Friday Night Jazz: Favorite Holiday CDs

Since no one is around, let’s rerun this one: 

This is one holiday-themed
list that won’t make you ill:  By now, you are likely way tired of the aural assault that is really bad cornball Xmas music.

Here’s a way to actually enjoy the holiday musical spirit without having to
endure all those cloying tunes.

Since we first mentioned these CDs years ago, many of them have been remastered. And once again, we see many of them on sale at Amazon for under $10.



1. Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas

There truly is no better Christmas album than this one.  It is 180 degree from all that junk holiday music you hate: Recorded in 1960, it is without a doubt the swingingest Christmas album ever recorded.

A Jazzy big band, brilliant arrangements and Ella’s perfect voice make this album a must have Christmas
albums, period.

Even though I already own this, I fear I must add this remastered  version of Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas, Ella Fitzgerald


2. A Charlie Brown Christmas

The classic Peanuts Christmas Jazz Masterpiece: For those of a certain age, "the first time you listen to this disc you will undoubtedly be transported directly back to your childhood" (one reviewer noted)and thats absolutely true.

Indeed, for lots of us, this was our first introduction to Jazz — and Vince Guaraldi is still a great intro. A must have.  A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Original Sound Track Recording Of The CBS Television Special


3. Oscar
Peterson Christmas

: Oscar Peterson Christmas

Sophisticated yet unobtrusive, this CD is an ideal jazz instrumental
backdrop to all your holiday activities. Peterson mades this warm,
mellow album accessible to non-Jazz buffs, while at the same time
keeping it sophisticated and interesting enough for afficianadoes to
enjoy. This CD, along with the Ella disc, are two of my favorites. Its
perfect for sipping an evening cocktail and
sitting in the dark with nothing on but Christmas lights.  Oscar
Peterson Christmas


December 4.  December, Piano Solos

December holds the distinction
of single-handedly putting
Windham Hill on the map. This collection of solo piano works crossed
over from new age to popular to seasonal.

I always loved having this as
one of 5 CDs on the carousel (back in the days of 5 CD disc players).
Yes, kids, there was a shuffle play before the iPod. December, Piano Solos: 20th Anniversary Edition, George Winston



5. Merry Christmas from Motown

: Merry Christmas from Motown

A terrific collection of favorite Motown artists doing all the usual
songs; The work was interesting enough that the series from Motown saw
a few more versions of this after the success of the first one.

This first collection is all Motown A-list:  The Temptations, Diana Ross & The Supremes,  Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and Stevie Wonder.

Merry Christmas from Motown (Various Artists)



6.  A Winter’s Solstice: Windham Hill Artists

Following the success of December, this album became one that built
a Windham Hill tradition of New Age seasonal music / mixed artist

They are now up to number VI in the Winter Solstice Series. A Winter’s Solstice: Windham Hill Artists

7. Christmas with the Rat Pack

: Christmas with the Rat Pack

Break out the cocktail shaker, its time for some Christmas drinks with Frank, Sammy and Dino!  This is a boozy holiday
compilation, a perfect retro lounge soundtrack for a bachelor pad. My favorite comment about this:  "the novelty of
having three of the 20th century’s most notorious sinners belt, whoop,
and sing the praises of sleigh bells, roasting chestnuts, and the
virgin birth would be enough to recommend this dizzy, 21-track delight,
but there’s actually some rewarding pop archaeology here as well."

Christmas with the Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin Sammy Davis Jr.


8.  Wintersong

: Wintersong

Sarah’s elegantly beautiful voice mixes some traditional (but not ubiquitous) Christmas
songs along with some more modern holiday tunes (John Lennon’s "Happy
Xmas (War is Over)" and Joni Mitchell’s "River"). If you enjoy her lovely and haunting voice, you will most likely enjoy this collection. (I suspect this collection may grow on me) Wintersong, Sarah McLachlan


9. James Taylor at Christmas

: James Taylor at Christmas

Nicely balanced between pop and jazz selections, with more stately
hymn-like fare and balladry. Anything JT does manages to sound fine via his charmingly understated, mellow, soulful
voice. (and a must own for JT fans)  James Taylor at Christmas


10. Rhino:
Swingin Christmas
and Ultra-Lounge: Christmas Cocktails, Part One (2 way tie).

These two are similar hipster recordings:

: Ultra-Lounge: Christmas Cocktails, Part One

Ultra-Lounge is a martini-and-mistletoe combo from the late 50s/early 60s. Think of
the Doris Day movies of that era (or even Tony Randall’s), and you get
the picture of the big band sound on many of the tracks. Its very retro, and features the likes of Nat King Cole, Dean
Martin, Lou Rawls, Julie London, Jackie Gleason, Peggy Lee, Billy May,
and Les Brown.  Ultra-Lounge: Christmas Cocktails, Part One

: Rhino: Swingin Christmas

The Rhino collection digs deeper back to the 40s to more recent cuts — a diverse collection of songs covered by Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, Esquivel, The Manhattan Transfer,  Vic Damone. (Les Brown is the only artist present on both discs).

Swingin Christmas

That should be enough to keep you warm all winter!

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. FT Woods commented on Dec 21

    Bert Kaempfert, 1963, Christmas Wonderland. Genius and a must have.

  2. Peter Davis commented on Dec 22

    The Charlie Brown Christmas CD is a sleeper. Great pick, Barry.

    Merry Christmas to all!

  3. Dean commented on Dec 22

    Also on my list:

    A Dave Brubeck Christmas
    Solo Brubeck all the way through. Beautiful arrangements of traditional Christmas songs.

    Jewel – Joy – A Holiday Collection
    Also mostly traditional arrangements, sung by one of the best pop voices out there with reverence. Beautiful version of Ave Maria.

  4. Bad home cook commented on Dec 22

    Oooh. On your rec., I’m gonna get me that Ella. Already have the Charlie Brown Christmas CD, and you’re right – that skating song sends me right back to the ’70s.

  5. ATP commented on Dec 22

    Gotta love Ella. Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful Christmas is also refreshing.

  6. Tom commented on Dec 22

    My daughter just introduced me to It creates “radio stations” based on your choice of song or artist. It breaks down a song by a number of different attributes, then finds songs with similar attributes and plays them on your station. Its very cool.

  7. dano commented on Dec 24

    it’s gotten to where all i seem to listen to is Charlie Brown Christmas during the season. So…. non-commercial and soothing.

  8. MikeinMT commented on Dec 24

    BR – Bought the Oscar Peterson set on your initial rec, and it’s truly a gem. Sad to hear of Mr. Peterson’s passing today. Glad I got to know him if only just a bit.

    Best wishes during the holidays and beyond.

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