The Detroit-based Mack Avenue imprint has built quite an artist roster over the past fifteen years, so why not boast about it and toast the holidays in the process? It's Christmas On Mack Avenue does just that, turning a spotlight on label mainstays, fairly new signings, heavy hitters, and rapidly ascending stars. It also makes it clear that Christmas is far more interesting on Mack Avenue than it is on Any Street, U.S.A.
The album opens on trumpeter Sean Jones' charged take on "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," featuring some strong solo work from the leader and pianist Orrin Evans. From there, it's off to visit "Little Drummer Boy" with saxophonist Tia Fuller, and then over to a cheery "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" with vocalist Cyrille Aimee. The former gives pause to admire Fuller's lyrical horn work, but the latter, with some pseudo-Hawaiian twang, shifting groove gears, delightful scatting, and surprising modulation, makes a greater impression on the ear.
As time marches on, more playful and reflective tones work their way into the picture. Hot Club Of Detroit tackles "Skating," giving saxophonist Carl Cafagna and accordionist Julien Labro a chance to twirl around one another on the ice, and vibraphonist Warren Wolf keeps the focus on Vince Guaraldi with "Christmas Time Is Here." Then there's Christian McBride's calming "Silent Night," followed by a twofer from pianist Aaron Diehla jaunty solo read on "Christmas Star" and a rhythmically-revised trio take on Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride."
The final third of the program starts by focusing on the swagger-filled voice of Sachal Vasandani and the bluesy piano of Jeb Patton on "Winter Wonderland,"; continues with James Brown's infrequently-covered "Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto," with McBride serving as ringleader; turns attention toward the duo of Wolf and bassist David Wong on "Carol Of The Bells"; and closes out with a gorgeously wistful "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" from vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant. There's plenty of beauty, joy, reflection, and spirit to be found here. It would seem that Mack Avenue is a street of holiday dreams.
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town; Little Drummer Boy; Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!; Skating; Christmas Time Is Here; Silent Night; Christmas Star; Sleigh Ride; Winter Wonderland; Santa Claus, Go Straight To The Ghetto; Carol Of The Bells; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
Sean Jones: trumpet (1); Orrin Evans: piano (1); Tia Fuller: saxophone (1, 2); Jerome Jennings: drums (1); Luques Curtis: bass (1); Miriam Sullivan: bass (2); Kim Thompson: drums (2); Shamie Royston: piano (2); Khalil Kwame Bell: percussion (2); Cyrille Aimee: vocals (3); Michael Valeanu: guitar (3); Linda Oh: bass (3); Dani Danor: drums (3); Evan Perri: guitar (4); Paul Brady: guitar (4); Carl Cafagna: saxophone (4); Julien Labro: accordion (4); Shannon Wade: bass (4); Warren Wolf: vibraphone (5, 11), spoken vocals (10); Aaron Diehl: piano (5, 7, 8, 12), spoken vocals (10); Quincy Davis: drums (5, 8, 9), sleigh bells (8), spoken vocals (10); David Wong: bass (5, 8, 9, 11); Christian McBride: bass (6, 10), spoken vocals (10); Ulysses Owens, Jr.: drums (6, 10), spoken vocals (10); Christian Sands: piano (6, 10), spoken vocals (10); Sachal Vasandani: vocals (9); Jeb Patton: piano (9); Cecile McLorin Salvant: vocals (12), spoken vocals (10).
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