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.
Track Listing: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!; Sweet Little Jesus Boy; White Christmas; Silver Bells; What Are You Doing New Year
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.