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Gap Mangione

Carol Swanson,

Gap 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.

Family 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!

This 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.

— Carol Swanson

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