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Rob McConnell: Big Band Christmas

Jim Santella By

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The clear precise intonation of Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass lends itself to Christmas music. And the swinging, fun-loving arrangements are a natural for any holiday season. Rob McConnell has put them together and the result is one swingin’ good time.

Robert Murray Gordon McConnell founded the Boss Brass in 1968 as a working group for his talented arranging skills. Since then he’s released about two dozen albums which feature Toronto’s finest, the leader’s valve trombone melodies, and superb arrangements. A leader with a sense of humor as well as a creative nature, McConnell peppers his arrangements with unique harmonic surprises and rhythmic twists.

"Silver Bells," "Away in a Manger," "In the Bleak Mid-Winter," "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Joy to the World," and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" appear on the session as traditional chorale pieces with precise and beautiful arrangements. Elsewhere, however, it’s time to loosen your necktie, kick off those uncomfortable shoes, and invite the guests to sit back and take in the holiday spirit. Exceptional improvised solo work comes to the fore from pianist David Restivo, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, trumpeter Steve McDade, alto saxophonist Moe Koffman, and valve trombonist Rob McConnell. Mel Torme’s "Christmas Song" features McConnell in a ballad arrangement with several welcome surprises.

"My Favorite Things" features the burning saxophones of Pat LaBarbera (soprano) and Alex Dean (tenor), while "Silent Night" glides along as a Christmas waltz featuring Ed Bickert. "What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?" dances the carioca with flutes, drummer Ted Warren, and spicy improvised solos. "White Christmas" has a laid-back "Afro Blue" appeal, while "The Christmas Waltz" cha-chas around the room wishing you and yours a happy holiday season. Highly Recommended.


Track Listing: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas/I

Personnel: Rob McConnell- valve trombone; Moe Koffman- piccolo, flute, clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax; John Johnson- flute, clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax; Alex Dean- flute, clarinet, tenor sax; Pat LaBarbera- flute, clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax; Bob Leonard- flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone sax; Dave Dunlop, Steve McDade, John MacLeod, Guido Basso, Kevin Turcotte- trumpet, flugelhorn; Alastair Kay; Bob Livingston; Jerry Johnson- trombone; Ernie Pattison- bass trombone; James MacDonald; Judy Kay- French horn; David Restivo- piano; Ed Bickert- guitar; Jim Vivian- bass; Ted Warren- drums; Brian Leonard- percussion.

Title: Big Band Christmas | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Concord Music Group

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