1. Christmas Night In Harlem - Louis Armstrong
2. A Child Is Born – Oscar Peterson
3. The Christmas Song – Ella Fitzgerald
4. Looks Like December - Antonio Carlos Jobim
5. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Bill Evans
6. Cool Yule - Louis Armstrong
7. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer – Ella Fitzgerald
8. Jingle Bells – Jimmy Smith
9. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
– Joe Williams
10. Merry Christmas Baby – Kenny Burrell
11. 'Zat You, Santa Claus? - Louis Armstrong
12. Little Girl Blue – Nina Simone
13. The Christmas Song – Mel Tormé
14. Here Comes Santa Claus - Ramsey Lewis
15. Christmas In New Orleans - Louis Armstrong
16. Winter Wonderland – Shirley Horn
17. Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Diana
this time of the year, numerous record companies
release albums of Christmas songs – some good,
some terrible. This compilation (from the
radio station Thejazz) comes into the "good"
category, because the performers are jazz
artists, who are often capable of turning
awful songs into unexpected gems. That is
certainly the case with some tracks here.
Ella Fitzgerald turns the gut-wrenching awfulness
of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer into
an acceptable jazz track, telling a touching
story of a group of reindeer coming to recognise
the laudable qualities of a former outcast.
Another singer, Joe Williams, makes a bouncy
delight out of Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
Let It Snow! It comes from his 1990 album
That Holiday Feelin', which is well
worth searching out. And the four tracks by
Louis Armstrong prove that he could turn the
most unpromising material into something special.
highlights include Shirley Horn's lovely vocals
on Winter Wonderland, Diana Krall's
almost heartbreaking version of Have Yourself
a Merry Little Christmas, and Oscar Peterson's
tender interpretation of A Child is Born
(a Thad Jones composition which has become
a seasonal regular as well as a jazz standard).
But Bill Evans's Santa Claus is Coming
to Town is marred by Paul Motian's elephantine
the sleeve-note omits personnel details, which
a broadcaster like Thejazz should know their
customers want. And the choice of tracks leaves
something to be desired. Heaven knows why
the compilers included Nina Simone's Little
Girl Blue, even though the singer blends
the song with the melody of Good King Wenceslas!
And Eartha Kitt is hardly a jazz singer. They
could have included several other more Christmassy
– and more interesting – performances. Where
is Charlie Parker's version of White Christmas,
for example? They should also have considered
Houston Person's groovy Blue Christmas;
Bessie Smith's At the Christmas Ball;
any track from Scott Hamilton's 1997 CD "Christmas
Love Song"; and - my favourite Christmas track
of all - Santa's Comin' to Town by
Sounds of Blackness – a stunning mixture of
jazz, soul and gospel.
this is an acceptable collection to cheer
you up when you are feeling miserable and
bloated after too much Christmas cheer. And
though it's been said many times, many ways:
Merry Christmas to all our readers.