The only plausible impetus for releasing an album of Christmas themes so close to the holiday itself is the inclusion of music that transcends the season and may be auditioned and appreciated throughout the year. Trombonist Chris McDonald accomplished that with his splendid album In the Mood for Christmas, and trumpeter Rob Parton has mirrored that success with the kaleidoscopic Christmas Time Is Here, a compilation he says was some twenty years in the making. The earliest tracks were recorded in 1997, the most recent this year (2013), hence the inclusive roster of musicians (fifty-six in all including guest trumpeter Byron Stripling).
Even so, the inventory isn't complete, as no pianist is named on Track 1, "Frosty the Snowman" (even though a piano is clearly evident), nor is credit given to alto saxophonist Mike Smith who solos with Parton on that number (as he does on soprano on "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"). Be that as it may, the band, whatever its personnel, swings exuberantly on "Frosty," setting a dynamic template for the enterprise as a whole. Along the way, there are engaging trumpet features for Parton (Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here") and Stripling (who sings and solos on an abbreviated "Deck the Halls"). Drummer Bob Rummage spurs "The Christmas Song" to a Latin beat and (ostensibly) sits in for "The Little Drummer Boy," even though Eric Montzka is listed in the booklet as keeping time on that number. Rob's wife, Kristy Parton, sings capably on those and three other numbers, and the album really becomes a family affair on the last track, "It's a Warm and Fuzzy Time of the Year," whose vocal by the Partons' daughter, Sarah (recorded in 2008, when she was seven), precedes solos (dubbed this year) by sons Mitchell (age 16) on trumpet and Louis (14) on trombone.
Tenor Bob Rzeszutko is featured on a medley of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and "Silent Night," Mark Colby with Rob Parton on "Winter Wonderland," Kristy Parton on "Marshmallow World" and Joni Mitchell's "River." Trombonists have their say as well: Tim Coffman on a medley of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" / "Joy to the World," Tom Garling on Leroy Anderson's picturesque "Sleigh Ride," augmenting splendid solos by tenor Jim Gailloreto ("The Christmas Song"), pianist Kevin O'Connell and trumpeter Carey Deadman ("God Rest Ye Merry"). The late great Rob McConnell arranged "Bethlehem / Joy to the World," "Midnight Clear / Silent Night" and "Away in a Manger" with other first-rate charts by Deadman, Alan Baylock, Tom Matta, Mike Pinto, Rick Hirsch and Mike Tomaro.
As noted, an album of Christmas themes that surpasses the holiday season to provide an appetizing smorgasbord of big-band jazz suitable for any time of year.
Frosty the Snowman; Winter Wonderland; Christmas Time Is Here; The Christmas Song; The Little Drummer Boy; Deck the Halls; O Little Town of Bethlehem / Joy to the World; It’s a Marshmallow World; God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear / Silent Night; River; Silent Night; When Love Came Down; Away in a Manger; Sleigh Ride; Warm and Fuzzy Time of the Year.
Rob Parton: leader, trumpet; Terry Connell: trumpet (5, 7-10, 12); B.J. Cord: trumpet (3, 11); Carey Deadman: trumpet (1, 2, 4, 9); Victor Garcia: trumpet (3, 11); Kirk Garrison: trumpet (5, 7-10, 12); Roger Ingram: trumpet (11); Bobby Lewis: trumpet (2, 4); Mitchell Parton: trumpet (16); Ron Ruvio: trumpet (1); Scott Wagstaff: trumpet (1-5, 7-12, 14); Bob Frankich: alto sax, flute (1, 2, 4); Rob Haight: alto sax, flute (5, 7-10, 12); Ken Partyka: alto, soprano sax, flute (3, 13-16); Chris Madsen: alto sax, flute, clarinet (11); Bob Rzeszutko: alto sax, flute (2, 4, 5, 7-10, 12); Mike Smith: alto sax (1); Brian Budzik: tenor sax, flute, clarinet (5, 7-10, 12); Mark Colby: tenor sax, clarinet (1-4, 6, 11, 13-16); Jim Gailloreto: tenor sax (2, 4); Dave Hutton: tenor sax, flute, clarinet (2, 4); Kevin Kizer: tenor sax, clarinet (3); Andy Schlinder: tenor sax, flute, clarinet (5, 7-10, 12); John Wojchiechowski: tenor sax, flute, clarinet (11); Kurt Berg: baritone sax (2, 4); Mark Hiebert: baritone sax (3, 6, 13-16); Ted Hogarth: baritone sax, bass clarinet (11); Steve Schnall: baritone sax, bass clarinet, flute (5, 7-10, 12); Linda Van Dyke: baritone sax (1); Andy Baker: trombone (11); Tim Coffman: trombone (3, 5, 7-12, 14); Tom Garling: trombone (11, 14, 15); Brian Jacobi: trombone (5, 7-10, 12); Dan Johnson: trombone; Kendall Moore: trombone (5, 7-10, 12); Louis Parton: trombone (16); Jack Schmidt: trombone (1, 2, 4); Mayo Tiana: trombone (2, 4); Paul Bauer: bass trombone (5, 7-10, 12); John Blane: bass trombone: (1); Michael Joyce: trombone, bass trombone (3, 13-16); Thomas Matta: bass trombone (2, 4, 11); Anna Kucia: French horn (7, 10); Julia Zeltzer: French horn (14); Larry Harris: piano (2, 4); Jeremy Kahn: piano (6, 13, 15, 16); Kevin O’Connell: piano (5, 7-11); Rob Amster: bass (5, 7-10); Jim Cammack: bass (2, 4); Tim Fox: bass (1); Stewart Miller: bass (11); Y.L. Douglas: drums (2, 4); Eric Montzka: drums (3, 5-7); Bob Rummage: drums (1, 2, 4, 8-11); Kristy Parton: vocals (4, 5, 8, 11, 13). Special guest — Byron Stripling: trumpet, vocal (6).