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WENDY ROSE: All that jazz: Big Band performs holiday classics in St. John's

Seven-piece band (L-R: James Hurley (piano), Josh Ward (bass), Kate Hopkins (vocals), Chuck Buckets (drums, obscured), Susan Evoy (sax), Greg Bruce (sax), Duane Andrews (guitar)) performed a stacked set of holiday jazz classics at the Rocket Room on December 18. — Photo by Alick Tsui
Seven-piece band (L-R: James Hurley (piano), Josh Ward (bass), Kate Hopkins (vocals), Chuck Buckets (drums, obscured), Susan Evoy (sax), Greg Bruce (sax), Duane Andrews (guitar)) performed a stacked set of holiday jazz classics at the Rocket Room on December 18. — Photo by Alick Tsui

The second biannual St. John's Jazz Christmas show drew crowds of festive jazz fans to Rocket Bakery on Water Street Tuesday.

The biannual event on Dec. 18 brought out the most people I've ever seen in the Rocket Room for a seated event.

The seven-piece band, comprised of Kate Hopkins (vocals), Greg Bruce and Susan Evoy (saxophone), Duane Andrews (guitar), Josh Ward (bass), Chuck Buckets (drums), and James Hurley (piano), performed a stacked set of holiday classics.

The musical selections were artfully arranged by Hurley, now living in Germany, who returned to the island for the holidays and this special event.

Jumping into a rockin’ adaptation of “Jingle Bells,” filled with scat vocal stylings from Hopkins, it almost felt strange to be seated for this show.

I felt that we should be having some sort of sock hop, but maybe that’s just because my childhood Christmas memories are of slippery wool-sock hops on hardwood floors, dancing to Mabel Scott’s “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” off “Billboard Greatest R&B Christmas Hits.”

Even while seated, the audience bobbed their heads, wiggled in their chairs and snapped their fingers — clearly having a good time.

Hopkins’ impressive vocal range and talent shone on a gorgeous rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas,” which was followed by “Silent Night,” one of the few downtempo songs played that night.

Although each musician shared time in the spotlight, highlighting their unique talent on their respective instruments, Hurley’s piano was prominent throughout this tune — delicate but commanding.

The audience clapped as much throughout the songs as they did at the end, showing their appreciation for the fantastic talent and musicianship.

A unique approach to “O Christmas Tree,” was followed by "Christmas Time Is Here," a Vince Guaraldi Trio song from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “Let It Snow.”

The first set finished up with Hurley and Hopkins performing an unorthodox holiday selection as a duo — Joni Mitchell’s “River.”

The second set, kicking off with “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town,” and “A Christmas Song,” featured two instrumental numbers, including “We Three Kings,” with Andrews’ amazing guitar stylings. If only composer John Henry Hopkins Jr. could hear this version of his 1857 carol.

The next two pieces — “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” and a bluesy adaptation of “Please Come Home For Christmas” — were downright delightful, although I felt their message could have been better communicated if performed in the opposite order.

The St. John’s Jazz Christmas Show finished off with a well-wish for the sold-out show: “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

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