Eric Mintel Quartet
Two of the pianists most responsible for introducing jazz to impressionable ears take on a special significance this holiday season: Vince Guaraldi, whose name became linked to Christmas through his gentle, lyrical themes for A Charlie Brown Christmas; and the late Dave Brubeck, whose 1959 album Time Out is essential to any well-rounded record collection.
Brubeck was a mentor to Philly pianist Eric Mintel, who recorded a tribute album to the jazz legend and opened for him at the Kimmel Center, and will perform the music of both Brubeck and Guaraldi in a holiday concert at Sellersville Theater. Mintel knows a little something about hosting a Christmas party; he has played holiday concerts at the White House for Presidents Clinton and Obama.
- Shaun Brady
The Babies began in 2008 as a diversion for Vivian Girls' Cassie Ramone and Woods' Kevin Morby, and their first releases sounded deliberately unambitious, as if the friends wanted to save their serious energy (and their best songs) for their primary bands. That lo-fi, off-key attitude recedes on their second full-length, the new Our House on the Hill, replaced by a more confident, fuller sound that owes a lot to '90s alternative bands such as Pavement and the Pixies and, when Ramone and Morby share lead vocals, punk icons X. There's still a dose of Vivian Girls' girl-group pop and of Woods' rootsy indie rock, but they seem part of a more unified whole now: The Babies are growing up nicely.
- Steve Klinge
For his long-awaited major-label debut Finally Rich, Chi-town area MC Chief Keef expands upon the murky yet poppy aesthetic found on his mix-tapes without straying far from his usual font of dirty funk. Like the cast of Boardwalk Empire, it was guns, money, and booze made the Chief famous, so it's shoot-ups, sell-outs, and sociable guzzling that fill songs such as "Diamonds," and "Hate Bein' Sober." Nicknamed "Sosa" after Chicago Cubs legend Sammy Sosa, the 17-year-old rapper introduces that second self on "Love Sosa," with a whispered sing-song flow. From that point on, there's wild circus music and guests such as French Montana, Rick Ross, and 50 Cent, making his finest noise in some time. But this is all Keef.
- A.D. Amorosi