Christmas Time is Here …. The front cover of the latest Knoxville Jazz Orchestra album reads …….. Holidays .... Time to put your regular record stuff aside. to open the shoe box with Christmas albums ….
Well, to be honest .... I'm not a fan of cd's with Holidays related jazz music - most of those albums are stored in a box, because they only seem acceptable during the Holidays period ....... but there are exceptions .... like this one .... Christmas Time is Here : Knoxville Jazz Orchestra. It is like Ernst Bruins wrote in the leading Dutch Doctor Jazz Magazine - Tijdschrift voor Classic Jazz & More: Dit IS (sic) natuurlijk een Kerst-cd, maar een Jazz-liefhebber hoeft voor deze cd niet zijn neus op te halen. Dit is big bandmuziek van de bovenste plank ( = This IS (sic) an album with Christmas music, of course, but a real jazz-fan hasn't to turn up his nose at it ... This is first class big band music.) (Doctor Jazz Magazine - Winter 2012/2013)
Knoxville Jazz Orchestra (photo courtersy: KJO)
Vance Thompson, who is the leader of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, founder and responsible for its arrangements, scheduled a series of Christmas concerts each year, introducing new arrangements, and, as he says …. When I realized that I was closing in on twenty original Christmas arrangements, I knew it was time to choose my favorites and record. This album, entitled Knockville Jazz Orchestra - Christmas Time is Here, has been released now.
Christmas Time is Here - Knoxville Jazz Orchestra ( Graphic design: Thomas Heflin)
The album contains a dozen tracks, most from the traditional Christmas song book, like Jingle Bells, Let it Snow, the title tune Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas Time Is Here, Silent Night ( as A Not-So Silent Night) and Go Tell It On The Mountain …….. This won't be a bold for the blue, but the arrangements are …. Not a bunch of traditional easy accessible Christmas tunes, a dime a dozen, but modern big band arrangements at a high level.
In April 2012 Bill Scarlett, tenor saxophonist, mentor and educator, a figurehead in Knoxville's jazz scene passed away .... This album was dedicated to the memory of him ...... Bill Scarlett - Always young at heart!
The brass section of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra ( photo courtesy: KJO)
Listen to tracks like I’ll Be Home For Christmas, which has references to John Coltane’s A Love Surpreme and McCoy Tyner’s Old Devil’s Moon.
I like Deck the Halls which has a great bass intro by Rusty Holloway or the groovy Go Tell It on the Mountain, which opens first half with Dan Trudell on a Hammond B-3 organ at its best or the classic Pyotr Tchaikovsky composition Russian Dance which transforms into a swinging big band arrangement featuring Mark Rucker on alto saxophone, Vance Thompson on trumpet and Rusty Holloway on bass. Jill Andrews is the star in O Little Town of Bethlehem - she has a great voice.
This album offers something to suit all tastes … like Children Go Where I Send You, which features a choir up to a samba version of Jingle Bells featuring Tim Green and Greg Tardy on saxophones - an album, not suitable for muzak in my opinion, but an album that wants to be discovered ……….
This album can be ordered at the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra website.
Follow the Keep (it) Swinging blog at Facebook or ask for its free newsletter.
Do you also have a shoe box with a dozen Christmas albums, hidden for fifty weeks somewhere in your collection, to open only a few weeks a year? I have ....... The new album Christmas Time is Here by the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra seems to become an exception - This isn't an album a dime a dozen, like all those others - it's first class big band music, suitable all year.