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Christmas in Hollywood by Plas Johnson

The "venerable" blues and ballad singer Ernie Andrews (born on Christmas day) and veteran tenor player Plas Johnson (who plays like he should have been) bring barrels of Christmas spirit to this album. Joey Altruda on bass, Anthony Wilson on guitar, drummer Willie McNeil and Red Young on the swingin' Hammond B-3 fill out the tenor/organ combo sound that I love. They romp through this session of seasonal favorites, including Mel's "Christmas Song," spiced with a few lesser-knowns.

In the opener, the group proves that "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" was just meant to be funky. "Christmas Time Is Here," in contrast, is oh-so-soothing. Plas on bari and Altruda on bass then give that sleigh the first push and the guitar and percussion take "Sleighride" home. Andrews applies his smooth-as-honey voice to "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" backed by tasty fills from Plas and is bluesy as all get out on "Merry Christmas, Baby." For the boppers we have "Dingle Dongs" by Plas and Tadd Dameron's "A Bebop Carol" based on "Glory of Love." Altruda contributes his lovely ballad, "Wintertime Alone." The CD closes with Young switching to piano for the band's rousing gospel treatment of "Silver Bells."

As a contemporary of Ernie Andrews I was bothered by the liner notes' description of him as "venerable." Happily, a trip to the dictionary taught me that "veneration" means respect and may be earned by one's dignity, position, character, or whatever, and not simply old age. Based on their performance, I hereby declare the whole band "venerable." Enjoy! Happy Holidays to all!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Plas Johnson
  • CD Title: Christmas in Hollywood
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2000
  • Record Label: Carell Music
  • Rating: Five Stars
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