NPR logo
06We Three Kings [Live]
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/460128711/460277693" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    We Three Kings [Live]
    Album
    Big Band Holidays
    Artist
    Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra/Wynton Marsalis
    Label
    Relativity Entertainment
    Released
    2015

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Songs We Love: Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, 'We Three Kings'

Songs We Love: Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, 'We Three Kings'

Concerts of holiday music have been some of Jazz at Lincoln Center's most popular programming for at least 25 years now. Given the talent of its in-house big band — the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis — it's no surprise that the results are consistently fine. But here's a pretty Christmas ornament that's a little rougher around the edges.

The Orchestra's version of "We Three Kings" begins with all sorts of textural noise — plucking inside the piano, strumming on the guitar neck, scraping of cymbals, decorative bleating of saxophone. Over this bed, a lone muted trumpet heralds the familiar melody. Then with a wink, the groove shifts to rim shots, and three plunger-muted trombones, royalty of the Orient that they are, declare themselves. Their regal presence is greeted by a brass chorale on full blast, a major-key bridge which tees up Ted Nash on soprano sax. It's his arrangement, and he certainly exerts his authority over it, digging in harder and harder over a single pedal point until the intensity triggers a reset and it all begins anew. PHEW.

This recording comes from the new release Big Band Holidays, an album of mostly jolly straight-ahead swing from the Orchestra, with some typically detail-oriented and impeccable guest turns by vocalists Cecile McLorin Salvant, Rene Marie and Gregory Porter. That makes this instrumental arrangement a bit of a cheeky move — a little spice in the mulled cider, so to speak. Then again, the JaLC's musical director would know something about doing that with this song, no?

Big Band Holidays is out now on Blue Engine Records.

Featured Artist

Wynton Marsalis Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Purchase Featured Music

Big Band Holidays

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Big Band Holidays
Artist
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra/Wynton Marsalis
Label
Relativity Entertainment
Released
2015

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.