Christmas and Jazz

christmascocktailscoverFor me, Christmas and jazz go together. Christmas, candlelight, red wine, and jazz.

Red wine, of course, “this is my blood, shed for you,” what image could be more physical?

Candlelight, the wavering fire burning in the darkness, the light of the world, and the darkness comprehends it not.

And jazz … there is something, somehow that speaks of Incarnation in jazz: maybe the breathy singing, the longing voices of the saxophone and winds, the often-fleshly women who make such good chanteuses, the possibility of improvisation, the sensual colour of the tones and notes, the experience of intimacy …

I’ve started listening to our holiday jazz, lounge and crooner CDs. These are some of my favourites:

  • Jazz for Joy, Verve, 1996. With Shirley Horn’s  “The Christmas Song” and “”Winter Wonderland,” Mark Whitfield’s “Those Soulful Jingle Bells,” Stephen Scott’s “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and Betty Carter’s “Home For The Holidays” and “Let It Snow.”
  • Christmas Cocktails, Capitol Records, 1996. With Lou Rawls’ “Christmas Is,” Julie London’s “I’d Like You for Christmas,” and Nancy Wilson’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
  • The Joy of Christmas Past, GRP Records, 1994. With Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” (and his “Christmas in New Orleans” and “Christmas in Harlem”), Ramsey Lewis’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?,” Duke Ellington and his Orchestra’s “Silent Night, Lonely Night,” and Ahmad Jamal’s “Snowfall.”
  • Etta James – 12 Songs of Christmas, Private Music (Windham Hill), 1998. With “Merry Christmas, Baby,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “White Christmas,” “O, Holy Night,” and “Joy to the World.”
  • Jazz to the World, Blue Note (Capitol Records), 1995. With Dianne Reeves and Lou Rawls’ “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” Diana Krall’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Herbie Hancock and Eliane Elias’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Chick Corea’s “What Child is This?,” and “John McLaughlin’s “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
  • Natalie Cole’s Holly & Ivy, Elektra, 1994. With “Caroling, Caroling,” “No More Blue Christmas,” and “The Holly and the Ivy.”

And the Crooners:

  • Croon and Swoon, A Classic Christmas, Relativity Records, 1998. With Lena Horne’s “Let It Snow!,” Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” Perry Como’s “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” and his version of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Rosemary Clooney’s “White Christmas,” and “We Need a Little Christmas” from “Mame” (with Angela Lansbury and others).
  • Snowfall: The Christmas Album, Tony Bennett, Sony, 1994. With “My Favorite Things,” “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm,” “White Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Snowfall,” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” (from “The Jon Stewart Show”!)

There are also beautiful versions of “Gabriel’s Message,” sung by Sting, and “The Coventry Carol,” performed by Alison Moyet, on “A Very Special Christmas,” a Special Olympics fundraising CD (1987)

Two others that sound good: Late Night Christmas Eve by Scott Hamilton (makes even my most despised Christmas song sound appealing) and Christmas with the George Shearing Quintet.

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