Reviews – “Michigan Christmas Air”

1998 Release by Steve DeDoes Music Productions and the American Lung Association

“Intelligent writing and solid performances distinguish Michigan Christmas Air, thanks in large part to the handiwork of Steve DeDoes. He plays a tasteful piano accompaniment to singer Kristen Ryan on ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas,’ which begins with ‘Every Year,’ a free-tempo miniature written by DeDoes to function here as an introduction. He contributes more extensive compositions as well, including a reflective piece titled ‘The Air at Christmas’ performed by the renowned Western Brass Quintet. He even adds lyrics to the words written by legend Don Sebesky on ‘Hurray for Christmas.’

“In his arrangements as well as his playing, DeDoes embraces a sophisticated aesthetic while leaving room for the players to express themselves. His quartet chart for ‘Let It Snow’ gives vibraphonist Cary Kocher and pianist Matt Michaels room to burn through the kind of fully-notated passages heard too seldom in the work of small groups. And his clever reharmonizations at the end of ‘The Christmas Song’ guide Chris Collins’ soulful tenor sax fills and the mellow vocals of Harvey Thompson to a satisfying finale.

“By far the highlight of the album is the title track, which features most of the musicians on the album. Written by DeDoes in a churchy 6/8 groove, it showcases in particular the singing of Ange Smith, whose mellifluous timbre seems a little too unprotected on two duet tracks with bassist Don Mayberry but fits well into the richer setting provided here by Flint’s Northwest Community Gospel Choir, with Odelia Dunlap and Jeffrey Moore.

“The only problems involve some aspects of the album’s sound. As producer, DeDoes sometimes leaves excessive space where intimacy might have worked better – as in the production of ‘Hurray for Christmas.’ On this and on several other cuts, some of his thin synth lines pale in comparison to the more tactile textures on the rest of the disc. And although Joe LoDuca’s featured guitar solo on ‘The Bells of Modern Times’ (an unusual DeDoes treatment of ‘Carol of the Bells’) echoes the apparent theme of the piece, it’s too isolated in the mix — and gets a little weighed down by blues cliches.

“Even so, this is a magnificent effort by DeDoes, helped by some outstanding performances by musicians of many styles from throughout the state of Michigan. This worthwhile project also benefits the American Lung Association to the tune of 100 percent of proceeds, which go directly to that organization’s Michigan chapter.”

Robert L. Doerschuk
prominent music reviewer/writer for Keyboard Magazine, Musician Magazine, and the All-Music Guide


“A very innovative and carefully put-together collection of music. ‘Michigan Christmas Air’ is not only a superb artistic achievement…it really touches the listener in so many ways.”

Mike Johnson
Music Director & Program Host WDTR (90.0 fm) Radio, Detroit


“The track ‘Every Year / I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ is a work of art. And, along with the rest of the fine music on ‘Michigan Christmas Air,’ Steve DeDoes and the American Lung Association have achieved something very special.”

Linda Yohn
Music Director & Program Host WEMU (89.7 fm) Radio, Ypsilanti


“I love ‘Michigan Christmas Air’ – and even out of season, I play this great CD with a passion!”

Foster Braun
Program Host WJR (760 am) Radio, Detroit


“‘Michigan Christmas Air’ is one of the most thoughtfully, well-produced Christmas CDs that I’ve ever heard. It has a wide variety of music, it’s done by a group of very talented Michigan musicians and it benefits a worthy cause…the American Lung Association. Everybody wins with this CD, especially during this time of year.”

Doug Massey
Program and Public Affairs Host WVMV (“Smooth Jazz,” V-98.7 fm), Detroit


“I enjoyed ‘Michigan Christmas Air’ … and found it to be unique and delightful. Very high class.”

Ernie Harwell
longtime voice of the Detroit Tigers, baseball Hall-of-Famer, and a treasured sound of Michigan


“We have carried the spirit of Michigan with us to every place we’ve traveled (including EARTH ORBIT !). It’s nice to hear the spirit and sound of our home state in the CD ‘Christmas Air’ – and we look forward to enjoying it each and every year.”

U.S. Astronaut Jack R. Lousma, and wife Gratia
Skylab II / Commander, STS-3 (Space Shuttle) / 1984 U.S. Senate Candidate from Michigan


“I so appreciated receiving the ‘Christmas Air’ CD.  My wife, Cherry, and I listen to this great music every Christmas !”

Bart Starr
Legendary Green Bay Packer quarterback


“This project provided me with a rare opportunity…to work with my peers at the highest level of production, performance, and achievement. And I am very proud be a part of Steve’s wonderful musical triumph.”

Matt Michaels
Detroit Music Legend, professor emeritus at Wayne State University (longtime director of Jazz Studies Program)


“A great collection of beautiful and worthwhile music, and I’m very proud to have been a part of it.”

Joe LoDuca
Michigan Christmas Air artist, and prominent producer/composer (“Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”)


“I’m proud to have my song appear on this fine CD, and pleased to hear it covered so well. Steve DeDoes did a great job, both with my song and with the entire ‘Michigan Christmas Air’ project.”

Don Sebesky
legendary composer and arranger; winner of Tony, Grammy, and Oscar awards;
and producer and composer of the song Hurray For Christmas


Additional Comments and Reviews

“Any listener to Steve DeDoes’ production, “Michigan Christmas Air,” is bound to be impressed by the imaginative harmonic colorings he brings to a variety of styles, whether the track swings with a small jazz combo, revels in the glory of a gospel choir, or focuses inward in quiet meditation. His bop-based additive chords, tritone substitutions, and exotic whole-tone borrowings add a touch of fresh imagination to familiar holiday numbers and give his talented artists plenty of materials and the space in which to develop them freely. Both his composition and arrangement highlight a rare talent.”

Walter Everett
Professor, U-M School of Music and author of the new Oxford Press book The Beatles as Musicians


Comments from Listeners and Fans —

“After I first heard this music (back in 1998), I immediately purchased a couple of cases of CDs. Then, and over the years, I have been proud to give out copies to my friends and business associates. ‘Christmas Air’ is such a great holiday statement from our state…I’m excited, once again, to be able to give this as a gift !”

Michael E. Rosko
President, Rosko & Associates (a Michigan business since 1989)


“Our family, and our circle of friends, includes so many musicians and professional music teachers. We’ve made a point to give ‘Christmas Air’ as a heartfelt gift to them, and to everyone we know. This CD expresses the holidays as we feel them; full of great music of all styles, but all arranged and put together in a way that is truly meaningful. Every year, we love the jazz, the brass, the voices, and the entire musical journey.”

David (& Jean) Wolter
40-year+ music educator (MSBOA Emeritus), and 40-year+ director of the Saline Big Band