A big band holiday sound blows through Blues Alley Monday

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

Twenty years ago, five of the top trombonists from the District teamed up to make jazz music and expand the repertoire for their instrument. They called themselves the Capitol Bones, named for the shortened version of trombones. The group played successfully throughout the country until its founder, Matt Niess, and the rest of players came up with a better idea.

"In 2002 we decided to expand and turn it into an all-brass big band," Niess explained. "The reason was to re-create the Stan Kenton [1961 recording] 'A Merry Christmas.' "

Since that time, the album, along with the "Bones" performance of it, expanded as "A Stan Kenton Christmas," has become a holiday tradition in D.C. Fans of Kenton and his all-brass band can enjoy his iconic work played live, note for note, by the Capitol Bones on Monday night in two shows at Blues Alley.

"You're going to hear the original Stan Kenton arrangements performed at the highest level possible," Niess said. "We're the next generation carrying on the Stan Kenton [tradition] and we're trying to do our part in carrying it forward."

Onstage
The Capitol Bones
Where: Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW
When: 8 and 10 p.m. Monday
Info: $20; 202-337-4141; bluesalley.com

Under the baton of conductor Mark Taylor -- an original arranger for Stan Kenton in the '70s -- five trumpets, four mellophones, five trombones, one piano, one bass player and a drummer will deliver high-energy arrangements of such Christmas classics as "Angels We Have Heard On High," "We Three Kings," and "Good King Wenceslas."

"As a young trombone player, I distinctly remember my dad bringing home an album in 1961 titled 'A Merry Christmas' from the Creative World of Stan Kenton. I was knocked out by the great sound of 14 brass players playing these great charts by Stan and Ralph Carmichael," Taylor wrote. "When Matt Niess called asking if I would come and conduct a recording session of The Capitol Bones Big Band playing this great music, I jumped at the chance."

Niess is confident the audience will have "a great time and get a good vibe" listening to the big band music from the album they created 10 years ago.

"It's always a lot of fun," he noted. "People walk up to me and say, 'I can't believe I never heard about this.' "

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