I so rarely review Holiday CDs but, in a year when there have been so few "mainstream" Christmas albums, several jazz-related releases have crossed the threshold and are well worth your attention.
Classy and sassy, "Wonderland" is a treat from start to finish, a pleasing stocking stuffer any time of year. For more information, go to www.tedrosenthal.com.
There's much to enjoy on "Manhattan Holiday" with the intelligent arrangements, the global scope of the music and the splendid playing of Manhattan Brass. By the time you arrive at the lovely rendition of "Joy To The World" (arranged by Ms. Bley), you'll be moved. Any evidence of "Bah Humbug" should dissipate. For more information, go to manhattanbrass.org.
Highlights include a wonderful take of "Little Drummer Boy"; introduced by Penn's splendid drum solo, the song floats along atop Whitaker's strong bass foundation and features fine solos by Harris, Warfield (soprano), Stafford and Chestnut. Ms. Pascale leads the band through a high-energy "Caroling Caroling", her vocal lines shadowed by Stafford and Warfield. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is hardly restful as Penn and Whitaker push the band to play with fire. One hears a touch of John Coltrane in the waltz arrangement of "Joy To The World" and the leader's angelic soprano sax lines. The rendition of Claude Thornhill's classic "Snowfall", replete with sleigh bells and Penn's poly-rhythmic approach, is, at times, stormy (the interplay of Warfield's soprano with the drummer's fiery rhythms) yet sparkles with its creative interactions.
To find out more about Tim Warfield, go to www.messiah.edu/departments/music/tim_warfield/.
Each one of these CDs had something to offer listeners who enjoy "standards" that are given new and creative treatments. Now, go give the gift of music! Enjoy!