The Twelve Grooves of Christmas (One Too Tree Records)

Pete Ellman Big Band

Released in 2021




One Too Tree Records is proud to announce a November 19th release of The Pete Ellman Big Band’s second album, The Twelve Grooves of Christmas. Our two fabulous vocalists, Kurt Elling and Katie Ernst add a special touch to this holiday experience. Producer Carey Deadman, our in-house arrangers Daniel Moore, Larry Harris, and Ted Hogarth, with the rest of the band’s world-class musicians are all in top form. Superbly engineered by Jim Massoth and mastered by Brian Schwab, the band brings a swinging and tasteful approach to some of our favorite Christmas classics.  Brand new arrangements of “Mister Santa”, “Jingle Bells”, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, and “You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch”, and the other 9 tracks will surely delight your ears. Along with additional arrangements by Tom Kubis and Jim Martin, this record is 13 tracks total: almost an hour of big band Christmas joy.  This recording is the catalyst for an important new Pete Ellman Big Band, NFP (501-3c) activity, the GIFTS program. Giving Instruments For Teaching Students provides musical instruments to up-and-coming. Chicagoland youth who otherwise would be unable to acquire one. Fully 50% of the proceeds from this album will go directly towards getting instruments into the hands of many talented and deserving music students.

Track Listing:

1. Mister Santa (Pat Ballard) 2:53

2. Jingle Bells (James Lord Pierpont) 4:02

3. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (Edward Pola / George Wyle) 3:25

4. O Little Town 3:13

5. Mack The Halls (Kurt Weil) 3:42

6. Gesu Bambino (Pietyro Yon) 3:32

7. You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch (Albert Hague) 5:01

8. Silver Bells (Jay Livingston / Ray Evans) 4:27

9. O’Schwingenbaum (Ernst Anschütz) 3:16

10. What Are You Ding New Year’s Eve? (Frank Loesser) 4:26

11. Silent Night (Franz Gruber / Joseph Mohr) 4:13

12. We Wish You A Merry Christmas (Traditional) 4:50

13. The Twelve Grooves Of Christmas (Daniel Moore) 7:26


Pete Ellman: trumpet

Pete Ellman Big Band

Trumpets: Roger Ingram, Daniel Moore, Bryan Miller, David Katz (solo on 2, 7, 8, 9, 11)

Trombone: Richard Clark, Andy Baker, Keith Pitner, John Blane (bass; solo on 7)

Woodwinds: Steve Leinheiser, Jim Gailloreto (solo on 10)

Alto Saxophones: Steve Schnall, Ian Letts (solo on 4)

Tenor Saxophones: Chris Werve (solo on 2, 5, 9), Andy Schlinder (solo on 1, 8, 12, 13)

Baritone Saxophone: Ted Hogarth: (solo on 3)

Larry Harris: piano (solo on 12, 13)

Keith Brady: bass

Matt Plaskota: drums

Aaron Krueger: guitar

Katie Ernst: vocals (1, 10)

Kurt Elling: vocals (3)

Young Naperville Singers: vocals (3)

Rich Trelease: percussion

Choir: Angie Johnson (director), Alyssa Hale, Annabelle Cheng, CeCi Wynne, Dominic Henry, Emilia Anderson, Giselle Loredo, Griffin Dzikowicz, James Chen, Lainey Murray, Lizelle Diland, Nora Hoel, Olivia Testa, Owen Shatters

Recorded June 15 – 16, 2021, at Palisades Studios

Producer: Carey Deadman

Recorded and Mixed by Jim Massoth

Mastered by Brian Schwab

Executive-Producer: Peter Ellman


As we enter the Holidays, the airwaves and digital streams flow with seasonal fare of all types of genres. And, once we ring in the New Year, said music heads back into hibernation until the next Thanksgiving and December roll around. The Pete Ellman’s The Twelve Grooves of Christmas is such a fine recording that it might not be surprising for listeners to listen to it year around. The effort is that good.
This high-energy Chicago unit and guest artists, vocalists Katie Ernst and Grammy-winner Kurt Elling, deliver thirteen outstanding selections performed with bravado and, as the title states, each in a unique, stylized groove. In addition to the terrific ensemble and solo playing, the slick, inventive arrangements by Larry Harris, Jim Martin, Philip Brooks, Daniel Moore, and Ted Hogarth reinvigorate the familiar tunes. These guys and the crew that delivers their handiwork are definitely “groove merchants” and the entire band are very “bad” Santas.
“Mister Santa,” a contrafact of The Chordettes’ hit, “Mister Sandman,” launches the session at a “Whirlybird” tempo with a fine vocal by Katie Ernst. This Santa is a stone cooker. Ernst provides other fine takes on the swinger, “Mack the Halls,” and later on “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” “Jingle Bells” get a fresh swinging groove here that’s reminiscent of that for which The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra was known. “O Little Town” has the ensemble caroling before donning cha-cha shoes with two fine boppish solos from Pitner and Ian Letts. “Silent Night” shows a suave bossa nova redo. The ensemble swings heavy on “Gesu Bambino” (with a great stop time break) and throughout the entire session. There are more “pockets” here than in a Brooks Brothers clothing store.
Lead trumpet Roger Ingram and the outstanding rhythm section drive this bus fearlessly. Notable soloists include both John Blane and Ted Hogarth doing Thurl Ravenscroft on “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” and David Katz’s tasty flugelhorn on a Latinesque “Silver Bells.” The title track is a unique take; the outstanding chart by Daniel Moore medleys the “Twelve Days of Christmas” by offering different “grooves” for each “day” in which the band eats up vigorously.
The Twelve Grooves of Christmas is an aural Holiday light show. It is certainly a standout in an array of fine seasonal jazz albums this year and, in terms of its clever charts, swing, and grooves, provides one of the best big band Holiday efforts in a long time.

Nicholas F. Mondello (All About Jazz)