Personnel: Peter White (acoustic guitar); Ron Reinhardt (keyboards); Nate Phillips (electric bass); Rayford Griffin (drums).
Additional personnel: Jeffrey Osborne (vocals); Craig Sharmat (strings); Mindi Abair (alto saxophone); Rick Braun (flugelhorn); Russ Braun (trombone); Brian Bromberg (acoustic bass); Lenny Castro (bongos); Kevin Wyatt, eddie arnold (background vocals).
Christmastime in the 2000s was chock-full of great all-star tour choices for smooth jazz fans, from the annual Dave Koz jaunts to others by David Benoit, Brian Culbertson, and the all-star genre trio of Peter White, Rick Braun, and Mindi Abair. White and Abair first went out in 2003, and Braun joined the next year, making this a perennial sure bet. This disc, something of a loose follow-up to White's brilliant but largely overlooked 1997 gem Songs of the Season, captures the cool holiday magic the three share on-stage. It's a great mix of styles, from the vibrant straight-ahead jazz vibe of "Jingle Jangle Blues" (a Braun-composed refashioning of "Jingle Bells" featuring a brilliant piano solo by Ron Reinhardt), to the big-band era vibes of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"/"Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," the cool soul of "Silent Night" (with Jeffrey Osborne on lead vocals) and a brassy pop take on "What Child Is This?" Fans rarely got to hear Braun sing as he does here, but Abair's ethereal charms were very familiar to fans of her regular shows. She shines here on the sly original "I Can't Wait for Christmas," a tender take on "River," and the romantic "The Best Part of Christmas." It's a tasty stocking stuffer for fans of these artists whether they've been to the live show or not, but it's just a sampling of the spontaneity and fun they create on-stage. ~ Jonathan Widran