Sarasota Jazz Project brings 'Big-Band Jazz Christmas'


The Sarasota Jazz Project Orchestra has prepared a toe-tapping mixture of songs for its holiday show, “A Big Band Jazz Christmas,” on Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. The popular 16-piece brands presents its evening of joyous music at the William H. Wakeman III, Cultural Center Theater, 2280 Aaron St., Port Charlotte.

“We’ll be serving up a delightful mixture of favorite holiday standards and traditional carols, all to a swinging big-band beat,” said George McLain, leader and saxophone player. The playlist includes a hip rendition of “We Three Kings” and a shout-it-out “Hark the Herald Angels.” Two musical stars return from previous shows at the Cultural Center to further enliven the concert. Miami jazz singer Lisanne Lyons warms up the stage with “Santa Baby” and “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm.” The Sarasota High School graduate, recipient of two DownBeat awards, was a featured soloist with Air Force bands worldwide while serving active duty, including Air Force Academy Falconcaires. She has also performed nationally with Joel Grey, Woody Herman Orchestra, Maynard Ferguson Band, Arturo Sandoval, Larry Elgart, University of Miami Concert Jazz Band, Fort Worth Symphony, Harry James Orchestra, and many more. Lisanne is a recipient of 2 Down Beat awards. She currently serves as Director of Jazz Vocal Studies at Florida International University.

Art Hallett adds his powerful voice with a funky version of a great Christmas spiritual, “Go Tell It On the Mountain.” The Detroit-influenced singer presents this and other songs that have been part of his outreach during his 25 years as director of Evangelism Explosion Prison Ministries, where he works to prepare incarcerated men and women for re-entering society. Rev. Hallett has recorded more than 12 CDs that display his immense talent.

“As always, Sarasota Jazz Project presents the best jazz soloists on the West Coast of Florida,” McLain said. Among the 16 band members are Kevin Celebi on trumpet, Pete Barenbregge on sax and Davit DeWitt on trombone. Quoting other song titles from the evening’s list, McLain invites his Florida audience to “Let It Snow, Let It Snow” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!”

Reservations are recommended for the concerts, which begin at 7 p.m. Admission is $17 for members of the Port Charlotte Cultural Center and $19 for nonmembers. Tickets are available by phone at 941.625.4175; online by clicking the “buy tickets” tab at; and at the door, 2280 Aaron St., Port Charlotte.

The next concerts in the Monday night series will be held on Jan. 21, Feb. 18, March 25 and April 22.

To learn more about the Sarasota Jazz Project, visit its website at


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