George Gee has been leading his own swing orchestra since 1980, and after returning to New York in the early Nineties secured a residency at Times Square’s SWING46 Jazz Club which is now in its 26th year. This album features ten Christmas songs which have been arranged by trombonist David Gibson. There are a further five horn players in trumpeters Freddie Hendrix and Andy Gravish, altoist Anthony Nelson Jr, Michael Hashim on tenor, and baritonist along with the rhythm trio of pianist Steve Einerson, bassist Malik McLaurine and drummer Chris Latona. In addition, the band also have the services of singer John Dokes who performs on four of the ten. As can be taken from the name of the group, this is a jazz orchestra devoted to swing in all its many facets, and is the type of music I grew up listening to in the car. That Gee is heavily influenced by Basey is never in doubt, and one can certainly hear why he has been in such demand for so many years.
The issue with Christmas albums is that there is an expectation that certain songs will be included, but when they are one must wonder just how many versions one can take of “Honey, It’s Cold Outside” (where Dokes duets with Hilary Gardner). Given this is a proper set of musicians as opposed to some session guys getting together, and they play at least weekly, it is no surprise that everyone knows what they are doing and respond well to the direction of Gee and it really is a step back in time to the Forties and Fifties. If this style of jazz is your thing then this may well be of interest, just be warned that while their versions of the classics are all wonderful some of these numbers have been revisited many times in the last few years alone. 7/10 Kev Rowland