Tuesday, December 21, 2010


The attack of the sonic mistletoe - holiday music is everywhere!  But have you noticed how even the most banal, hackneyed Christmas song - (and I say Christmas because The Klezmer Dreydle has yet to hit the mainstream...) sounds so much better when put in a "jazz context"? One might consider that when playing holiday music for broad appeal such as on the radio (hearing Louis Armstrong on the local "Light FM" greatly improved my opinion of "Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer") or as accompaniment to holiday cheer in  a social setting.  Where to start? These are among the best...

Duke Ellington Orchestra - The Nutcracker Suite: Ellington Strayhorn Tchaikovsky - Columbia
As the saying goes, "start here" because it doesn't get any better than this - Ellington and Strayhorn at their creative and organizational plateau; an orchestra that is uniquely suited for the material; the blessing (and watchful eye) of Peter Illych himself. Many consider this Tchaikovsky's greatest work and you can hear the love and respect Ellington and "Strays" have for it ; the composer's intended pageantry & mirth are augmented by the requisite Ellingtonian imagination and depth.  The original recording is out of print but you can find the music on a CD release called "Three Suites".

Verve Remixed Christmas - Various Artists - Verve

Crazy imaginative and entertaining reinventions of Louis Armstong's "Z'at You Santa Claus", Shirley Horn's "Winter Wonderland" and Jimmy Smith's "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" (unusual to begin with!) along with songs that evoke the season - "Chilly Winds Don't Blow"(Nina Simone) "Good Morning Blues" ( Count Basie) and an outlandish reggae remix of "I Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" by Billie Holiday.

GRP Christmas Collection Vol 1-3

The collection shows how incredibly deep the creative juices flowed at GRP Records;  every possible jazz avenue is explored commendably by a prominent cast in 28 tracks - Acoustic Alchemy, Patti Austin, B.B. King,  Chick Corea, Ramsey Lewis, Arturo Sandoval, Tom Scott, Diane Schuur, Spyro Gyra and Yellowjackets, to name a few.

Ledisi - It's Christmas - Verve

As to be expected, Ledesi finds new territories in the holiday musical repertoire with her breathtaking gift for re-imagination;  Don't start the party without it.


 Jingle Bell Jazz - Various Artists - Columbia

 A Windham Hill Christmas - Various 
 Jazzy Wonderland - Various - Columbia 
Stan Kenton - A Merry Christmas - Capitol
Spyro Gyra - A Night Before Christmas -  
Ella Fitzgerald - Ella Wishes You A Swingin   Christmas - Verve

Jimmy Smith - Christmas Cookin' - Verve

Chris Botti - December - Columbia

Ramsey Lewis - The Sound Of Christmas -      

Booker T And The MG's - In The Christmas Spirit  

Boney James - Christmas Present - Concord

Tony Bennett/Count Basie Big Band - A Swingin Christmas   

Bob James  - Christmas Eyes - Koch

Yule Struttin - Various Artists - Blue Note

Latin Jazz Christmas - Various - Concord

Luis Villegas - Guitarras De Navidad - Tenure

Dave Koz and Friends - Smooth Jazz Christmas - Capitol

David Benoit - Remembering Christmas - GRP

Peter White Christmas - ARTizen

Kenny Burrell -  Have Yourself a Soulful Little Christmas - Verve

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