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Best of / Year End

Top Ten Christmas Jazz Recordings Of All-Time

By Published: December 10, 2003
While moldy Christmas songs and great jazz seem as compatible as egg nog and Tanqueray, there have been instances where the planets have aligned to create songs that display the best of both genres. Ten instances, to be exact, and you'll find them below. Do you agree? Then post your holiday toast to my list. Don't agree? Post the all-time Christmas jazz song of your choice at the AAJ Bulletin Board. I will save a special lump of coal just for you.

  1. "The Christmas Song" Dexter Gordon

    The Panther! (Original Jazz Classics)

    Master of the saxophone ballad transforms a holiday pop favorite into a soulful blues improvisation.

  2. "Here Comes Santa Claus" Ramsey Lewis

    Sound Of Christmas (Chess/MCA)

    In their prime, Ramsey Lewis and his trio could make anything sound great. Here lies the proof.

  3. "Jingle Bells" Duke Ellington & His Orchestra

    Jingle Bell Swing (Columbia/Legacy)

    Classic Duke sound and great choruses played with typical economy from his sidemen circa 1962.

  4. "Skating" Vince Guaraldi

    A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy)

    The melody captures the essence of the title in this masterpiece from the uncanny Guaraldi.

  5. "Good Morning Blues" Ella Fitzgerald

    Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas (Verve)

    A hipster-ish Ella swings the Basie blues in merry 6/8 time.

  6. "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" Ella Fitzgerald

    Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas (Verve)

    No one does this song better. The shyness and longing of Ella's persona are palpable.

  7. "Christmas In New Orleans" Louis Armstrong w/ the Benny Carter Orchestra

    Hipster's Holiday (Rhino)

    Louis recorded a lot of Christmas tunes. This one wins for the combination of Armstrong's obvious love for his subject and golden trumpet cadenzas.

  8. "O' Tannenbaum" Vince Guaraldi

    A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy)

    Guaraldi's elegantly stated theme and sudden shift to 4/4 create yuletide jazz perfection. Is this the most popular jazz song of all time?

  9. "White Christmas" Charlie Parker All-Stars

    Jingle Bell Jam (Verve)

    Every family should serve up some Christmas Bird.

  10. "Snowfall" Ahmad Jamal Trio

    Cross Country Tour 1958-1961 (Chess MCA)

    I've never heard a bad version of this aptly titled Claude Thornhill song, but Jamal's version is exceptional for his unexpected phrasing and Vernel Fournier's gently marching snare.

Discussion Topic

Post your favorite Christmas tune at the AAJ Bulletin Board.

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