The Tom Kubis Big Band, featuring the leader's arrangements, performs a variety of Yuletide favorites on this cheerful and hard-swinging set. The music was originally released on a pair of Cexton LPs, so this is a Tom Kubis Christmas best-of collection. Two recent Kubis songs, "A Jazz Musician's Christmas" and a humorous version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas (My Agent Gave to Me)," which has new lyrics, feature the singing of Jack Sheldon, who also takes a pair of trumpet solos. Among the key soloists are Kubis (on soprano and piano), trumpeters Wayne Bergeron and Stan Martin, trombonist Andy Martin, and Pete Christlieb (who takes a tenor solo on "We Three Kings"), while Carol Jolin has vocals on "Let It Snow" and "Winter Wonderland."The music is conventional big-band hard bop, but expertly played and with enough variety to keep one's attention throughout. Recommended to fans of modern swinging big bands.
-- Scott Yanow
A Jazz Musician’s Christmas is a reissue on Sea Breeze of (much of) two earlier albums by the Tom Kubis Big Band, It’s Not Just for Christmas Anymore! and You Just Can’t Have Enough Christmas. Those who may have overlooked one or both of them are sure to appreciate the reissue, which is guaranteed to put anyone this side of Ebenezer Scrooge in a festive holiday mood. Not only is the band world–class (the sidemen are among the West Coast’s best and busiest musicians), there are delightful turns by trumpeter / vocalist / humorist Jack Sheldon on the title tune and “The Twelve Days of Christmas (My Agent Gave to Me)." The other vocals (“Let It Snow,” “Winter Wonderland”) are ably handled by Carol Jolin (Mrs. K) who co–wrote “A Jazz Musician’s Christmas” with Tom. The versatile Kubis, who arranged everything, solos on soprano sax (“Joy to the World,” “Away in a Manger,” “O Holy Night,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas”), piano (“Oh Christmas Tree,” “Silent Night”) and tenor sax (“We Three Kings”). Other featured soloists are trumpeter Stan Martin (“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” a medley of “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem”), guitarist Mike Higgins (“Deck the Halls”), bass trombonist Rich Bullock (“Jingle Bells”) and trumpeter Wayne Bergeron (“Auld Lang Syne”). The ’bone section (Andy Martin, Charlie Morillas, Alex Iles) shine like the moon on new–fallen snow on “God Rest Ye Merry Trombones“ and there are impressive statements elsewhere by trumpeters Sheldon, George Graham and Jeff Bunnell, bassist Trey Henry and guest tenor Pete Christlieb (“We Three Kings”). Easily recommended to anyone who doesn’t have either of the earlier albums in his / her big–band library.
-- Jack Bowers, All About Jazz
Tracks 1, 3, 4, 8, and 13: Tom Kubis, leader, soprano sax; Wayne Bergeron, George Graham, Jeff Bunnell, Stan Martin, Gary Halopoff, trumpet; Andy Martin, Alex Iles, Charlie Morillas, Rich Bullock, Chuck Hughes, trombone; Sal Lozano, Mike Whitman, alto sax; Bill Liston, Rusty Higgins, tenor sax; Jay Mason, baritone sax; Jack Reidling, piano; Mike Higgins, guitar; Trey Henry, bass; Steve Araujo (13), electric bass; Ray Brinker, drums; Kurt Rasmussen, percussion; Carol Jolin, Jack Sheldon, vocals. Tracks 2, 5 - 7, 14 - 17: Graham, Bergeron, Martin, Bunnell, trumpet; Martin, Iles, Morillas, Bullock, trombone; Lozano, Mason, alto sax; Whitman, Jeff Driskell, tenor sax; Brian Williams, baritone sax; Reidling, piano; Higgins, guitar; Henry, bass; Brinker, drums; Rasmussen, percussion; Jolin, Sheldon, vocals. Also performing: Halopoff, Darrel Gardner, Christian Beck, trumpet; John Leys, Bob McChesney, trombone; Higgins, alto sax; Dick Weller (2), drums. Special guest: Pete Christlieb (14), tenor sax.
Here's Jack Sheldon singing the title track:
"A stunning collection of Christmas music put forth by some of the best jazz musicians on the west coast. Jazz wise it's all here. From the opening bars of "Joy to the World" there are treats in store for all who would venture here. Listen to Tom Kubis' soprano saxophone sound and you will never play another Kenny G CD ever again! Wayne Bergeron on trumpet and Andy Martin on trombone are just a few of the noteworthy soloists among many who perform on this album. First rate ... Wonderful ..... Spectacular!!"
- Leonard G. Bessette
"Tom Kubis is not only one of the best big band writers and arrangers of our time, he's a genuinely fun person. Not only are the tunes on this CD a lot of fun, they are also amazingly good big band charts. If you (like me) are tired of hearing the same tired music every year, get this CD."
- Carl Dershem