Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December 2014 - Featured Playlist (NML-Jazz)

There’s a lot of great music in NML-Jazz, of course, but did you know that there’s quite a bit of festive Christmas content as well? From the timeless sound of A Charlie Brown Christmas to the Fantasy Records artist roster to the classy retro vibes of David Ian’s new holiday traditions, you’re sure to find your Yuletide cool side right here in NML-Jazz.

To hear the playlist, access NML-Jazz as usual, go to the Playlists section, and select the Christmas folder under the Naxos Music Library Playlists tab. If you are on your institution's premises, you may also be able to access it if you CLICK HERE.

1. Vince Guaraldi Trio – Linus and Lucy – So yeah, no Christmas is complete without a few spins of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and we’ve got it for you. One of the most popular Christmas albums of all time, it has sold over three million copies and continues to introduce jazz music to new generations.
2. David Ian – Jingle Bells – Over the last few years, pianist David Ian has masterminded a pair of classy, retro-tinged Christmas albums of his own, and this year he produced and featured on a holiday album by CCM stalwart Peter Furler. Simple but utterly charming, his renditions of classic Christmas tunes, like this version of “Jingle Bells”, will find their way indelibly into your holiday listening.
3. Boney James – This Christmas – Originally written by Donny Hathaway and Nadine McKinnor in 1970, it has become a modern classic covered by over 100 different artists. Included here is the version recorded by platinum-selling saxophonist Boney James, with Dee Harvey providing the vocals.
4. Brook Benton and Caro Emerald – You’re All I Want For Christmas – R&B singer Brook Benton charted a number of singles from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, and here his 1963 tune “You’re All I Want For Christmas” gets a reworking featuring contemporary Dutch jazz/pop vocalist Caro Emerald.
5. The Staple Singers – Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas? – The Staple Singers had a No. 2 hit with this track from their 1970 album We’ll Get Over. The entire album, released by Stax Records, features the legendary Booker T and the MGs as the backing band, and the youngest sister Mavis, a legend in her own right, takes over much of the lead.
6. Albert King – Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’ – This Mack Rice-penned tune (Rice’s own version also appears on this same album in NML-Jazz) is a saucy holiday celebration perfectly suited for Albert King and his guitar. King lets his feisty fretwork takes center stage for much of this track, sharing a blues Christmas with you.

7. The Dramatics – Christmas Just Ain’t Christmas (Without The One You Love) – Formed originally in 1964, the Dramatics were an R&B group that persisted across five decades. They released a Christmas album in 1997 that included their version of “Christmas Just Ain’t Christmas (Without The One You Love)”, written by Kenny Gamble and Leon A. Huff.

8. Lou Rawls – O Holy Night (Cantique De Noel) – Frank Sinatra once said that Lou Rawls had “the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game.” Not a bad recommendation at all. Here his “silky chops” are applied to one of the most dramatic melodies in the Christmas repertoire, “O Holy Night.”

9. The Emotions – What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas? – The Emotions consisted of three sisters who launched their career with Volt Records in 1969. While they had their biggest success a few years later with Columbia Records, they released a number of singles through Stax, including the holiday tune “What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas?”
10. Sonny Rollins – Count Your Blessings – White Christmas sits comfortably in that pantheon of great holiday films that everyone loves, regardless of their generation. “Count Your Blessings” is just one of the iconic Irving Berlin tunes used in the movie, and in this version it is performed by saxophonist Sonny Rollins.
11. Ruth Brown – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Ruth Brown had a series of R&B and pop hits in the 1950s before retiring to raise her children. She returned to music in the seventies, eventually joining the Fantasy Records roster. Her merry little take on this Christmas standard appears on a Fantasy holiday collection simply titled Christmas Songs, which also features Chet Baker, Joe Pass, and more.
12. Mel Tormé – The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) – NML-Jazz includes quite a few extraordinary versions of this holiday standard, but it only seems fitting to feature a version recorded by the writer himself. Mel Tormé composed the tune and remaining lyrics after finding a few spare lines lyricist Bob Wells had scrawled down in an attempt to cool himself off on a blazing hot summer day.
13. Dianne Reeves – Little Drummer Boy – Dianne Reeves released Christmas Time Is Here in 2004, right in the middle of a streak where she won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance four times in six years. She has often made use of world music rhythms, and her rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” takes that approach.
14. Anita Baker – My Favorite Things – Because everyone knows Christmas is all about getting stuff, “My Favorite Things” has become popular as a holiday tune. (That’s mostly a joke.) This version is sung by Anita Baker, who has done pretty well for herself, winning eight Grammy Awards and releasing five platinum albums.
15. United States Air Force Airmen of Note – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Here’s another song composed during a summer heat wave as an attempt to conjure up cooler feelings. While accepted now as a Christmas song, it contains no holiday reference, and its first recording, by Vaughn Monroe in 1946, topped the charts in January and February.
16. Eric Reed – Winter Wonderland – Eric Reed is a jazz pianist and composer who spent several years in Wynton Marsalis’ septet before setting out to front his own group. He has collaborated with many different jazz artists, including Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, and Benny Carter. Here he plays “Winter Wonderland”, yet another Christmas favorite that doesn’t actually mention the holiday.
17. Trio X – In Dulci Jubilo – “In Dulci Jubilo” dates from medieval times and is best known to the English-speaking world as “Good Christian Men, Rejoice”, a translation dating from the 19th century. This version of the carol melody is performed by the Swedish jazz group Trio X.
18. Freddy Cole – O Little Town Of Bethlehem – Nat King Cole’s little brother is a solid musician in his own right, and the title of his 1990 album I’m Not My Brother, I’m Me is a declaration of such. In 1995 he released I Want A Smile For Christmas, a tasty jazz holiday album that includes this version of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.
19. Mary Stallings – I’ll Be Home For Christmas – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” was originally released by our old friend Bing Crosby in 1943 as the B-side to “White Christmas”. It is sung from the perspective of a World War Two soldier writing home to family. While a massive hit in the US, the song was actually banned from broadcast in the UK by the BBC, as they felt it would bring down morale.
20. Norah Jones – Peace – Our playlist closes with this contemplative track from Norah Jones, one of the best-selling jazz artists of all time. Maybe it’s not strictly a Christmas song, but, accompanied only by her piano, Jones sings of peaceful late-night contemplations, making it the perfect way to wind down after an evening of holiday revelry.

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