What makes an album of Christmas music distinct from another? When the artist shakes up traditional arrangements and creates some fresh and invigorating. That’s what listeners get with Christmas Time Is Here by the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra. Some of the arrangements are closer to classical music than jazz, but that’s hardly an issue.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a slow, mellow take that features Greg Tardy on tenor sax. That’s followed by a slightly more upbeat spin on “Let It Snow,” featuring pianist Bill Swann and trombonist Tom Lundberg. Overall, the horns are more prominent.
The brass comes through strongly on the swinging “Deck the Halls,” featuring Tardy and bassist Rusty Holloway. Tardy’s middle solo sizzles. The orchestra goes into full sass mode with “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” featuring Dan Trudell on Hammond B3, William Boyd on tenor sax and drummer Keith Brown.
Other holiday favorites are “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Tchaikovsky’s “Russian Dance” (from The Nutcracker), “Jingle Bells,” “A Not-So Silent Night,” the title song and “Children Go Where I Send Thee.”