Published since 1997
A former newspaper writer / editor who has been writing about jazz for more than twenty years.
Having worked his special brand of magic on Big Band Hymns, McDonald waves his amazing wand over a selection of traditional and contemporary Christmas music and — voila! — what to our wondering ears should appear but another spectacular album of big–band music designed to please even the most demanding partisans. There aren’t many versions of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that can make me forget about Judy Garland, but McDonald’s comes close. Even “The Little Drummer Boy,” by no means a particular favorite in these quarters, sparkles with a new lustre (there’s only one other arrangement of it I’ve admired as much, by the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra’s Peter Bouffard). Besides the “Drummer Boy,” there are four “traditional” holiday songs on the program (“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “Silent Night! Holy Night!,” a medley of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Angels We Have Heard on High”), and each one is as “soulful” in its own way as its author intended, thanks to McDonald’s phenomenal skills as an arranger. The ballad “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” on the other hand, sounds as though it would have been quite at home in the Dorsey or Miller books, while Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” Irving Berlin’s incomparable “White Christmas,” Sammy Cahn / Jule Styne’s “Let It Snow” and J. W. Johnson’s “Blue Christmas” are textbook models of seductive big–band swing. Again, the band is letter–perfect and soloists are never less than credible. In fact, both albums are so pleasing in every respect that one is inclined even to overlook their abbreviated running times (41:37, 41:16). At least none of those moments is wasted; McDonald makes absolutely sure of that.
Track listing: Big Band Hymns — I’ll Fly Away; What a Friend We Have in Jesus; Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen; Love to Tell the Story; Amazing Grace; Shall We Gather at the River; Were You There; The Old Rugged Cross; Blessed Assurance; When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder (41:37). Big Band Christmas — Sleigh Ride; White Christmas; Blue Christmas; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; The Little Drummer Boy; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; I’ll Be Home for Christmas; Let It Snow; Silent Night, Holy Night; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing / Angels We Have Heard on High (41:16).
Big Band Hymns
Record Label: Green Hill
Style: Big Band
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