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Chris Botti: December

Jim Santella By

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The holidays are upon us, and it's a time of year to enjoy and reflect. Chris Botti employs a pure, golden, open trumpet tone to invite the proper mood. Strings and various veteran jazz artists accompany him in a program that emphasizes winter's still, melodic majesty. His muted trumpet pulls "Hallelujah" serenely forward to the still accompaniment of guitar and bass. It's a pensive moment. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" moves joyfully to a gentle, acoustic samba accompaniment. Bob Sheppard's tenor steps forward with a few magical phrases. Both he and Botti infuse more creative improvisation into this one than on the rest of the program. It must be the Latin influence. Billy Childs takes off on a hot, improvised piano interlude during "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow," that would melt Frosty's round features. Dave Carpenter's introduction to "Winter Wonderland" sets up a lovely walk in the park, hayride and all. You can just smell that fresh air. Anthony Wilson and pianist Childs provide a swinging landscape that urges Botti to explore the improvising jazz spectrum more than elsewhere. Vinnie Colaiuta's stirring introduction to "The Little Drummer Boy" sparks an avalanche that cascades into a fiery, contemporary jazz arrangement.

Botti and his band are on top of this one, with the Christmas tree all lit up. The trumpeter balances the program with simmering ballads. His outstanding album takes the many moods of the holiday season into consideration. Botti also sings, and his youthful, boy-next-door manner becomes rather persuasive. It's humbling: makes you stop for a little while and consider that we live in an age where tradition is still respected, and freedom includes the desire to let the creative juices flow naturally. It was quite considerate of Chris Botti to remember this when he assembled this perfect Christmas gift for all of us.

Track Listing: Christmas Song; First Noel; Let It Snow; Hallelujah; Perfect Day; Santa Claus Is Coming To Town; O Little Town Of Bethlehem; Walking In A Winter Wonderland; Little Drummer Boy; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas; Silent Night; I'll Be Home For Christmas.

Personnel: Chris Botti: trumpet, vocals; Billy Childs: keyboards; Anthony Wilson: guitars; Bob Sheppard: saxophones, flute; Jimmy Haslip: bass; Peter Erskine: drums; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums.

Title: December | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Columbia Records

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