2. I See Christmas
3. The Christmas Song
4. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
5. White Christmas
6. Let It Snow
7. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
8. Christmas Memories
9. Frosty The Snowman
11. O Holy Night
12. Winter Wonderland
13. Santa Baby
14. Christmas Land
15. Auld Lang Syne
PURCHASE FROM ARTIST
The Beantown Swing Orchestra is less an homage to those earlier orchestras than it is a continuation of that tradition. “A Beantown Christmas” is a perfect example of this. Nowhere on the 15 track album does the group sound dated or derivative. That is, in no small part, the result of fresh-as-new-fallen-snow arrangements from conductor Danny Fratini. The album also features 5 original numbers that not only stand up well in the company of some of the most classic and best known of Christmas songs—they are among the best tracks here. Just as important, if not more so, this band swings! These are some seriously talented dudes and dudettes. For the Christmas set, Beantown also recruited a 15 piece string section—a decision that really pays off in making this album a complete delight from start to finish.
The Beantown Swing Orchestra, whose members are almost all under 30, features 4 vocalists (which was not uncommon among the big bands in swing’s heyday), and they each get their opportunities to shine on “A Beantown Christmas”.
John Stevens is Beantown’s lone male vocalist. A former American Idol finalist, “A Beantown Christmas” leaves little doubt that Stevens was born to sing this kind of music. His voice is smooth as silk. Stevens and the band swing mightily on “White Christmas” and Stevens demonstrates his agility and precision on a hurry up arrangement of “Frosty The Snowman” that also manages to squeeze in an incredible sax solo from Rick Stone.
Laura Brunner turns in what is likely the album’s most astounding vocal performance, scatting “The Christmas Song” so well that comparisons to Ella Fitzgerald are both inevitable and justified.
Jen Hirsch’s voice is pure honey, whether crooning “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” or swinging “Winter Wonderland” (Tucker Antell gets the sax solo on that one).
Micah Goolsby sounds like Beantown’s version of Zooey Deschanel and they saved her best performances for (nearly) last. Micah’s appropriately both cute and sexy on “Santa Baby” and adorably cuddly on the original “Christmas Land”. She and Fratini co-wrote 4 of the album’s new tracks, including that one.
And when no one is singing--that’s where you get a true understanding of just how good The Beantown Swing Orchestra is. The band fully cuts loose on “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” with impressive solos from Tucker Antell, trumpet player Vivek Patel, piano man Steve Boudreau and drummer Austin McMahon. And, on one of the best arrangements of “Auld Lang Syne” I’ve heard, Genevieve Rose (who is simply superb throughout) gets to show her stuff on a mezmerizing stand-up bass solo, the only flaw of which is it's brevity.
My favorite tracks from the album are almost all Beantown originals. Everything comes together perfectly on “I See Christmas”, “Christmas Memories” and “Snowflakes”. All three sound as though they could’ve been written in the 40s. “I See Christmas” has enough pizzazz that you can easily imagine the Chairman of the Board himself covering it. “Christmas Memories” has the feel of a standard straight out of the Make Believe Ballroom. “Snowflakes” gives Laura Brunner yet another opportunity to show off her exceptional jazz chops. I’d also cite “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and "The Christmas Song" as album highlights. And I have to include the too-wild-for-words “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” jam, as well.
If you’re one of the millions who have bought or will buy Michael Buble’s “Christmas”, do yourself a favor and get this one, too; the two albums are perfect compliments for each other. But “A Beantown Christmas” can easily stand on its own as well. It’s a varied program perfectly paced. From irresistible dance floor beats to cozy fireplace cuddle music, The Boston Swing Orchestra has got it covered.
You can find the digital version at Amazon or iTunes, but I highly recommend the hard copy CD, which features super gatefold packaging and the awesome cover illustration of the Boston skyline and Green Line trolley. For that, you’d best order direct from the Beantown Swing Orchestra web site.