Staring at Christmas from this side of Thanksgiving feels somehow more daunting. To combat your Winter Wonderland Woes (fingers crossed that the Snow Gods treat us kindly here in New York this year), I bring you the second and final installment of my favorite holiday jazz classics.
Once again, in no particular order:
6. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – Sean Jones (from “Jazz Yule Love II”, Mack Avenue Records, 2006) This brilliant little Christmas gem is certainly merry and anything but little. Backed by the Hot Club of Detroit, trumpeter Sean Jones simply dazzles with his take on this classic from Meet Me in St. Louis. In contrast to the countless other interpretations that lean heavily on the song’s somewhat cloying sentiment, this rendition seems to fall more in the realm of blissful escapism.
7. “Let It Snow” – Oscar Peterson (Telarc International, 1995) While the schmaltzy strings can be a bit distracting, it’s hard not to fall in love with the incredible interplay of a great six-piece ensemble like the one on this record. The solo trade-offs between the piano, the guitar and the vibes are a real study in ensemble improvisational playing. Plus, it’s just a great swingin’ take on a holiday classic.
8. “Winter Wonderland” – Shirley Horn (from “Verve Unmixed Christmas”, The Verve Music Group, 2008) The signature smokey voice that emanated from Shirley Horn is in top form on this recording. An insightful vocal historian might note the similarity between Ms. Horn and another jazz pianist with an iconic smoky voice, Diana Krall. On this track, however, the elder stateswoman comes out on top with a classy walk in the snow.
9. “I Love The Winter Weather/I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” – Jane Monheit (Sony BMG, 2005) Jane Monheit has been a favorite of mine ever since I was introduced to her through the incredible New York Voices (speaking of which, where is the NYV Christmas album…?). This medley always conjures up a swanky holiday party in my mind, replete with champagne and a 20 ft. Christmas tree. The uptempo arrangement provides a great bed of horn embellishments that support Ms. Monheit’s coy delivery masterfully.
10. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” – Tommy Dorsey (Victor, 1935) To wrap up this list I wanted to end with something reeeaallly classic. It doesn’t get much more classic than the indomitable Tommy Dorsey. Sung by Dorsey and the long-forgotten Edythe Wright, this record is really a showcase for one of the greatest jazz orchestras of all time. The arrangement is sublime and the sheer joy is evident as each instrument takes its solo. The classic parental admonition song becomes a veritable parade in Dorsey’s capable hands and a perfect antidote to those cold December nights (and mornings and afternoons…).
I hope this gives you a good jumping off point for all of your jazzy holiday needs this year. Happy Holidays!
Check out the first part of this list here.
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