Full title: Christmas Songs With The Ray Brown Trio.
Ray Brown Trio: Ray Brown (bass); Gregory Hutchinson (vocals, drums); Geoff Keezer (piano).
Additional personnel: Dee Dee Bridgewater, Etta Jones, Nancy King, Diana Krall, Kevin Mahogany, Vanessa Rubin, Marlena Shaw (vocals); Ralph Moore (tenor saxophone); Russell Malone (guitar).
Recorded at O'Henry Studios, Studio A, Burbank, California from December 15-17, 1997; Sony Music Studios, Studio D, New York, New York from April 27-29, 1998. Includes liner notes by Jon W. Poses.
Personnel: Gregory Hutchinson (vocals, drums); Dee Dee Bridgewater, Diana Krall, Etta Jones, Kevin Mahogany, Marlena Shaw, Nancy King, Vanessa Rubin (vocals); Russell Malone (guitar); Ralph Moore (tenor saxophone); Geoff Keezer (piano).
Liner Note Author: Jon W. Poses.
Recording information: O'Henry Studios, Studio A, Burb (12/15/1997-04/29/1998); Sony Music Studios, Studio D, NY (12/15/1997-04/29/1998).
Arranger: Ray Brown .
Ray Brown finally got around to producing a Christmas CD and it was worth the wait. The great bassist has seven guest vocalists plus features for tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore and guitarist Russell Malone; his gifted trio includes pianist Geoff Keezer and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. Dee Dee Bridgewater at first sings "Away in a Manger" in a traditional vein with only Keezer's fluid piano accompanying her, but Brown's arrangement evolves into a swinging gospel setting. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" showcases Diana Krall in a saucy, recurring call and response with Brown in a bluesy take. Kevin Mahogany is the vocal equivalent of an open fire on a cold night during "Christmas Song," which also has a nice solo by Russell Malone. Hutchinson does a humorous vocal rap on "The Christmas Rap," a funky original by Brown. Vanessa Rubin, Etta Jones, Marlena Shaw, and Nancy King also each add a distinct individual touch to a holiday favorite. The highlights among the instrumentals begin with a rather unique marchlike cadence that evolves into a Baroque fugue to introduce the centuries-old "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen," featuring Keezer's tremendous chops. Ralph Moore's hard-blowing tenor sax is the centerpiece of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Liner note writer Jon W. Poses' assertion that "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" is "the trio's best improvisational vehicle" is difficult to debate. Even though the songs have been recorded countless times over the decades, Ray Brown's crisp and innovative arrangements and his brilliant choice of supporting musicians and singers make this Christmas CD one for the ages. ~ Ken Dryden