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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Thejazz/Universal 5304877



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 Trio
15. Christmas In New Orleans - Louis Armstrong
16. Winter Wonderland Shirley Horn
17. Santa Baby Eartha Kitt
18. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Diana Krall


At 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.

Other 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 drumming

Sadly, 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.

Anyway, 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.

Tony Augarde





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