Oh sure, it lulls the listener into a familiar beginning with "Little Drummer Boy" played with traditional soft horns, gentle drum rolls and peaceful background keyboard. Then things change as Peter White’s guitar becomes spirited, the horns gain momentum and the drums hit full tilt. "The Christmas Song," written by Mel Torme and Robert Wells many Christmases ago, is presented with a modern spirit as Rick Braun opens up on trumpet and Mindi Abair lends a frothy sax solo, adding depth and richness to this magical Christmas tradition. Eddie Arnold has a background solo part.
Written by Abair, a funky drum beat, soft guitar roll and sensual vocals open "I Can’t Wait For Christmas." Abair keeps the song sultry and smooth in front of White’s hot guitar strings and Braun’s steamy horn. Joined in background vocals Peter White and Rayford Griffin continue the funky beat. With a salsa touch, White selectively strums through "Green Sleeves (What Child Is This?)" Braun turns lose and whales on trumpet in a spirited melody before things turn somber on "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" with soft vocals from Braun, joined by musical genius Brian Bromberg on acoustic bass. White adds even more flavor on harmonica.
Abair vocal lead gives depth to musical icon Joni Mitchell’s "River," while Peter White gives texture on guitar and Abair takes a supreme sax lead. Rick Braun’s own "Jingle Jingle Blues" kicks things into high gear with an audacious keyboard performed by Ron Reinhardt. Braun’s own artistic energy solidifies the master’s efforts as he’s joined by Bromberg on bass. An exciting exhibit on drums keep the momentum going forward. Jeffrey Osborne steps up to the mic, with a perfect delivery, in a special performance for "Silent Night" accompanied by White’s soft, clear guitar strokes.
In a song she penned, Abair’s sensual, sultry vocals give deep feeling to "The Best Part Of Christmas." Braun’s horn richly but gently accompanies Abair, allowing her full space but still making an impact. Ratcheting up a notch or two, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town/ Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" is highly spirited, opening up the entire crew. White lets his guitar flare. Braun does no holding back and Abair blows as they make the leap from Santa to Boogie. These folks are swinging!!!
A softer, "Happy Christmas/Holy Night" features the writing of John Lennon and Yoko Ono with lead vocals of Rayford Griffin, Peter White and background vocals of White, Braun and Kevin Wyatt. The unity these songs were designed to inspire is felt through the togetherness of instruments and vocals performing. A special closing with a performance of Irving Berlin’s "White Christmas." Flawlessly flowing notes from Braun’s trumpet and White’s guitar make a perfect setting for Abair’s lead vocals in this traditional song dedicated to the spirit of all that is good.
Throughout the album, Nate Phillips takes his spot on electric bass and Russ Braun plays trombone. Lenny Castro supplies bongos for "I Can’t Wait For Christmas" and "River." Craig Sharmat provides additional strings for "The Best Part Of Christmas." With an all-star cast, this album brings an all-star Christmas with plenty of variety, lots of upbeat spirit and plenty of holiday joy.