Dec 16, 2011
We can't leave the funky side of Christmas without tapping into some Jimmy Smith. Whether the album is titled Christmas Cookin' or Christmas 1964, it represents the pinnacle of Hammond B-3 holiday music, and that's just fine with me. Funkmeister Creed Taylor produced the disc, which featured Smith on organ, a 13 piece brass section, Art Davis on bass, Kenny Burrell on guitar, and Grady Tate on drums. The inimitable Rudy Van Gelder was the engineer at the famous Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
"The Christmas Song", which also goes by its first line of lyrics, "Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire", was written twenty years earlier by Mel Torme and Bob Wells. The definitive version was recorded in 1961 by Nat King Cole, the fourth time he recorded the song, always with different band configurations and arrangements.
Supposedly, on a hot west coast afternoon, Torme dropped by Wells' house and recalled:
I saw a spiral pad on his piano with four lines written in pencil... They started, ‘Chestnuts roasting ... , Jack Frost nipping ... , Yuletide carols …, Folks dressed up like Eskimos.’ Bob didn’t think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics.