The best way to recognize that the holidays are upon us is simply listening to see if you can hear Christmas music in the air. I would dare say that almost every major musician or vocalist has done a Christmas album. That said, when I received Nnenna Freelon’s “Christmas” album with the John Brown Big Band, my first thought was, “Here we go again”. I will admit that I was very pleasantly surprised by Nnenna’s first holiday album and hence I am writing this review! (I did notice that this CD was released last year but good music is timeless.)
Let’s meet the players…
Nnenna Freelon is a Six-time Grammy Nominated Jazz singer, Composer, Producer, and Arranger. She has performed with a serious list of top artists, sang on numerous TV programs and appeared in movies. This lady has some serious credentials!
The John Brown Big Band is a professional large jazz ensemble hailing from North Carolina.The Band leader, John Brown is an upright bass player and the group is nice and tight!
Now, when you join these two musical powerhouses the end result is a high quality Christmas record.
The set list is pretty standard fair:
- Swingle Jingle Bells
- Spiritual Medley
- Let it Snow
- I Like the Sunrise
- Christmas Time is Here
- Silent Night
- Little Drummer boy
- O Little Town of Bethlehem
- Baby, It’s Cold outside
- I’ll be Home for Christmas
The Important detail is in how they are performed. Put a fabulous, soulful voice in front of a jazzed up Big Band and you have new favorite renditions of the traditional songs you already knew and loved! The prominent bass keeps the groove going while solid horns, piano and drums compliment Nnenna’s flawless voice. The arrangements are precise and intricate, yet the original melody is consistent and finely adapted to the updated approach. This is perfect match up of a vocalist with a band!
Summing this up, you know these songs, but you owe it to yourself to hear them as they are performed on this CD. You will like them better than you did before, if you enjoy a legendary female vocalist and great jazz band, this CD is for you!