Review: Vocalist Alita Moses and trumpet legend Wynton Marsalis give rousing holiday concert at Four Arts

One of the most anticipated holiday season concerts took place on Sunday afternoon at The Society of the Four Arts. Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and guest vocalist Alita Moses presented a program titled “Big Band Holidays.”

Red light blanketed the stage bedecked for Christmas with nutcrackers and holiday decorations. Rows of instruments were preset on stage with woodwinds, a sunburst hollowbody Gibson guitar reigning in the forefront, and a Hamburg model D Steinway grand piano placed stage right.

As the lights came up, the ensemble members took their places. Marsalis announced the program order from the stage, providing several charming anecdotes before each piece.

The band started with a rousing rendition of “Jingle Bells” opened by Dan Nimmer on piano, followed by a row of muted trumpets and an invigorated sax section. Not surprisingly, the first solo of the night went to Marsalis on trumpet. With his signature embouchure, Marsalis had smooth energy and ringing high notes that would make a canary jealous. The number also featured Walter Blanding on the tenor sax and the exhilarating extended trumpet sounds of Ryan Kisor.

The set continued with instrumental arrangements of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” It was impossible to ignore the rich texture from James Chirillo on guitar and the subtle suaveness of Carlos Henriquez’s bass.

Moses joined the ensemble for the next set, starting with “The Christmas Song.” Her voice was alluring on the iconic holiday song written by Mel Tormé and arranged by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member Ted Nash.

There were slight EQ problems in the sound system mix early in the concert, particularly in the piano and vocals, but this did not take away from the ultimate overall performance from Marsalis, Moses, and the rest of the ensemble. Blanding on tenor sax and trumpeter Kenny Rampton gave exquisite solos in the Nash arrangement.

Moses shined again on “Zat You, Santa Claus?” Her vocals carried the song — changing characters and exploring scat singing call-and-response with the ensemble. Her strong belt voice ended the song with a sustained B-flat before touching the upper octave right on the button. It led perfectly into the next song “It’s Easy to Blame the Weather.”

It was here that the audience fell in love with the singer. Moses’ scat singing was reminiscent of Billie Holiday. Her voice was a perfect balance between sweet and seductive. Moses maintained a superb performance with precise technical control and perfect tuning throughout her range with a smoky persuasive chest voice and a stunning flageolet head register.

The remaining instrumental pieces included “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” and “My Favorite Things,” the latter arranged for five soprano saxophones. The ensemble smiled when watching and listening to many of Nimmer’s piano solos in the final set. They seemed as genuinely happy with the concert as the audience. One could tell that the members of this orchestra were giving and creating something new.

It is the holiday season at Four Arts, and the audience received a true musical gift from a living legend and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

by Mitchell Hutchings
Source: Palm Beach Daily News

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