Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Not Your Grandma's Christmas Music

It's that time of year (again) where Christmas music is blasting from everywhere you turn. It's enough to drive you crazy if you're not that into it - and I am not all that into it, especially if it's muzak versions. While there are a number of very pretty songs associated with the holiday season, such as Carol of the Bells, Oh Holy Night, and so forth, some are just downright obnoxious, especially when you're hearing them over and over and over and over.

One less painful way to endure Christmas music is to listen to recordings that are strictly instrumental, that way you can have holiday music on, but tune in and out without it distracting or bothering you too much through the day. Somehow it's less grating on the psyche when there are no vocals in the music (I know, I know... don't tell the other vocalists), and the words are less likely to be stuck in your head all day (which can drive you crazy even more).

Even better than all-instrumental Christmas music, is when your holiday tunes are all about the swing! Below is an article written for Helium back in November of 2012, and if I do say so myself, I think it's one of my best. Enjoy, and keep swinging!

The best Jazz Music Recordings for Christmas

If swing is your thing, you’ll no doubt be looking for recordings of Christmas music that reflect your tender bopping sensibilities when the winter holiday period rolls around. No Jazz lover’s holiday could possibly be complete without the quintessential seasonal recordings of some of the best to ever grace the bandstand.
There are a number of holiday CD compilations that have been put together since Jazz’s resurgence in the 1980s. One of those is the recording God Rest Ye Merry Jazzmen, which features six tracks from six artists, including the incomparable tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon and the transcendent pianist McCoy Tyner. Tunes included are "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," "I’ll Be Home For Christmas," "The Christmas Song," "Our Little Town," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "We Three Kings of Orient Are."
Also from the 1980s, another must-have is New Orleans-born trumpeter Wynton Marsalis’ Crescent City Christmas Card, which features the award-winning trumpeter reading The Night Before Christmas. There are 13 tracks in total on the recording, which also features performances by Todd Williams, Alvin Batiste, Joe Temperley, Wessell Anderson, Wycliffe Gordon, Marcus Roberts, Reginald Veal, Herlin Riley and Ben Riley. Kathleen Battle is a featured guest on traditional holiday favorite "Silent Night," and Jon Hendricks joined the ensemble for "Sleigh Ride."
The Nutcracker ballet is synonymous with the Christmas season; its well-known music is heard everywhere during the holidays, from television commercials to the speakers in shopping malls. No jazz lover’s holiday could possibly be complete without the Duke Ellington recording of Tchaikovsky’s famous Suite, which is available on the release Three Suites, from Columbia.
A Christmas collection of Jazz wouldn't be complete without at least one album from the father of Jazz himself, Louis Armstrong. While it's not strictly a collection of Christmas songs, Christmas Through the Years, a recording made not long before Armstrong's death, features “Pops” on The Night Before Christmas. Other options for an Armstrong Christmas include the recordings What a Wonderful Christmas, and The Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong Christmas Collection.
Last, but most certainly not least, not even Scrooge himself could resist the urge to bob his head and tap his foot while listening to An Oscar Peterson Christmas. It features fourteen fabulous tracks including "What Child Is This," "I’ll be Home For Christmas," "Christmas Waltz" and "Away in a Manger."
These recordings from some of the most significant players in jazz history are guaranteed to make the season bright with swing.


  1. I agree though Jazz isn't my thing I love more classical like Sarah Brightman for Christmas.

    1. If you like Sarah Brightman you must surely like Sarah Vaughan!