In the acoustically challenged Beat Niq nightclub located in downtown Calgary, Alberta Canada the jazz ensemble Sillan & Young still managed to wow their audience on December 21st. Led by alto vocalist Johanna Sillanpaa and guitar virtuoso Aaron Young the quintet performed two sets comprised mostly of Christmas tunes.
The blonde haired Swedish chanteuse took to the intimate stage decked out in black crop jacket trimmed in matching faux, black shimmering camisole and blue jeans. Her big black hoop earrings stood in contrast to her fair complexion and fine features.
The bearded Young wore his brown checked beret low against his eyebrows and looked funky sitting on a stool with his guitar.
Bassist Kodi Hutchinson, drummer Tyler Hornby and pianist Sheldon Zandboer completed the ensemble.
The musicians opened each set with an instrumental sans Sillanpaa. The instrumental for the first set was
"O Christmas Tree". We got our first look at Young’s lightening fast fingers accompanied by the equally agile Hutchinson on bass. "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen" has never sounded as good as Sillan & Young’s swinging rendition that introduced the second set. Both instrumentals prompted a rousing applause and many affirmative explanations from the patrons as the songs were drawing to a close.
Sillanpaa hit her stride with the fourth song "All The Things That You Are" as she wooed the audience with her sultry vocals. Young provided another awe-inspiring performance this time concentrating on the lower half of the fretboard.
Sillanpaa has the ability to deliver honest lyrics that bare her soul while pulling at her listener’s heartstrings. She is at her best while singing songs such as Sillan & Young’s swinging version of Mariah Carey’s "All I Want For Christmas Is You", her original tune "Under My Feet" and her ‘come hither young man’ cover of "Santa Baby".
"Under My Feet" a new composition that will be featured on her 2007 CD release thrusts her trademark R&B vocals into the spotlight. She challenges all future suitors with, "I’m not going to let another lover leave a scar on my soul."
The room came to life however as she cooed, "I just want you for my very own/more than you have ever known/make my dreams come true," from the song "All I Want For Christmas Is You". She delivers the lyric with conviction. Sillanpaa’s effortless vocals were never stretched beyond their ability and ooze sensuality.
Sillan & Young proved equally adept at being sensitive and gentle with Young’s guitar accompaniment of "Christmas Time Is Here" and the sacred "What Child Is This?"
Sheldon Zandboer is an accomplished pianist who provided magnificent chops. At times, you barely noticed him and that was appropriate. At other points in the concert, he was simply sparkling and the focus shifted to him seated at the keys.