MANGIONE, FAMILY HOLIDAYS (Josh Music)
Carol Swanson, ChristmasReviews.com
Mangione's Family Holidays is a sassy, brassy, big band
affair for the Christmas season. Gap, the brother of famous horn
blower Chuck Mangione, is a keyboard man and has supported the likes
of Nat King Cole. His relatively large ensemble (the liner notes
list 18 musicians) is a polished group of jazz professionals, and
they hit all notes with the right combination of verve, upbeat exuberance,
and mellow reserve.
Holidays offers up 15 tracks; about half of these are cherished
holiday chestnuts. The remaining cuts present some big band bravado
in unfamiliar territory; great numbers like Chuck Mangione's "Sweet
Cheryl Lynn" are sweet treats that blend naturally with the
more traditional holiday tunes. This well-matched mix of familiar
fare with creative alternatives gives the CD easy replay value,
especially as the Christmas season moves forward. Even the most
well-worn holiday pieces (like "O Christmas Tree" and
"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town") have stylish arrangements
that give them a bold new look. The only track that seemed slightly
out of place was the "Tarentellas," a saucy folk dance
number with carnival undertones that is sandwiched between the introspective
"Amazing Grace" and "Silent Night." Although
just about everything works wonderfully on Family Holidays,
my favorite cut is probably "The Way We Celebrate New Year's,"
a great Michael Franks composition with Cindy Miller contributing
the album's only vocal. Cool!
big band jazz album is an excellent choice for your special holiday
party this December. The mood is fun, yet sophisticated. The musicianship
is flawless. Everything swings in the sweetest way.