If trombonist Scott Whitfield's A Bi-Coastal Christmas cannot quicken your inner holiday spirit, that will not be for lack of trying. Whitfield uses every ribbon in the packet and every tool in the shed to help make the season bright, from big band to quintet, from duo to solo (Whitfield's trombone all by itself). Two of the selections were recorded in 2004, four others in 2005, whereas Whitfield's brace of solo tracks was taped in 2020 as he cast off the coronavirus, quarantining at home in Pasadena, CA.
Whitfield teams with tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb on "Winter Wonderland" and on his own "Christmas in July" (on which he also sings), with tenor/soprano saxophonist Roger Neumann on "We Three Kings" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and leads his Jazz Orchestra East on "Carol of the Drum" (the Little Drummer Boy) and "Silent Night." Whitfield also sings on Milt Kabak's "This Christmas" (with Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar) and Lew Anderson's "A Time for Christmas" (with Ted Kooshian on piano). Although he is a fairly good singer, Whitfield's true strength is as a world-class trombonist, a talent he shows on every number, and especially on his overdubbedand relatively brief"solo" tracks: Johnny Mandel's "A Christmas Love Song" and Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song" (wherein he is billed as "the Lonely Bones"). Speaking of world-class, bassist Jennifer Leitham and drummer Kendall Kay prove more than worthy of that allusion on an extended concert version of "We Three Kings."
"Bethlehem," taken at an uncommonly rapid clip, is another highlight, with exhilarating solos from Whitfield, Neumann (soprano), Leitham and pianist Bob Florence enhancing the live performance. To underscore his versatility, Whitfield scats as well as sings on "Christmas in July," to which Christlieb adds an exclamation mark with a typically careening solo and Leitham shines again. In sum, a bright and colorful bouquet of holiday cheer, lovingly prepared by Whitfield and his many talented friends. And this is only Volume 1! There is no telling what Whitfield and Co. may have in store for 2021. Whatever they choose, it should be something to look forward to with pleasant anticipation.
On a somber note, Whitfield dedicated the album to eight musicians and friends who have since passed away: Florence, Neumann, Pizzarelli, Anderson, Kabak, Mandel, Ira Sullivan and recording engineer Jim Czak.
Winter Wonderland; This Christmas; We Three Kings; A Time for Christmas; Carol of the
Drum (The Little Drummer Boy); A Christmas Love Song; O Little Town of Bethlehem; The
Christmas Song; Christmas in July; Silent Night.
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