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The Pete Ellman Big Band: The Twelve Grooves of Christmas


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The Pete Ellman Big Band: The Twelve Grooves of Christmas
As we enter the Holidays, the airwaves and digital streams flow with seasonal fare of all types of genres. And, once we ring in the New Year, said music heads back into hibernation until the next Thanksgiving and December roll around. The Pete Ellman's The Twelve Grooves of Christmas is such a fine recording that it might not be surprising for listeners to listen to it year around. The effort is that good.

This high-energy Chicago unit and guest artists, vocalists Katie Ernst and Grammy-winner Kurt Elling, deliver thirteen outstanding selections performed with bravado and, as the title states, each in a unique, stylized groove. In addition to the terrific ensemble and solo playing, the slick, inventive arrangements by Larry Harris, Jim Martin, Philip Brooks, Daniel Moore, and Ted Hogarth reinvigorate the familiar tunes. These guys and the crew that delivers their handiwork are definitely "groove merchants" and the entire band are very "bad" Santas.

"Mister Santa," a contrafact of The Chordettes' hit, "Mister Sandman," launches the session at a "Whirlybird" tempo with a fine vocal by Katie Ernst. This Santa is a stone cooker. Ernst provides other fine takes on the swinger, "Mack the Halls," and later on "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" "Jingle Bells" get a fresh swinging groove here that's reminiscent of that for which The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra was known. "O Little Town" has the ensemble caroling before donning cha-cha shoes with two fine boppish solos from Pitner and Ian Letts. "Silent Night" shows a suave bossa nova redo. The ensemble swings heavy on "Gesu Bambino" (with a great stop time break) and throughout the entire session. There are more "pockets" here than in a Brooks Brothers clothing store.

Lead trumpet Roger Ingram and the outstanding rhythm section drive this bus fearlessly. Notable soloists include both John Blane and Ted Hogarth doing Thurl Ravenscroft on "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," and David Katz's tasty flugelhorn on a Latinesque "Silver Bells." The title track is a unique take; the outstanding chart by Daniel Moore medleys the "Twelve Days of Christmas" by offering different "grooves" for each "day" in which the band eats up vigorously.

The Twelve Grooves of Christmas is an aural Holiday light show. It is certainly a standout in an array of fine seasonal jazz albums this year and, in terms of its clever charts, swing, and grooves, provides one of the best big band Holiday efforts in a long time.

Track Listing

Mister Santa, Jingle Bells, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, O Little Town, Mack the Halls, Gesu Bambino, You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, Silver Bells, O’Schwingenbaum, What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? Silent Night, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, The Twelve Grooves of Christmas.


Pete Ellman: trumpet; Pete Ellman Big Band: band / orchestra; Larry Harris: piano; Keith Brady: bass; Matt Plaskota: drums; Aaron Krueger: guitar; Kurt Elling: voice / vocals; Ron Spaeth: percussion; Rich Trelease: percussion; Katie Ernst: bass; Ted Hogarth: saxophone, baritone; Chris Werve: saxophone, tenor; Andy Schlinder: saxophone, tenor; Ian Letts: saxophone, alto; John Blane: trombone, bass; Bryan Miller: guitar; Andy Baker: trombone; Keith Pitner: trombone; Richard Clark: trombone; Roger Ingram: trumpet.

Additional Instrumentation

David Katz, Daniel Moore (Piccolo trumpet); Steve Schnall: alto saxophone and clarinet; Steve Leinheiser, Jim Gailloreto: flute and clarinet; The Young Naperville Singers - Under the direction of Angie Johnson (Emelia Anderson, James Chen, Annabelle Cheng, Lizelle Dilang, Griffin Dzikowicz, Alyssa Hale, Dominic Henry, Nora Hoel, Giselle Loredo, Lainey Murray, Owen Shatters, Olivia Testa, CeCi Wynne.

Album information

Title: The Twelve Grooves of Christmas | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: One Too Tree

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