Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

465

The New England Jazz Ensemble: Wishes You a Cookin' Christmas

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
So why, you may ask, is Bowers reviewing a Christmas album in February? That's a perceptive question, the answer to which is really quite simple: big band albums as impressive as this one by the superb New England Jazz Ensemble should be listened to and applauded not only during the holiday season but every day of the year.

The first half of the enterprise is devoted to well-known if not wholly traditional Christmas fare, the second to selections from Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn's swing-centered adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet (transcribed by David Berger), and music director Walt Gwardyak's ensemble is completely at ease in either mode. The opening theme, "We Wish You a Cookin' Christmas," is a potpourri of seasonal favorites (including "Good King Wenceslas," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Carol of the Bells") arranged by trumpeter Jeff Holmes. Holmes also arranged "Jolly Ole St. Nick," which embodies fragments of "Deck the Halls" and "Jingle Bells," and plays the leading trumpet role on Gwardyak's lush arrangement of Bob Wells / Mel Tormé's "The Christmas Song."

"Rudolph" next reappears in a funky new wardrobe (thanks again to Gwardyak's glistening arrangement), followed by "Winter Wonderland" and "Frosty the Snowman," each rigorously designed by Holmes, and a medley of "Christmas Time Is Here" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," deftly sewn together by John Mastroianni.

The Nutcracker selections, lovingly reassembled by Berger from an Ellington/Strayhorn score that had vanished without a trace (he did so by listening to the original Ellington recording), feature authentic ensemble passages interspersed with more up-to-date improvisations by various members of the orchestra. Tenor George Sovak is showcased on two of them ("Sugar Rum Cherry," "The Volga Vouty") and shares the spotlight with Mastroianni's clarinet on "Chinoiserie."

Others heard from include Gwardyak, trombonists Peter McEachern and Tim Atherton, tenor Larry Dvorin, trumpeters Phil Person and Steve Fitzko, baritone Lisa LaDone, alto Bob DePalma and bassist Steve Bulmer. Earlier, DePalma is featured on "St. Nick," Mastroianni (alto) and Person on "Rudolph," Mastroianni (soprano) and Dave Sporny (euphonium) on "Wonderland," Sporny (trombone) and McEachern on "Frosty."

As I said, albums like this one aren't just for Christmas anymore but are suitable for cookin' in anyone's kitchen (or den)—no matter what the season, and for no special reason.


Track Listing: We Wish You a Cookin' Christmas; Jolly Ole St. Nick; The Christmas Song; Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; Winter Wonderland; Frosty the Snowman; Christmas Time Is Here / Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; Suite from The Nutcracker Ballet -- Overture / Toot Toot Tootie Toot / Peanut Brittle Brigade / Sugar Rum Cherry / Entr'acte / The Volga Vouty / Chinoiserie / Danse of the Floreadores / Arabesque Cookie (66:47).

Personnel: Walt Gwardyak, music director, piano; Jeff Holmes, trumpet, tambourine (16); Steve Fitzko, Phil Person, Ken Roe, trumpet; John Mastroianni, alto, soprano sax, flute, clarinet; Bob DePalma, alto sax, flute, clarinet; George Sovak, Larry Dvorin, tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Lisa LaDone, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Tim Atherton, Peter McEachern, trombone; Dave Sporny, trombone (1-4, 6, 7), euphonium (5); Dave Wampler, bass trombone; Steve Bulmer, bass; John Mele, drums, percussion.

Title: Wishes You a Cookin' Christmas | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Sea Breeze Jazz

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Warning: include(/data/websites/jazznearyou.com/www/html/templates/calendar/cal_related_cached.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html/content/article.php on line 68

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/data/websites/jazznearyou.com/www/html/templates/calendar/cal_related_cached.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php5:/data/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html:/usr/share/php') in /home/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html/content/article.php on line 68

More Articles

Read Flaneur CD/LP/Track Review Flaneur
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: January 16, 2018
Read D'Agala CD/LP/Track Review D'Agala
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 16, 2018
Read Vertical CD/LP/Track Review Vertical
by Don Phipps
Published: January 16, 2018
Read In Stride CD/LP/Track Review In Stride
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 16, 2018
Read Solid Gold CD/LP/Track Review Solid Gold
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 15, 2018
Read Ts'iibil Chaaltun CD/LP/Track Review Ts'iibil Chaaltun
by Don Phipps
Published: January 15, 2018
Read "Lighthouse" CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 15, 2017
Read "Copenhagen Live 1964" CD/LP/Track Review Copenhagen Live 1964
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 30, 2017
Read "Roberto Magris Sextet Live In Miami @ The WDNA Jazz Gallery" CD/LP/Track Review Roberto Magris Sextet Live In Miami @ The WDNA Jazz Gallery
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 2, 2017
Read "Hourglass" CD/LP/Track Review Hourglass
by Paul Rauch
Published: May 18, 2017
Read "Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960" CD/LP/Track Review Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: June 8, 2017
Read "April" CD/LP/Track Review April
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 29, 2017