As I write this on the Winter Solstice, I'm listening to Carla Bley's new album, Carla's Christmas Carols. This album should be on the list of anyone who likes jazz interpretations of Xmas tunes with lots of brass: recognizable but not hackneyed.
It inspired me to think of other jazz Christmas albums. There's a surprising number of good ones, ones you can listen to every year and enjoy. My favourites include:
A Charlie Brown Christmas (Vince Guaraldi Trio) - it's a classic. What's more amazing is that it survives over-exposure, perhaps because the songs are so simple and exactly right.
The Man in the Red Suit (Joe Sealy and Paul Novotny) - these Christmas songs are original, but they so perfectly fit the season that you'd think they were the best of standards.
An Oscar Peterson Christmas (Oscar Peterson) - simply joyful. You can't possibly be down when you listen to Oscar's rollicking interpretations.
Breath of Heaven (Grover Washington Jr.) - heartfelt interpretations of carols and Christmas songs.
Noel en Jazz (Bernard Primeau Montreal Jazz Ensemble) - the late jazz drummer Bernard Primeau had more energy and enthusiasm in one hand than most people have in their entire bodies, and inspired all his musicians to be the same. You can definitely hear that in this collection of English and French Christmas standards.
Jazz pour Noel (Trio Lorraine Desmarais, with Jean-Pierre Zanella) - I only found this one recently, but it's a fine collection. It even includes a version of Ave Maria that /doesn't/ remind me of treacle.
Justin Time for Christmas (One, Two, Three Four) - in the 1990s, the Canadian jazz label Justin Time put out four successive collections of Christmas jazz by artists on its label, including unexpected treasures by artists like Paul Bley, Jon Ballantyne, Dave Young, Jane Bunnett, John Stetch, David Murray, and the World Saxophone Quartet. Great collections.
- Alayne McGregor