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New Orleans' Own Dukes of Dixieland: Christmas in New Orleans

Jim Santella By

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New Orleans' Own Dukes of Dixieland: Christmas in New Orleans Recorded earlier this year before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, this album of Christmas songs features the city's own Dukes of Dixieland with guest vocalists. They capture the traditional spirit of Christmas and gift-wrap it in Crescent City colors and sounds.

In honor of their devastated home town, they've renamed the band to New Orleans' Own Dukes of Dixieland. The Dukes have had to scatter into temporary quarters. Drummer Richard Taylor lost his house and is in Alabama. Bassist Everett Link is in Lafayette, Louisiana trying to get things set up for the band. Pianist Scott Obenschain is in Virginia, clarinetist Earl Bonie is in Shreveport, and trumpeter Mike Fulton is in Seattle. But they'll rebuild and regroup.

Reaching back over a hundred years to earlier times in The Big Easy's history, the band incorporates clearly defined European themes into its music. With no trouble at all, you can find polkas and marches deeply embedded in their arrangements. Boom-chuck rhythms and oom-pah-pah rhythmic structures allow them to fit age-old patterns into their New Orleans delights. Shades of Louis Prima and similar swing artists, however, bring it around in Dixieland form. With a 27-year-old history of their own, the Dukes have grasped a fair share of the essence that keeps New Orleans alive.

The high point of the album comes on the band's arrangement of "The Little Drummer Boy," which they've remade into a traditional New Orleans shuffle. Luther Kent sings, and the band parades this one as if they're launching a street celebration through the French Quarter. Taylor's subtle snare drum takes this one all over the city. Bonie switches to tenor saxophone as the Dukes roll out a hearty jazz flavor to spread the news of Christmas. I's a rejoicing of the spirit of renewal. With music like this as inspiration, it won't take long before the city is rebuilt with a new texture to display its traditional wares.

Track Listing: Jingle Bells; I'll Be Home for Christmas; This Little Light of Mine; Christmas Time in New Orleans; Away in a Manger; Winter Wonderland; Merry Christmas Baby; Silver Bells; Come Home for Christmas; O Tannenbaum; Second Line Santa; Here Comes Santa; Big Drummer Boy; Holiday Time in New Orleans; Holly Jolly Christmas; Have Yourself a Merry Christmas; Sleigh Ride; The Christmas Song.

Personnel: Earl Bonie: clarinet; Mike Fulton: trumpet; Ben Smith: trombone; Scott Obenschain: piano; Everett Link: bass; Richard Taylor: drums; Special guests: Luther Kent, The Pfister Sisters, Moses Hogan's Gospel Choir: vocals.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Leisure Jazz | Style: Dixieland/New Orleans/Swing


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