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It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Swing in the Holidays with Wynton Marsalis

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Orlando is importing a New York City holiday tradition this year with Big Band Holidays, featuring legendary trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the 15-member Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Anyone lucky enough to experience just one holiday season in New York City knows what a lifetime of memories it creates. There are the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, ice skating at Rockefeller Center — where the huge Christmas tree is displayed — and lavish decorated store windows along 5th Avenue. Marsalis and the acclaimed orchestra — along with two high-octane guest vocalists — will bring their jazzy brand of holiday cheer from New York's Lincoln Center to the Walt Disney Theater on December 3 at 8 p.m. Tickets are priced starting at $45.

Expect to hear a program packed with soulful renditions of such holiday classics as “Jingle Bells,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “We Three Kings,” among many others.

Since establishing itself as Lincoln Center’s resident orchestra in 1988, JLCO has performed in more than 300 cities across six continents. For the past four years, readers of Downbeat magazine have voted the group “Best Big Band.”

Marsalis, a New Orleans native who has called New York home for decades, hails from what some consider the first family of American jazz. His father, pianist Ellis Marsalis, recorded with saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley in the 1950s and trumpeter Al Hirt in the 1960s.

A peerless trumpeter with nine Grammys to his credit, Marsalis may have made his greatest mark as a music educator, counting fellow Big Easy native Harry Connick Jr. among his star pupils.

Wynton’s brother, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, has performed with an eclectic mix of luminaries including Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Sting. Two other brothers, Delfeayo (trombone) and Jason (drums) are also accomplished musicians.

Big Band Holidays features Catherine Russell, a contemporary jazz and blues vocalist. She is the daughter of Luis Russell, who was Louis Armstrong’s longtime musical director, and Carline Ray, who performed with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm during World War II.

From 2002 through 2004, Russell was a member of David Bowie’s band, providing backing vocals and playing guitar, piano and percussion for the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s live performances and his 2003 album, Reality.

As a solo artist, Russell has released six well-reviewed albums. Her cover of the 1920 Mamie Smith song “Crazy Blues” was used in an episode of the HBO drama Boardwalk Empire, and was included in a Grammy-winning soundtrack album.

Rounding out the bill is New Orleans native Kenny Washington, a vocalist and a saxophonist who grew up singing gospel music and polished his skills while touring the world with the U.S. Navy Band.

During his solo career, Washington has performed with Deborah Harry and Elvis Costello, and enjoyed an eight-year gig as featured vocalist at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco, a posh historic hotel.

You don’t have to travel to New York City — or to wait for the orchestra to get to Orlando — to enjoy a taste of what it’s like to attend a JLCO concert, thanks to Blue Engine Records. The label was launched in 2015 to make the orchestra’s formidable backlog of recorded live performances available to jazz enthusiasts worldwide.

Blue Engine’s first release, Live from Cuba, was followed by more than a dozen other albums, including new studio recordings as well as archival concerts dating back 25 years. Big Band Holidays, recorded live at Lincoln Center, was issued as a double album and has since become a seasonal classic.

Expect soulful renditions of such holiday classics as “Jingle Bells,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “We Three Kings,” among many others.

− excerpted from artsLife