A Worthwhile Addition
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Carmichael arranged the carols for Stan Kenton's Christmas LP 'way back in the early sixties, and re-records some of them here. He's added a female vocalist and a chorus for some pieces. Topnotch musicians, well recorded, great arrangements. I do think the Kenton recordings sounded better, to my ears, because of the use of mellophoniums and 5th trumpet and tuba, but Carmicheal's use of French horns is quite listenable. Kenton fans may hear the ghostly presence of Stan in there."
Ralph Carmichael's Big Band Christmas
Nancy King | Celina,Ohio USA | 11/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Carmichael group is one of those fine working bands still around. The musicians are, without exception, excellent. These folks play straight ahead big band music with great precision and clarity. It is a very "clean" band. All the fundamentals are there....tone quality, intonation, phrasing, dynamics, rhythm, articulation, attacks, releases, improvisation.....everything. This is a vibrant, sensitive, happy big band (if there is such a thing) that plays with passion and fire, has fun and swings like mad. All of the techniques of great writing are evident thruout. There is all kinds of "stuff" going on....all the time. Carmichael is a great arranger who did lots of charts for Kenton and others from the 50's to the present. If you have Kenton's Christmas album (the band with 5 trpts, 4 trbs, and the mellophoniums) you will recognize many of these arrangements with a few modifications. Like the big, fat, "perverted 27th" chord (read 9th) at the end of God Rest Ye Merry. This program reflects Carmichael's consummate skill. He is a master at writing counter lines, riffs and little "doo-dads". You hear them everywhere. His harmonies and chord structures are at once basic, sometimes complex, full, modern and fresh. Dissonance is used, but sooooo appropriately and tastefully. He's not afraid to "sit on the keyboard". Keep your ear open for the riffs, licks, slides, glisses, glides, counter lines and motifs, assorted beeps, bops, rips, pops, lifts, dips, flips, drops, fills, ka-chings, ba-dupes, ka-pows, duuu-dops, time shifts, beat shifts, and even (excuse me, Emmeril) some BAMS! The section work is superb. They blend. They bite. They flow. They schoomze. They scream. The quality of the musicianship is also reflected in the interpretation. From tender, lovely, flowing, sensitive, smooth lines to powerful, biting, stinging, screaming punctuation...all driven by a superb rhythm section. It's all there. Don't think there is a weak link in the group. I did have a problem with that funky little melodica synthesizer thingie (it's called a breath box) that the piano player uses on occasion, but got used to it. It does offer a whimsical contrast to the precision playing of the band. You will also be made delightfully aware of the presence of the bari sax and bs trb. Carmichael uses them precisely the way they were meant to be used.Finally, you can actually hear ALL the music. For best listening get the CDs. The TV production is OK, but the CDs are outstanding. The mic placement, mixing, and engineering in general are superior. Unless you have one of those theater set ups, TVs have notoriously bad sound compared to a good stereo. He has two albums, in addition to this Christmas album, currently available on Amazon.com. One is "Big Band Classics", or something like that, on which they play those old chestnuts we have all played over the years. However, the sound on all the tunes, is much better than the originals...because you can hear stuff....because the finest, up to date equipment is used to record the band. The other album is a collection of "gospel" tunes. It too, is a great album with wonderful sound and interpretations. If you are a fan of big band music you will absolutely love these CDs. Ah garonteee!"