22 May Lincoln Journal Star
Classical brass ensembles are no strangers to the Christmas holiday repertoire, but when the Boston Brass is augmented by the Brass All-Stars Big Band, the result is especially festive, swinging and hilarious. With 12 horns and a three-piece rhythm section, the music packs a wallop, as demonstrated to an audience of nearly 1,800 brave souls who ventured out on a frigid Saturday night to the Lied Center for Performing Arts.
In their final performance of the “Christmas Bells Are Swingin'” tour, the musicians seemed in good humor despite the weather and a two-set songlist that seldom varied from the program. Most of the seasonal favorites were first arranged for the Stan Kenton band in 1961, but some received updated treatments by members of the brass ensemble. Comic antics included pianist David Cutler’s use of Ping Pong balls to deaden the strings on a variation of “O Christmas Tree.” Trombonist Lance LaDuke performed his comic composition “Wonderful Time of the Year” on ukulele, Cutler uncorked a twisted version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” that combined elements of rock and jazz in a style reminiscent of Frank Zappa, and the band ended the concert with a take on “Greensleeves” described as “loud, angry and violent.”
They also played exquisite renditions of “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” “The Holly and the Ivy,” “White Christmas” and much more.