Dec 17, 2013
They start arriving in the late Fall and they just keep on coming - new Christmas jazz CDs vying for space on the record store shelves and your listening devices. As a consumer service, I listen to them all and Podcast 399 presents my favorite holiday releases of 2013, including selections from:
Jonathan Butler - "Little Drummer Boy" from Merry Christmas to You. The South African Smooth Jazz Guitarist has produced a heart-felt Christmas album, made all the more notable due to his unique phrasing and pulsing African rhythms. Maybe you caught him performing this tune on a recent Tavis Smiley show.
Nnenna Freelon and the John Brown Big Band - "Swingle Jingle Bells" from Christmas. A great singer gives us a great CD with a swinging big band and arrangements by the likes of the late Frank Foster. This uptempo beauty will get you trimming that tree with gusto.
Canadian Brass - "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" from Christmas Time is Here. Yet another brass quintet gives us a strong set, featuring holiday tunes old and new, including this take on the memorable Dr.Seuss/Albert Hague composition.
Tianna Hall & Chris Cortez - "A Child is Born/Christmas Time is Here" from Noel. Carol Morgan raved about Chris Cortez in our podcast conversation earlier this year. Here he pairs up the an underrated singer for this inspired idea for a medley. Great backing from alto saxophonist Warren Sneed, trumpeter Dennis Dotson and tenor saxophonist Woody Witt.
Manhattan Brass - "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" from Manhattan Holiday. I did an entire podcast with trumpet player Lew Soloff about this CD, which presents well-known and more obscure tunes together in a slightly avant-garde setting. Well worth a listen, as this one sounds totally different than almost any other Christmas CD you might own.
Brian Culbertson - "The Christmas Song". Culbertson was recording his next CD, due for release in February, when the holiday fever gripped him, and he recorded this intimate, stirring solo piano version of the holiday classic. You can grab the tune on iTunes, Amaxon and other digital sites.
Anita O'Day - "I'll Be Home for Christmas" from Have a Merry Christmas with Anita O'Day. Originally recorded back in 1970 with her combo, this re-release adds a terrific recording of "The Christmas Song" from a 1942 radio broadcast to the collection of subtle swinging and sexy vocals for which Anita was so well known.