Bookended by ‘Jingle Bells’ and encore piece ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ this is the Basie Orchestra ghost band’s first fully themed Christmas album.
Musically directed these days by trumpeter Scotty Barnhart guests include the great popular singer Johnny Mathis who turned 80 this year, performing the 1940s Kay Thompson song ‘It’s The Holiday Season’, his Nat King Cole-influenced style characteristically warm and inviting, laughter ringing out in his voice on one of the album’s best passages.
The soulful Ledisi does ‘The Christmas Song’, sounding more like Dianne Reeves than ever which works well in context, while longtime Basie Orchestra singer Carmen Bradford is the third of the three singers (she’s on ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’), fans of Elaine Delmar will turn to first. The other guest, New Orleans icon pianist Ellis Marsalis, is a stately presence on ‘Let It Snow.’
Mainstream jazz big band lovers who happen to generally like swinging jazz powered by expert brass and reeds, the Christmas flavouring however tastefully sprinkled in notwithstanding, will most warm to this. SG