Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

8

Nnenna Freelon & the John Brown Big Band: Christmas

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Renowned jazz singer Nnenna Freelon's first Christmas album truly is a gift, made possible by a small bequest from her Christmas-loving mother and a long-time friendship with John Brown, director of Duke University's Jazz Studies program and leader of the splendid John Brown Big Band. Brown not only made his ensemble available but co-produced the album with Freelon and released it on his own label, Brown Boulevard Records.

It's clear that this is something Freelon has wanted to do for some time, as she eagerly embraces the Christmas spirit on Frank Foster's arrangement of "Swingle Jingle Bells" and hugs it tightly to the end, even though the session was recorded in July, during a summer heat wave, in her native North Carolina. Sandwiched among the more traditional carols are a pair of songs that celebrate the season more than the holiday: "Let It Snow," "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (a playful duet with Brown, who forgoes the upright bass to make a charming vocal debut), along with Duke Ellington's "I Like the Sunrise," to whose lyric Freelon has appended a passing reference or two to Christmas.

The rest is unvarnished yuletide fare, from "Swingle Jingle Bells" to "Christmas Time Is Here," "Silent Night," "The Little Drummer Boy," "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" (a popular ballad that swings here as never before, New Orleans-style). There's also a "Spiritual Medley" that opens with "Children Go Where I Send Thee" and includes "Go Tell It on the Mountain," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Joy to the World" and "Angels We Have Heard on High." Even though he was an avid church-goer, Franz Gruber undoubtedly never envisioned "Silent Night" as a toe-tapping, gospel-inflected blues, which is how Freelon and Brown present it in Jerald Shynett's fresh arrangement. She adds more jazz intonation to "The Little Drummer Boy," making that reading work as well (with stalwart assistance from the ensemble and especially drummer Adonis Rose).

Freelon, Brown and their virtuosic companions have worked hard to make this Christmas decidedly special; and best of all, the album's release date is November 12, giving listeners ample time to savor it while the holiday season is in full swing.

Track Listing: Swingle Jingle Bells; Spiritual Medley; Let It Snow; I Like the Sunrise; Christmas Time Is Here; Silent Night; The Little Drummer Boy; O Little Town of Bethlehem; Baby, It’s Cold Outside; I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

Personnel: Nnenna Freelon: vocals; John Brown: leader, bass, vocal (9); LeRoy Barley: trumpet; Art Barnes: trumpet; Derrick Gardner: trumpet; Jay Meachum: trumpet; Benjy Springs: trumpet; Vaughn Ambrose, James Gates, Brian Miller, Shaena Ryan, Greg Tardy: saxophones; Mitch Butler: trombone; Andy Kleindienst: trombone; Ron Westray: trombone; Joshua Vincent: trombone; Scott Sawyer: guitar; Brandon McCune: piano (1, 2, 7, 9, 10), Fender Rhodes (4), organ (6); Miki Hayama: piano (3-6, 8), celesta (4); Adonis Rose: drums, percussion; Beverly Botsford: percussion (1, 2, 4, 7).

Title: Christmas | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Brown Boulevard Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Roppongi CD/LP/Track Review Roppongi
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Is Life Long? CD/LP/Track Review Is Life Long?
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Contra la indecision CD/LP/Track Review Contra la indecision
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Vessel in Orbit CD/LP/Track Review Vessel in Orbit
by Don Phipps
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Pulse/Quartet CD/LP/Track Review Pulse/Quartet
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: January 19, 2018
Read OR CD/LP/Track Review OR
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 18, 2018
Read "Simiskina" CD/LP/Track Review Simiskina
by John Sharpe
Published: December 26, 2017
Read "Kill The Boy" CD/LP/Track Review Kill The Boy
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 16, 2017
Read "It's Always 9.30 In Zog" CD/LP/Track Review It's Always 9.30 In Zog
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 11, 2017
Read "Escape  from The Unhappy Society" CD/LP/Track Review Escape from The Unhappy Society
by Anthony Shaw
Published: February 1, 2017
Read "RFK Stadium 1989 Box" CD/LP/Track Review RFK Stadium 1989 Box
by Doug Collette
Published: December 3, 2017
Read "WAHOO!" CD/LP/Track Review WAHOO!
by Greg Simmons
Published: February 13, 2017