It's that time of year when there's a certain magic in the air as people all over the world celebrate the holidays. It's also time for Jazz at Lincoln Center's annual Red Hot Holiday Stomp.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Executive Producer Laura Johnson finds Red Hot Holiday Stomp to be an alternative to the usual holiday shows: "Many of these great holiday songs are given a traditional New Orleans jazz treatment: a front line of trombone, clarinet, saxophone and trumpet, and a buoyant street feel in the rhythm section."
Johnson adds that this concert "captures the joy of New Orleans' comradarie and festivities. It's uplifting: New Orleans' jazz joined together with the feeling of the season."
Red Hot Holiday Stomp music director/trombonist extraordinaire Wycliffe Gordon says the celebration encompasses "Christmas, Hannukah, and everyone" in a true New York spirit. Gordon and friends holiday card from the Crescent City will include their ingenious re-imaginings of classic holiday favorites. On hand again this year are New Orleans' sons Victor Goines, Don Vappie, Herlin Riley, and others: not to mention the reindeer with the scarlet proboscis and the fat man with the bag.
Gordon is excited about the lineup of musicians involved; Riley (drums), Herman Burney (bass), Dan Nimmer (piano), Marcus Printup (trumpet), Goines (reeds), Joe Temperley (reeds), Vappie (guitar, banjo, vocals), and Gordon himself (trombone, tuba). The fifth annual Stomp, Gordon and the guys go way back: "We're like a family," he confides.
Put a little slip back in your hip with the swinging sounds that brings families back every year to this holiday celebration. Gordon's Red Hot Holiday Stomp last year featured his own arrangements of seasonal favorites like "Go Tell It On The Mountain," "The Christmas Song," "Red Hot Stomp," and "Do You Hear What I Hear?/The Little Drummer Boy." Plus, Gordon included popular holiday songs like "Blue Christmas," "Let It Snow," and "Winter Wonderland." You can expect to hear these this year as well as some new surprises.
To see Gordon play the trombone is truly a musical experience you will never forget. He has complete command of the instrument. It was simply destiny. "I really wanted to play drums," Gordon says. "My mom said, 'not under any circumstances will there be any drums in this house while I live here.' But, I had an older brother who really influenced me. I wanted to have whatever he had, whether it was a new toy, favorite food, a yo-yo, anything. He came home with a trombone one day, so I wanted a trombone: and that's how I initially took it up."
Gordon plays from the heart: you see it, hear it, and feel it as he crafts his art. "I grew up in the church. My father played classical music. So until I heard jazz at the age of twelve, I had no reference to jazz, but I quickly fell in love with the music and really got the feeling and the spirit of playing jazz. I was influenced by Louis Armstrong. At an early age, there was just something that felt good about the music and I was caught up from that time."
Having a long relationship with Wynton Marsalis and members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra over the years, Gordon has developed a true love for his fellow artists. What's most important to him? "The fellowship with the cats," he says. "The fact that we get together to play some music, but mainly for the musicians to sport what they really can do. Herlin Riley plays drums but he grew up in the church, he can play any style. What I get out of it is, it's great for me when I'm playing, but it's also great for me when I'm not playing and I'm listening to someone else." The mutual admiration is there. That's what makes the magic.
Gordon and the guys go way back, "We're like a family," he confides. "We're pretty close and it goes beyond music. When you have that with those people, they are sharing your feeling, it makes a tremendous difference."
Come have some serious fun next month for the annual Red Hot Holiday Stomp. New Orleans and New York heat things up for the whole family.
For more information, visit jalc.org.
Scott H. Thompson is Assistant Director for Public Relations at Jazz at Lincoln Center.