Under The Mistletoe

Portland Cello Project

Independent release, 2023


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


An outfit that began in 2006 when nine cellists met in Portland, Oregon to play western classical music, the Portland Cello Project align themselves with Saeeda Wright (formerly of Prince’s New Power Generation) for this record that was fueled by the winter months of the Pacific Northwest.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“What Child Is This?” begins the listen with Wright’s powerful and soulful voice guiding the rhythm section of Tyrone Hendrix and JP Downer and the expressive strings. “What Are You Doing For New Years?” then follows and uses the warm keys and agile strings with much melody thanks to the soaring pipes from Wright that you can't not admire.

In the middle, the wonderfully upbeat “Winter Wonderland” shines a light on Farnell Newton’s animated trumpet playing alongside Skip vonKuske’s fluid cello and new member Alex Milsted’s animated keys for the modern jazz flavor, while “O Holy Night!” uses Diane Chaplin’s stirring cello with much emotion to complement the mesmerizing keys that help make for a classical-inspired climate.

The five-track listen exits on the rich and sophisticated “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, where Wright’s flawless singing is supported by a cozy rhythm section and meticulous attention to strings via the very capable hands of the cellists.

Douglas Jenkins arranged all the strings, and that certainly contributes to a big part of the appeal of this atypical holiday record that you can enjoy all year round. All the tracks were recorded live, and the sound quality and energy is superb. The band’s premise seems to be to inject the cello where it wouldn’t necessarily seem to belong, and they do a great job of that mission while establishing a strong, collaborative environment that aligns with their community-focused ideals.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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