December 10, 2018. What brings on that warm holiday feeling? A crackling fire, a hot toddy, lights on the tree and some excellent big band seasonal music. The South Philly Big Band (SPBB) provides the latter, executing some gorgeous holiday charts on SPBB XMAS featuring Najwa Parkins.
Recorded at Philadelphia’s Turtle Studios, the SPBB features some of the brightest young stars on the local jazz scene, many of whom have participated in The Rite of Swing Jazz Café, which we regularly present here on WRTI 90.1.
The featured vocalist is Najwa Parkins, a Rite of Swing artist, Temple University alum and professor, who is able to set the right mood for each tune on this album.
Conductor Danny Jonokuchi is responsible for the arrangement of “The Christmas Song,” which has that big Christmas feel, yet allows Parkins’ stylings to take center stage. The Donny Hathaway classic “This Christmas” also gets the Jonokucki treatment, and proves that a big band can still get a little funky.
Sax man Jack St. Clair, known for leading his own jazz orchestra, interpreted a traditional-sounding, yet quicker version of “Silent Night,” while trombonist Nick Lombardelli created a complex and artistic “White Christmas.” Trumpeter Elliot Bild’s “The First Noel” starts off like a solemn church solo, and turns into a swinging jazz party.
The arrangements are what set this holiday offering apart from the rest. Najwa Parkins’ versatility and delivery add to the experience. If the big band sound is what makes visions of sugar plums dance in your head, SPBB XMAS should be part of your yuletide experience.
The SPBB XMAS CD release party this Friday night, December 14th - Check it out!