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.
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!; Sweet Little Jesus Boy; White Christmas; Silver Bells; What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?; All Through the Night; O Christmas Tree; O Holy Night; Carol of the Bells; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Christmas Time Is Here; Angels We Have Heard on High; The Christmas Song
Nancy Wilson - Vocals; Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All Star Big Band: Jon Faddis - Director/Trumpet; Earl Gardner, Claudio Roditi, Terrell Stafford, Greg Gisbert - Trumpet; Slide Hampton, Jay Ashby, David Gibson - Trombone; Douglas Purviance - Bass Trombone; Frank Wess - Alto Sax/Flute; Antonio Hart - Alto Sax; James Moody - Tenor Sax/Flute; Jimmy Heath - Tenor Sax; Gary Smulyan - Baritone Sax; Renee Rosnes - Piano; Marty Ashby - Guitar; John Lee - Bass; Dennis Mackrel - Drums; New York Voices: Darmon Meader, Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan, Pete Eldridge; Llew Matthews, Monty Alexander - Piano; John B. Williams, Dwayne Dolphin - Bass; Roy McCurdy - Drums; Herbie Mann, Ali Ryerson - Flute; Duduka Da Fonseca, Roger Humphries - Drums; Darmon Meader - Tenor Sax; Jim Guerra - Clarinet; Jim Germann - Bass Clarinet; Amy Kauffman, Claudia Mahave, Christopher J. Wu - Violin; Tatjana Mead Chamis - Viola; David T. Premo - Cello; Jay Ashby - Vocal/Percussion