The holidays are here, and with them comes the annual procession of specialty events that showcase the best of local music across the board, more of which you’ll be reading about here in the days ahead. This applies especially to Northeast Florida’s jazz scene, whose most prolific organizations have things planned for the month of December. Among these artists, of course, are the more than two dozen members of the Crescendo Amelia Big Band, who’ll be working theaters in Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach with their show, “How the Big Band Stole Christmas.” (They’ll also be part of the New Year’s Eve festivities at Alhambra.)
This is their fifth year doing this particular show, which presents holiday-themed standards in a broad-based, classic theatrical setting. The show includes classics such as “All I Want for Christmas,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Santa Baby” and the all-time hit “White Christmas.” Some of these songs can be heard in studio form on their album Crescendo Amelia Christmas Vol. 1, which was released earlier this year. “The best part about the holidays is bringing the community together,” says trumpeter Dennis Negrin, who helps run the group, “and one of the things I’m most excited for now that we’re in our fourth year producing the show is seeing everyone come together this season, and music has a pretty magical way of doing that.”
Produced by Negrin and drummer/founder Frank Basile, the show features the entire big band, which was formed as “Frankie and Friends” in January 2013 and rechristened Crescendo Amelia a year later. Its 23 members are augmented by a retinue of singers, including Reed Meyer, Marah Lovequist, Jennifer Burns, Linzy Lauren, Kim Reteguiz, Johnathan Leonard, Jay Fowler and the singers in the local music group Off the Record. The show is punctuated by elements of jazz, swing dance and ballet, in addition to the sumptuous vocal harmonies we all associate with the season. And, in addition to all that, I’m told that there will definitely be appearances by Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and even The Grinch.
From day one, Crescendo Amelia has always placed great emphasis on community outreach, and this season is no exception. They’re donating tickets to Rethreaded and Joy to the Children, both fine nonprofits worthy of your support. Rethreaded will have a pop-up sales booth at the Dec. 14 show, and if you’re familiar with their work, you’ll already know that their products are ideal gifts for the socially-conscious fashionista in your life. Also, if you’re a member of Big Brothers & Big Sisters of NE Florida, you can get a free ticket for your little one with the purchase of one adult ticket.
Perhaps the best thing of all about this show is that if you see it and you love it as much as most people seem to, you can book the entire show for yourself, on whatever scale you prefer. This group is available for private parties and charity events. “We’re extremely grateful to our business partners, volunteers, musicians, singers, dedicated fans and our entire community for helping us keep the music alive and well,” says Dennis Negrin. And, no doubt, the feeling is mutual.