Best jazz Christmas records?
November 21, 2013 7:39 AM   Subscribe

I like jazz, and I like Christmas music. Which jazz Christmas music would I enjoy?

I'm particularly a fan of bop, hard bop, cool jazz, and swing... so anything in those styles would be right up my alley, though I would be happy to hear any suggestions if they're brilliant as long as they're not smooth jazz or psychedelic jazz.

Prefer instrumental to jazz singers, but some singers I really like are Mel Torme, Anita O'Day, Chet Baker, Blossom Dearie, and Frank Sinatra.

Links to CDs on Amazon would be especially appreciated!
posted by rabbitrabbit to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: The Harlem Nutcracker; a jazzy take on the Nutcracker Suite by Duke Ellington. Check out track 12, "Sugar Rum Cherry", for an iconic sample.
posted by homodachi at 7:52 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, I love this stuff! Here's some of my favourites.

Playboy's Latin Jazz Christmas. The edition I have has racier cover art, but that's about all it really has to do with Playboy. First track in particular is a knockout.

Joe Thompson's Christmas Decorations. Really great jazz trio takes on classic Christmas hymns. The Holly and the Ivy is my favourite. Can't find it on US Amazon but I think it's on iTunes.

Squirrel Nut Zippers - Christmas Caravan. My favourite group of the 90s swing revival. Mostly original numbers but all great fun, and a cracking Sleigh Ride.

This Milestone artists compilation has some fantastic takes on it, including songs by Anita O'Day and Chet Baker.

Last one is the Tom Kubis big band Christmas record. Might be a bit too cheesy for you, but there's a couple like God Rest Ye Merry Trombones that really swing.
posted by spielzebub at 8:08 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have the Charlie Brown Christmas (mine is a 3 CD set which also contained this and this, FWIW) and I can attest to its wonderfulness.
posted by kathrynm at 8:23 AM on November 21, 2013

Best answer: Cedar Walton did an entire cover version of the CB Christmas album as well, for an updated take by someone with heavy straight-ahead jazz cred.

I'm fond of this anthology. But honestly, I mostly let the WNCU DJs serve up my Christmas-ified jazz music.
posted by thelonius at 8:33 AM on November 21, 2013

Terrific record: Christmas With The Believers.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:55 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Vince Guaraldi Trio album can't be recommended enough.

A Dave Brubeck Christmas is a nice album of Brubeck playing straightforward solo piano arrangements of some old chestnuts, plus a couple of originals.

It may be stretching the definition of 'jazz' a bit, but the first Ultra-Lounge: Christmas Cocktails compilation is wonderful.
posted by usonian at 9:14 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Stash Christmas Album is one of our family standbys; some of the tracks can be found on What A Wonderful Christmas: Louis Armstrong & Friends. Includes Mel Torme, Peggy Lee, Duke Ellington, etc.

But if you can play vinyl, that Stash album is great. Includes Armstrong reading "The Night Before Christmas," which is awesome.
posted by Madamina at 9:21 AM on November 21, 2013

I think "Lovers Holiday" by Jason Paul Curtis is right up your alley. Swinging music, some standards, plus some good originals.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:43 AM on November 21, 2013

My favorite jazz christmas album is hands down Dreamers, by John Zorn & co.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:01 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If I liked Christmas music, I'd buy Blue Note Record's compilation album Yule Be Boppin'. It would be worth it for the first track alone, which features vocals by Kurt Elling.
posted by crLLC at 11:09 AM on November 21, 2013

Best answer: Nthing the Vince Guaraldi.

I've tried out a lot of jazz yuletide albums over the years, and besides the Guaraldi, the two that have stuck around have been Sound of Christmas by the Ramsey Lewis Trio, and Christmas Cookin' by Jimmy Smith.
posted by bricoleur at 11:19 AM on November 21, 2013

I'm a big fan of the Ella and Dave Brubeck albums mentioned above. I also don't get tired of these two albums, from a couple wonderful current stride/swing pianists:

Butch Thompson and Laura Sewell

Chris Dawson's Stridin' through Christmas
posted by snowymorninblues at 1:02 PM on November 21, 2013

I haven't listened to it yet, but Ultra Lounge has released two Christmas albums that I know of- Christmas Cocktails Vol. 1 and 2- that should be pretty solid given their track record. They have a website:

Caveat emptor- this isn't exactly everyone's cup o' jazz.
posted by LBJustice at 5:49 PM on November 21, 2013

I have been listening to Christmas With The Believers and Butch Thompson's Yulestride a lot the last couple of years, and also that great Bethlehem After Dark album.

Yay for Christmas piano! I could use a few more ideas, though.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:07 PM on November 21, 2013

One of my Christmas favorites is "Hot Jazz for a Cool Night."

Also, "Verve Presents: The Very Best of Christmas Jazz," which has one of my favorite Christmas numbers: Joe Williams' "Let It Snow."
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:40 PM on November 21, 2013

Best answer: Oh, man.

Personally, I love to listen to KCSM on Christmas - it's a San Francisco Bay area station with a fantastic jazz show on Christmas.

Here's the Jazz Holiday Specials schedule from last year or some previous year anyway.

The Herb Wong Christmas set is not to be missed. You should be able to stream it from wherever you are.

One year I emailed the station a month or two ahead of time and asked if he would play A Jazz Musician's Christmas. (Yep, that's Jack Sheldon. You might know him from Schoolhouse Rock.) Sure enough, the magnificent Mr. Wong played it.

