Light the candles, spike the eggnog and trim the tree… spin the dreidel and send out for Chinese.”

It’s Mistletoe Mazel Tov, a new CD of ukulele holiday favorites from Ukulelia pal, Gerald Ross.

Gerald calls this a “collection of holiday instrumental classics arranged for ukulele and steel guitar.” He was kind enough to send us a reviewer’s copy and we’ve been rockin’ around the Christmas tree here for several days. My favorite so far is his arrangement of the achingly bittersweet Christmas Time is Here from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”…

…At our humble, but brilliant suggestion, Gerald has posted the chords for his arrangement of Go Tell it on the Mountain online here.

Get your copy today and give it a sov.


October 2010
Original review at Ukulelia

The ukulele is the musical embodiment of the old adage, “Good things come in small packages.” Or, perhaps more accurately, “Good things come from small packages.” Long familiar as a simple instrument, perfect for accompanying three chord folk songs—á la Burl Ives—or as a comic musical prop—think Tiny Tim—the ukulele also has a long history of virtuoso players in Hawaii and the mainland who have explored and exploited the potential of the instrument. In the past couple of decades another generation of master players have brought the instrument much more visibility and have elevated it to new musical heights. One of those masters is long time local musician, Gerald Ross.

Ross, (who I’ve profiled in these pages before) has been playing traditional American roots music on guitar for decades. (With occasional forays into other genres. I remember him in the late 1970s playing Mozart’s “Rondo a la Turk” on solo guitar—no small feat—to accompany famed bones/percussionist Percy Danforth.) He’s also accomplished on Cajun accordion and since 1997, on Hawaiian electric lap steel guitar. He’s only been playing ukulele seriously since December of 2004, but he’s clearly a very fast learner and has rapidly rocketed to the upper echelon of uke players nationally and even internationally, via the web. In the past few years he’s played and taught at ukulele festivals from Portland to New York, from Chicago to Dallas. He has released several recordings of his ukulele and lap steel driven music and his latest is perhaps his most charming.

Mistletoe Mazel Tov is, of course, a holiday album. And, perhaps like you, I get pretty tired of hearing the same Chanukah and Christmas songs over and over every year, even, or perhaps especially, in the various (and sometimes weird) versions that come out every fall. In contrast, Mistletoe Mazel Tov is a very refreshing surprise. The minute I put it on our home CD player, my wife, daughter and I began to smile. Soon we were dancing along to the music and, though we had no mistletoe hanging… (Who needs the mistletoe excuse, anyway?)

The CD starts with one of the more bluesy, swinging versions of “Sevivon” I’ve ever heard, complete with a repeating descending bass line that brings to mind “Hit the Road, Jack.” Ross’ rendition rolls along beautifully and manages to simultaneously be both nimble and yet insistent.

The 65-yearold classic, “Let It Snow” is clearly not yet ready to be retired if Ross’ solo ukulele arrangement is any indication. The motto of Ross’ record company, UkeTone Records, is, “Four strings are plenty enough.” No idle boast that. In the hands of a ukulele master like Ross, the instrument can assume almost orchestral dimensions and can provide melody, harmony and rhythm as capably as a guitar or piano.

And, if you know how, and Ross clearly does know how, the ukulele is also capable of a surprisingly wide range of tonal colors. Listen to the gorgeous bell-like sounds Ross gets on “Silver Bells.”

“Late Night Latke Party” introduces Ross’ considerable abilities on the Hawaiian lap steel guitar. The impeccably arranged tune, as all of them are on this disk, is a delicious mixture of guitar, tenor uke and the lap steel.

Ross says on the liner notes that he rewrote the bridge of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” because to him it sounded too much like Stephen Foster’s “Oh! Susannah.” Nice job, Gerald. The new bridge sounds good and does not sound like “Oh! Susannah.” However, to me, the verse melody still sounds like “If I knew You Were Coming I’d Have Baked a Cake.” Nevertheless, another clever, pleasing arrangement that helps us to freshly hear a familiar holiday earworm.

“Chanukah Oh Chanukah” has never sounded as good as it does here, and might be the first Dobro and ukulele version ever. Ross says on the liner notes, “Makes sense to me.” Me too.

If I have one kvetch about this CD it’s that it’s too short. Or maybe it’s just that time flies when you’re having fun. More, Gerald, more!

San Slomovits
Washtenaw Jewish News
Dec 2010/Jan 2011

Original review in PDF format

The Michigan-based self-taught Gerald Ross has recorded an album that includes ten Christmas- and Hanukkah-themed tunes. He plays ukulele, guitar, bass and drums, and has newly arranged all of the pieces for ukulele.

On his Talsma Tenor Ukulele, accompanied by bass and guitar, he re-interprets the slow waltz “Silver Bells.” He then invites you to a cool jazzy “Late Night Latke Party.” His electric Talsma Tenor Ukulele provides a magical bass rhythm, with guitar and drums, and the Fender Champion Steel Guitar sings its melancholy song.

The Gospel “Go Tell It on the Mountain” impresses with bluesy rhythm guitar and amazing ukulele playing, and he makes his solo acoustic ukulele sing on “Blue Christmas.” With a Beard Gold Tone Resonator Dobro he turns the Yiddish song “Chanukah Oh Chanukah” into a brilliant Americana melody with great finger picking on the ukulele… my favorite.

With his latest acquisition, the aNueNue Gerald Ross Signature Tenor Ukulele, he delivers “Rockin ‘Around the Christmas Tree” and once again shows what he can do with this often underrated instrument.

“Mistletoe Mazel Tov” is the fifth album by Ross – four were recorded on the ukulele and one on the guitar. I enjoyed his laid-back arrangements – he is a virtuoso.


Adolf Goriup
Folk World European Webzine
Dec 2010

It makes perfect sense that Gerald Ross, in his hilarious way, would record and present a CD that brings together Jews, Christians and anyone else who loves a party. For partying is what this album is all about. The high-spirited sounds of ukulele, and steel guitar provide lightness and sparkle to any gathering of friends and family. And, the well-known, beautifully played tunes on this purely instrumental album also make perfect background music. And that’s important; for when a roomful of people are talking and laughing together instrumentals support the ambience far better than songs with lyrics.

The album also gets us thinking of the strong links between Jewish and Christian holiday celebrations. A huge proportion of songs: Let It Snow, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and Silver Bells for example (all featured on the disc) were written by Jewish songwriters. In fact most of the text in Handel’s Messiah (not on the disc) comes from Old Testament scripture. Conversely, Chanukah, traditionally one of the more minor events in the Jewish calendar, has scaled up over time ensuring that the two faiths can party on an equal footing. These days Chanukah tunes such as Sevivon Sov Sov Sov and Chanukah Oh Chanukah are becoming familiar seasonal sounds to many non-Jewish friends.

And that’s what makes Mistletoe Mazel Tov the best possible kind of holiday album! Get it, you won’t regret it.

Ralph Shaw: King of the Ukulele!
Jan 2013