangements by Laura herself.

The album begins with the big band at full speed with “Happy Holiday / The Holiday Season”. Fantastic swinging by band and Laura Dickinson make sure that nobody starts to fall asleep during the holiday season. One blues chorus of solo go to trumpet, alto sax and guitar and then the horns get their chance to show off. A really great arrangement played and sung perfectly.

The second song “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” is in Laura Dickinson’s repertoire for quite some time and finally made it on this album. The arrangement is by Brent Fischer (he is also a Grammy winner) and he arranged it with a steady moving funky groove. My first highlight on the album. I found a live version of this song for your recommendation:

“Christmas is Starting Now” continues in full-speed-Christmas-spirit with another cool big band arrangement where all sections can show their skills. Trombones, saxes and trumpets and especially the drums have all highlights in the 2:46 minutes of this song. If you plan to have a dance party at Christmas, then this is the right song for it.

“Peace And Joy” is the next tune on the album and we hear Laura Dickinson together with a 24-voice choir including some of her vocal contractor colleagues. This tune is (again) perfectly arranged and sung and brings us back to the traditional more contemplative Christmas mood.

“The Man with the Bag” features Steve Trapani on bass-trombone, which other instrument would represent Santa better? Very entertaining, dynamically arranged and played.

“Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” from the movie “White Christmas” features Kye Palmer on trumpet.  He switches  to “How Deep is the Ocean” in his solo. Laura gets her chance as well here with an impressive finale of the song.

“A Marshmallow World” is the next song and returns with it’s sweet and happy sound to the classic picture we have of American Christmas.

“Miss You Most At Christmas” is a cover version of the Mariah Carey hit, but Laura’s version has much more power and emotions than the original.  The incredible string arrangement creates a very natural sound and makes this song to my favorite on the album.

“Let It Snow!” surprises with an extraordinary and extravaganza arrangement in New Orleans style by James A. McMillen. Here is one of those versions where I am really surprised about the ideas and creativity of well-established arrangers.
A video from the recording studio is also available for this song, which I highly recommend:

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” features Laura and pianist Alan Steinberger. Another ideal opportunity for Laura to show her mastery, her vocal range and her perfect intonation.

The final song on the album is the title song “Auld Lang Syne” (Old Long Since) which is the traditional tune sung in the English-speaking world at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bid farewell to the old year. The tune is based on an old Scots folk melody and the arrangement of guitarist Andrew Synowiec revives that spirit. Guitars and Laura’s for several voices singing dominate this tune.

To summarize it, the album is an impressive collection of outstanding arrangements presented in a impeccable manner by a great big band and an incredibly versatile Laura Dickinson. The album covers different nuances of the Christmas spirit from sticky sweet to melancholic back to a big party and ends with the right song for New Year’s Eve, so it is the perfect companion for the whole holiday season.

Here comes a playlist on Spotify to listen to the album:

If you want to learn more about Laura Dickinson, please check out her website:

Ryan Timoffee: Cuban Safari

Cuban Safari Front CD Cover

Today’s album comes from Ryan Timoffee, a piano player, composer and producer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He composed, arranged, produced and played piano and keyboards on his debut solo album “Cuban Safari” which was released on November 12.

The album features an all-star line-up of Cuban musicians from Camaguey, Havana, New York, Miami and Los Angeles:

  • Keyboards – Ryan Timoffee
  • Bass – Daymar Calvario
  • Percussion – Daniel Rodriguez
  • Saxophone – Yasel Barreras Sifontes
  • Trumpet – Randy Veitia Godinez
  • Flute – Javier Porta
  • Guitar – Dean Faulkner
  • Tres – Yuniel Jimenez
  • Trombone – Diana Osumy Sainz Mena
  • Guitar – Roman Lajara
  • Vocals – Yoandri Castro

Ryan explains on his website: “In 2017 I had been on a composing frenzy and everything I wrote had Cuban flavor. Since I returned from Cuba for the second time in January, I felt very connected to the music of the island and it was manifesting in everything I wrote. So my next step was to turn my Cuban-influenced themes into something real.”

The project became real, but the realization was not straight-forward, it turned out to be an adventure.

Ryan continues: “The band recorded at an unknown studio in the Castro compound in Havana. Police pay-offs, a jam-packed vehicle full of musicians, 14-hour sessions, a missing sound engineer and detours around the Hurricane-flooded streets of Old Havana brought the world this hard-fought victory for music.”

Nevertheless, the result of this fight is an excellent album that combines a wide range of authentic Cuban grooves like Timba, Son Montuno, Mozambique and Cha cha cha with Funk, Soul and Jazz elements, it is old-fashioned and modern at the same time.

The album starts with “Super Tren”, bass and horns play the melody very precise and accentuated. The first solo goes to Ryan on piano, he starts softly and relaxed, dynamics increase and prepare us for a trumpet solo and percussion fills. The band grooves perfectly, the horns are sharp, the trumpet plays high and we see that these guys know what they are doing.

“Bambino” comes next and continues in the traditional Salsa style, but the song gets it special touch from the electronic piano sound. The horn section is extended with Diana Osumy Sainz Mena on trombone.

“Bolo” has a steady funk groove dominated by Dean Faulkner on guitar. The solos go to saxophone and guitar, followed by a dialog between drums and bass.  A nice change in style and my first highlight on this album.

“Guajira” is going back to traditional Afro-Cuban music. Yuniel Jimenez on tres opens the song and plays an excellent solo. Randy Veitia Godinez on trumpet again shows his mastery and the song ends with vocals. Yoandri Castro as lead singer and Yasel Barreras Sifontes singing background carry us away.

“Bio Ritmo” is the next tune and this is another Salsa tune with a great piano solo, increasing intensity by the horn section and a steady pushing bass by an outstanding Daymar Calvario.

“Border Control” the next song, is a Cha cha cha. The first solo goes to Yasel Barreras Sifontes on saxophone, followed by Ryan Timoffee on piano and Daniel Rodriguez on percussion.

“Persigueme” introduces Javier Porta on flute and Ryan Timoffee on a Fender rhodes e-piano. A pushing groove by bass and percussion lay the foundation for a modern latin song. This is one of my favorites on the album.

“Fantasma” is a tune with a funny melody but returns to a classic Salsa song when the piano starts with the montuno. We hear a short bass solo, a piano solo and another great finale from the  trumpet.

“Cohiba Funk” is the second funk tune on this album, again with a grooving guitar by Dean Faulkner. The melody is played by the flute which gives the song its unique character. Ryan plays a nice solo on the Fender rhodes.

“Tapp Timba” is the last song on the album. It reminds me a little bit on fusion bands like the Brecker Brothers but with a Cuban percussion section.  Cool horns, a brillant guitar by Roman Lajaraa and funky slapping bass are the ingredients for another fantastic tune and a great finale of the album.

There is a Youtube video available for this song which I don’t want to keep back from you:

To sum it up, “Cuban Safari” is an excellent album with a lot of variety in it. The songs are perfectly arranged and Ryan Timoffee found a bunch of incredible musicians to record this album. The combination of traditional Cuban music, Jazz and Funk works perfectly and creates an entertaining and diverse album which I can highly recommend.

Some more background information about the musicians and the genesis of this album are found on Ryan’s website:

And a playlist on Spotify to listen to the album: