Grab a cup of spiced cider or steaming cocoa, light a fire and curl up in a warm blanket with someone you love. You are about to experience ten Christmas standards that Nelson Rangell transforms into glittering snowscapes of sound. You'll be shivering with delight before this album is finished playing.
Whether he's trilling through "Let It Snow," bouncing through "Sleigh Ride," or sighing through "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," Rangell's virtuosity on the sax, flute and piccolo shines. He delivers one of the most moving performances of "Ave Maria" that I have ever heard, while Chris Bank's soulful vocals on "The Christmas Song" had me smelling the chestnuts.
The uptempo arrangement of "Silent Night" with the "Jingle Bells" motif woven throughout the solo, is a fresh take on the moody classic. "All I've Hoped For," composed by Alex Nekrasov and Rangell, calls to mind childhood images of looking out through a frosted window pane on snowy Christmas mornings, ice crystals scintillating in the frozen air.
On "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," Rangell blends his own background vocals so seamlessly into the mix that you could easily believe you are hearing another woodwind. The effect is magical. With such a clear, melodic voice, he should use it more often.
With saxophone-based Christmas music playing everywhere, Rangell's flute and piccolo arrangements make for a refreshing change. Why, then, does the cover photo show him with only a sax? Had I been browsing, I would have passed by this CD - I already have plenty of sax in my Christmas collection. Though Rangell does play sax in several of the arrangements, it mixes so smoothly with the woodwinds that you wonder why you don't hear more of this combination in modern jazz.
This album is - to borrow from Hollywood hype - "an instant holiday classic" and a must-have addition to your holiday music collection.