There’s only one time a year when the Jazz Show can pull out Christmas music. And while many listeners, by late December, are completely sick of Rudolph and Jinglin’ Bells, it’s short-sighted to dismiss the genre entirely because frankly, there is some absolutely soulful, swinging and satisfying Christmas records out there. Tops on our list would be Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas album on Fantasy (which we played – you can’t NOT play this one), Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song album on Capitol (while less of a jazz album by definition, it is indeed an album that approaches perfection in execution, and Nat was a jazz pianist before he was the voice of Christmas), and last but certainly not least, Ella Fitzgerald’s Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas, on Verve Records. We spun the lilting, spectacularly funky blues jam, “Good Morning Blues,” which you can check out here. It’s easy to see why this 1960 album remains timeless.
In 2011, Jeff Balke of the Houston Press wrote: “This is pure swing awesomeness with only a very gentle offering of traditional instruments like strings, favoring instead classic big band horn sections, piano and vibes…Unlike some of the other [Christmas] records…Fitzgerald opted almost entirely for wartime songs and popular American Christmas tunes instead of traditional carols, which is well suited for her brand of swing. This is one of those records that, if you had a big fancy cocktail party at an apartment in the middle of the big city with attractive people dressed to the nines, this is the record that would be playing in the background.”
So pour the drinks, grab your date and get near some mistletoe. ‘Tis the season, after all.