529

Ralph Carmichael Big Band: Ralph Carmichael and Friends Live / Big Band Christmas

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Ralph Carmichael, one of America’s most prominent born–again bandleaders, has abundant faith in big bands and in their capacity to help deliver a Christian–centered message of love, peace and redemption. Friends Live was recorded at Southern California College in Costa Mesa, 50 years after Carmichael’s graduation, class of ’47. As the song titles — “The Savior Is Waiting,” “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” “Be Still My Soul” and so on — make clear, this is music with meaning beyond the mere exposition of notes on paper. On the other hand, Carmichael never overlooks the fundamental purpose of big–band Jazz, which is to swing. He’s a terrific arranger whose charts, no matter how forthright the religious message, are consistently dynamic and refreshing. The bands themselves, well–stocked with many of the most respected Jazz and studio musicians in Southern California, are beyond reproach. On Friends Live, the message is verbalized by Carmichael’s choir (“Love,” “The Man”) and guest singers Larnelle Harris (“Here and Now I Believe”), Sharalee Lewis (“His Eye Is on the Sparrow”) and Dave Boyer (“Come on Home”); on Big Band Christmas — recorded in concert at Speer Studios in Nashville — by guest singer Margaret Becker (“Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “Away in a Manger”) and the Carmichael Carolers (“Sleigh Ride” and a six–tune Christmas medley). No vocalist could ask for sturdier instrumental backing than this. Some of the charts on Big Band Christmas were written originally in 1961 for an album of seasonal music by the Stan Kenton Orchestra. On both of these more recent occasions the ensemble is paramount, although there are some enterprising solos within each of them by trumpeter Baptist (flugel on “Silent Night”), keyboard wizard Hugenberger and saxophonists Lozano and Liston (especially on “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”). Also worth noting on Friends Live is Carmichael’s scorching arrangement of the finale, “Be Still My Soul” (I challenge your feet to be still while it’s playing). Big Band Christmas opens with another smoldering chart, “Joy to the World,” with drummer Field adding bold exclamation points behind the brass, as he does throughout both programs, and includes a colorful fugue–like treatment of “The Holly and the Ivy.” The concert was video taped, and the disc embodies the music without Carmichael’s introductory remarks, which accounts in part for its relatively brief (39:49) playing time. But Carmichael makes every moment count, as he does on Friends Live, and, message or no, has constructed two superb and swinging big–band albums.

Track listing: Live — Here and Now I Believe; The Savior Is Waiting; Love; Love Is Surrender; His Eye Is on the Sparrow; Beyond All Time; Come On Home; Peace in the Valley; The Man; Just a Closer Walk with Thee; Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen; Be Still My Soul (46:36). Big Band Christmas — Joy to the World; Once in Royal David’s City; Silent Night; We Three Kings; Go Tell It on the Mountain; Angels We Have Heard on High; Caroling, Caroling; Sleigh Ride; The Holly and the Ivy; Christmas Medley; Good King Wenceslas; God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; Away in a Manger; O Come All Ye Faithful (39:49).


Personnel:

Live

Title: Ralph Carmichael and Friends Live / Big Band Christmas | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Brentwood


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard CD/LP/Track Review Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio CD/LP/Track Review Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Moment Frozen CD/LP/Track Review Moment Frozen
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Minor Step CD/LP/Track Review Minor Step
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 19, 2017
Read A Meeting Of Spirits CD/LP/Track Review A Meeting Of Spirits
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 18, 2017
Read First Light CD/LP/Track Review First Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 18, 2017
Read "The Better Angels of Our Nature" CD/LP/Track Review The Better Angels of Our Nature
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 20, 2017
Read "Ugly Beautiful" CD/LP/Track Review Ugly Beautiful
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 6, 2017
Read "Love Song" CD/LP/Track Review Love Song
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 20, 2016
Read "But Wait… There’s More! / Live 2017" CD/LP/Track Review But Wait… There’s More! / Live 2017
by Roger Weisman
Published: June 9, 2017
Read "Manovuotometro" CD/LP/Track Review Manovuotometro
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 24, 2016
Read "The Behemoth" CD/LP/Track Review The Behemoth
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 9, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.