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Rodney Whitaker: Cranbrook Christmas Jazz (album review by Christa V.)

Rodney Whitaker is a Michigan based bassist teaching at Michigan State University. He’s also the Artist in Residence at the Christ Church Cranbrook near Detroit. There he’s managed to foster a number of collaborations with the choir director and the local musical community. This album is the product of these collaborations where Whitaker’s sextet perform with the Church’s choir, and jazz vocalist Vanessa Rubin. The songs range from hymns to Christmas carols to Christmas jazz standards making it quite the comprehensive work of art. One of the best pieces is track four, “We Three Kings,” which features Rubin singing over the sextet letting loose and having fun. “Winter Wonderland” is also an excellent song, purely instrumental with the pianist being featured. “My Favorite Things” is similar to track 4 where the instrumentalists go nuts, and features an excellent tenor sax solo. Finally track 12, “Little Drummer Boy,” features superb scatting from Rubin as well as the percussion to create an upbeat jazzy version of the carol. Favorite tracks: 4, 7, 10, 12

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