Veteran singer Nancy Wilson has put together an impressive cast for her 2001 holiday CD on Telarc. This CD is the latest installment in the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) Jazz series, and all proceeds go to benefit the MCG’s arts and learning center in Pittsburgh. The arrangements and players are superb! The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All Star Big Band add that irresistible big band swing to “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”, “Silver Bells”, and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. Various members of the band provide solos on the disc as well. New York Voices are excellent, as usual, on “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” and “Carol of the Bells”. A small string ensemble graces a couple other tunes. Nancy Wilson’s trio forms the solid foundation of most of the tunes.
Unfortunately, the weakest link in this star-studded show is the leader herself. Admittedly, this is a matter of personal taste, but I just don’t care for her vocal stylings. Her voice is often rough-edged, and her pitch often falls off at the end of each phrase. Most of her lines are short little bursts that stab at you rather than draw you into the song. I find that her choice of embellishments and adornments distracts from rather than enhances the material at hand; they just seem awkward.
There’s still lots to enjoy on this CD from an accompaniment standpoint. And it does benefit a good cause.