He frequently plays Deck Us All with Boston Charlie and Miles Davis, Blue Xmas.

He's also played:

Ronnie White, "White Christmas"
Claude Thornhill, "Snowfall"
Lionel Hampton, "Swingle Jingle"

and a bunch of other stuff.

You must also, of course, listen to "Baby It's Cold Outside." Repeatedly.
posted by kristi at 11:24 PM on November 21, 2013

Oh look - the playlist from the 2012 Herb Wong Christmas Show.

Les Brown, "We Wish You The Merriest"
Tony Bennett, "I'll Be Home For Christmas"
Tex Beneke, "And The Bells Rang"
Ella Fitzgerald, "Jingle Bells"
Duke Ellington, "Jingle Bells "
Maynard Ferguson, "Christmas For Moderns"
Stan Kenton, "Angels, We Have Heard On High"
June Christy, "Ring A Merry Bell"
The Four Freshman, "Freshmas"
Dave Brubeck/Gerry Mulligan, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"
Dianne Reeves, "This Time Of The Year"
Frank Sinatra, "The Christmas Waltz"
Pete Rugolo, "Jingle Bells Mambo"
Bobby Rodriguez, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"
Dexter Gordon, "The Christmas Song"
Ramsey Lewis, "Christmas Blues"
Mel Torme, "Christmas Medley"
Richie Cole, "Seigh Ride"
Louis Armstrong, "Zat You Santa Claus?"
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie"
Fats Waller, "Swingin The Jingle Bells"
Miles Davis / Bob Dorough, "Blue Xmas"
Gene Ammons, "Swingin For Christmas"
Bill Evans, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"
Charlie Parker, "White Christmas"
Manhattan Transfer, "Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season Medley"
Ray Charles, "What Child Is This"
Nat King Cole, "Toys For Tots"
Count Basie, "Good Morning Blues"
Oscar Peterson, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"
Joe Williams, "Silver Bells"
Wynton Marsalis, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"
Octobop, "Line For Santa"
Eddie Lockjaw Davis, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"
Billie Holiday, "Stormy Blues"
Bobby Timmons, "Winter Wonderland"
Dave Brubeck Quartet, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"
Dave Brubeck, "Farewell Jingle Bells"
Tony Bennett, "Snowfall"
Ahmad Jamal, "Snowfall"
George Shearing, "Snowfall"
Jimmy Rowles, "Winter Weather"
Claude Thornhill, "Snowfall"
Singers Unlimited, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"

And tracks from his 2011 show that weren't also played in 2012:

Benny Goodman/Peggy Lee, "Winter Weather"
Fats Waller, "Winter Weather"
Ronny Whyte, "Sleigh Ride"
Richie Cole, "Sleigh Ride"
Gretta Matassa & Clipper Anderson, "The First Snowfall"
Wes Montgomery, "Snowfall"
Tex Beneke & Glenn Miller, "Snowfall"
Lionel Hampton, "Swingle Jingle"
Miles Davis, "If I Were A Bell"
Pony Poindexter, "Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer"
Red Garland, "Winter Wonderland"
John Hicks, "Jingle Bells"
Marcus Roberts, "Winter Wonderland"
Eric Reed, "Winter Wonderland"
Dave Brubeck, "We Three Kings"
Oscar Peterson, "O Little Town Of Bethlehem"
Billie Holiday, "Violets For Your Furs"
Scott Hamilton, "Christmas Love Song"
Tramaine Hawkins, "Amazing Grace"
Ronny Whyte, "Evening In December"
Tom Kubis Big Band, "A Jazz Musicians Christmas"
Ronny Whyte, "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm"
John Lewis, "England's Carol"
Modern Jazz Quartet, "England's Carol"
Bobby Rodriguez, "It's Time For Christmas"
Pete Escovedo/Ray Obiedo, "Feliz Navidad"
Nancy Wilson, "Silver Bells"
Frank Sinatra, "I Heard The Bells On Christmas "
Nat King Cole, "Christmas Song"
Woody Herman, "Let It Snow"

That should give you a few leads.

Wish you the merriest!
posted by kristi at 11:32 PM on November 21, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks guys! I've ordered a whole bunch of CDs from Amazon. Also thanks for the radio station suggestions; the reason I asked this question is I had a very hard time finding good Christmas jazz on TuneIn last year, so that is really useful.

Confession time: I've never like the Charlie Brown Christmas record very much; I think I hated CB too much as a kid and I associate that music with having to watch the CB Christmas special too many damn times because everyone around me loved it and insisted on watching it every damn year.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:43 AM on November 22, 2013

I really enjoy the Buck Benny OTR (old time radio) podcast, which rotates episodes of shows like Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Phil Harris and several others. Last year the host cherry-picked holiday songs from a lot of the different shows and compiled them in an "album." Some good swingy stuff there. The songs can be downloaded as MP3s via Dropbox. (Before putting up a direct link here, I want to check with the host to make sure he doesn't mind.) You can also just listen to or download it as a podcast here. He describes what's coming up at about 1:20, and the actual music starts at about 9:35.

Last year "Buck" also played some Elgin holiday music specials which were very good; he may play them again this year. And since he tries to play all of the radio shows on the same date they originally played x-number of years ago, there should be some good Christmas music in the regular schedule of upcoming podcasts, too.
posted by Librarienne at 12:14 PM on November 23, 2013

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