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Jazz singers come and go, sometimes so fast that if you blink your eyes you'll miss them. It is gratifying and comforting to bask in the warmth of that small bevy of vocalists who have been around a long time and, like fine wines, age well and maintain a steady output of albums. Nancy Wilson is a member of good standing in this group and time has treated her vocal chords quite favorably.
Wilson made her first album as a soloist in 1959. Over the more than 40 year span she has been in the studio, surprisingly she has never made a holiday album. That oversight is rectified here with a play list of popular Christmas songs mixed with familiar carols. She has gathered a diverse group of jazz artists to celebrate her entry into the holiday album arena. The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All Star Big Band, led by the high atmosphere trumpet of Jon Faddis, swings with drive and verve on "Let It Snow!, Let It Snow!" Their slight discordant ensemble work on" God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is at first startling. But as the song develops, it makes good musical sense. Darmon Meader's Coltrane like saxophone is dominant on "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve". Appropriately "O Holy Night" is given a reverent reading with Ali Ryerson's flute and a string section helping to create the proper atmosphere for this beloved Christmas carol. One of the premiere tracks is "Carol of the Bells" where the New York Voices join Wilson in this Christmas round and Monty Alexander takes a piano solo. Although, several different groups share the mike with Wilson, the one constant on most tracks is the piano of Llew Matthews, unpretentious, unassuming, but always firmly meeting Wilson's accompaniment needs.
It's getting to be that time of the year to began thinking about refreshing one's jazz Christmas collection. You couldn't do better than this album. In keeping with the philosophy of the season, all proceeds from its sale go to the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, a nonprofit center in which Wilson has taken an interest. Visit her website at www.missnancywilson.com.
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'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
Personnel: 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
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.