The last jazz record for Christmas I heard was by the World’s Greatest Jazz Band, who treated the material in a fairly straightforward manner and relied heavily on their soloists.
A glance at the titles makes it obvious that a certain amount of irreverence and wit has gone into this project and a look at the list of arrangers will suggest (and correctly) that the arrangements are dominant. They range in style from the Basie-like writing of Alan Hare’s Manger to the more adventurous approach of Alec Gould’s 5/4 version of We Three Kings and should appeal to a wide range of big-band devotees.
The soloists do get a look in of course and I was particularly impressed by brass players Wood, Presencer, Bassey and Nightingale. The vocalists’ contributions are weaker but as they only have one song each it doesn’t much matter.
I hadn’t heard this band at length before and this album has left me pleasantly surprised by the range and quality of the material they can commission and the self-assurance they bring to its interpretation. (And the playing time certainly smacks of seasonal generosity.)
Deck The Halls; Silent Night-Christians Awake; Maryland, My Christmas Tree; In The Bleak; At Christmas; I Saw Six Ships; My Dancing Day; Wenceslas Squared; Away In A Manger; The Thirst — No Ale; O Come All Ye Faithful; Christmas Blue; Take Five Kings; I Left My Heart In Royal David’s City; The Holly And The Ivy; Hark The Herald Angels Swing (76.15)
Ian Wood, Mark White, Martin Shaw, Mark Cumberland, Gerard Presencer, Pat Fradgeley, Oliver Preece (t); Mark Nightingale, Andy Hutchinson, Dennis Rollins, Mark Bassey, Tibor Hartmann (tb); Clare Lintott (fr/h); Julie Davis (f/ppc); Pete Long, Adrian Revell, Alan Ladds, Scott Garland, Alison Brown, Michael Smith (reeds/f); Howard McGill (as); Jim Osborne (elp); Malcolm McFarlane (g); Neil Williams (b-g); Chris Dagley (d); Gareth Roberts, Chris Wells (pc); Lorraine Craig, Sarah Ann Robertson (v); Bill Ashton (dir); Bill Charleson, John Clarke, Steve Gray, Ed Harvey, Mark Nightingale, Alec Gould, John Dankworth, Rex Cadwallader, Oliver Ledbury, Alan Hare, Mark Bassey, Terry Catharine, Dave Perrotet (arr). Acton, 29/30 March, 1989.
(NYJ CD 009)