JazzTimes is honored to premiere the video for a new seasonally appropriate song by Madeleine Peyroux, “Ha Ha Holiday.”
Recorded last December in New York City, the Peyroux original features the author on vocal and acoustic guitar; Paul Frazier on background vocals; Paul Livant on electric guitars; Paul Nowinski on bass; Graham Hawthorne on drums and percussion; Wade Schuman on polyphonium and harmonica; and Sumaiya Genève on jokes.
“Music, stories, jokes and rituals all follow the same trajectory. They are passed around a group of people and when welcome, become part of a family tradition. Every year, when the stars align and I am lucky to visit with someone close during the winter holiday season, I have a tradition of creating a song or video in collaboration with those that are with me, and sending the little billet out to all my friends and family whom are afar. It came about organically for me, being from a family that travels, both during my childhood and in generations past. This song was first written the week of the new year 2019 with my brother, Edmond Peyroux, with whom I also share a deep appreciation for comedy.
“In the ensuing year, I continued traveling with music in support of my recent album Anthem, for which I had gathered an exciting touring band, including Graham Hawthorne at the drums and Paul Frazier on the bass and background vocals. And at the close of a year with so many wonderful concerts, there was a desire to celebrate, which came in the form of making a recording with these same musicians. I chose this song.
“We gathered on December 20, 2019 in Graham Hawthorne’s basement studio, 127soundspace. Paul Livant and Paul Nowinski played the basic rhythm track with me and Graham. Then Wade Schuman, Graham’s neighbor and all-things-harmonica enthusiast, tracked the polyphonium (similar to the bass harmonica) as well as his blues harp. Then, Paul Frazier agreed to commute in, arrange, and perform all the background vocals later that evening. Finally, my brother and co-writer, Edmond Peyroux, joined after that to help with handclaps and snapping fingers. Everyone stayed to witness, some with a festive drink in hand. The entire day-into-night production was a lot of fun, a holiday party to remember. But the best part of all was to happen the next afternoon, when Graham’s daughter, Sumaiya Genève, recorded the track’s bookend voiceovers.
“Graham’s longtime collaborators Charlie Martinez (live tracking) and Fabrice Dupont (the mix) were the engineers. Later, Alan Silverman did the mastering. It could not be properly released in time for the 2019 holiday season, so it had to wait until the following December, now.
“The intervening year of 2020 has changed a lot of things for a lot of people and for the world. But the song’s original intent did not change for me. It is still a song dedicated to comedians, the greatest artists of any culture and the most essential commentators in a democracy. I hope you all get a kick out of it. Happy holidays and love to everyone.”