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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show


Straight No Chaser is the place for jazz lovers (and those who will soon be jazz lovers) to enjoy podcasts with their favorite music and artists. Winner of the 2017 JazzTimes Readers' Poll for Best Podcast, your host Jeffrey Siegel will take you inside the world of jazz, from the new releases to the best festiva;s to remembrances of jazz legends.

25 Days of Jazzmas: "Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)"

Dec 10, 2011

Miles Davis only did two recordings that could be called Songs of the Season. One is found on the soundtrack to Scrooged, and the other is the wonderfully cynical "Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)". Recorded during sessions with Gil Evans in August 1962, it brought Miles into collaboration with Bob Dorough, the singer and sognwriter who would go on to Schoolhouse Rock fame. Allmusic.com tells the story well:

The cynical, bah-humbug "Blue Xmas" was probably not what Columbia executives had in mind in 1962 when they asked Miles Davis to record a track for a planned Christmas jazz compilation album. Davis turned to Bob Dorough, whom he had met in Los Angeles in the late '50s and would have sit in with his band to sing "Baltimore Oriole." Miles dug Dorough's hip, laid-back singing style. Dorough left L.A. with a song in hand, met with Miles and arranger Gil Evans, and was soon in the studio with Miles's sextet singing the incendiary words to "Blue Xmas."

Miles in his sutobiography ungraciously dismisses the whole affair: " they thought it would be hip if I had this silly singer named Bob Dorough on the album with Gil arranging. The less said about it the better, but it did let me play with Wayne Shorter for the first time." Actually, Evans's arrangement of the short track is quite representative, the horns and even the bongos skillfully enhancing the effect of Dorough's guileless vocal. "When you're blue at Xmas time / You see through all the waste / All the sham, all the haste / And plain old bad taste/ It's a time when the greedy give a dime to the needy." This is indeed a Christmas song for those who hate Christmas, and you even get a Coltrane-like Shorter solo as an extra added bonus, or stocking stuffer, if you will.

The track can be found on the stellar compilation Jingle Bell Swing on Columbia/Legacy Records.