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Best Jazz Christmas Albums

Ten Best Jazz Christmas Albums Of All Time (2023)

Let’s explore Best Jazz Christmas Albums Of All Time:

The holiday season is a time for joy, family, and, of course, music. And when it comes to Christmas music, there’s nothing quite like the smooth, sophisticated sounds of jazz.

Jazz Christmas albums have been a staple of the holiday season for decades, and for good reason.

They offer a unique and refreshing take on classic Christmas carols, infusing them with the improvisational spirit and rhythmic energy of jazz music.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best jazz Christmas albums ever made. We’ll explore their musicality, creativity, and festive spirit, and we’ll discuss why they continue to be so popular year after year.

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Here is a list of some of the best jazz Christmas albums ever made:

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) by Vince Guaraldi Trio

Vince Guaraldi’s enchanting score for the animated special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has become an integral part of the holiday season.

With its gentle melodies, playful rhythms, and nostalgic charm, Guaraldi’s music perfectly captures the essence of Christmas spirit.

Every track on the album is a masterpiece, from the wistful “Christmas Time Is Here” to the jaunty “Sleigh Ride” and the heartwarming “Little Drummer Boy.”

Guaraldi’s arrangements are both simple and sophisticated, allowing the trio’s improvisational skills to shine.

The album’s enduring popularity is a testament to its ability to evoke the magic of Christmas without being overly sentimental or saccharine.

2. Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas (1960) by Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald’s vibrant and spirited vocals bring a touch of jazzy elegance to classic Christmas carols on her album “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas.”

With her impeccable timing, flawless phrasing, and infectious energy, Fitzgerald breathes new life into these beloved songs.

She imbues them with a sense of joy and celebration, making them feel fresh and contemporary.

The album’s arrangements are full of surprises, incorporating elements of swing, bossa nova, and even a touch of Latin flair. Fitzgerald’s infectious enthusiasm is sure to put a smile on your face and get you in the holiday spirit.

3. Christmas ’64 (1964) by Jimmy Smith

Jimmy Smith’s Hammond organ mastery takes center stage on the album “Christmas ’64,” infused with soulful melodies and groovy rhythms.

Smith’s improvisational brilliance shines through as he effortlessly solos over classic Christmas tunes like “The Christmas Song,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

The album’s arrangements are full of warmth and texture, showcasing Smith’s keen ability to evoke the spirit of the season through his music.

Whether you’re a seasoned jazz enthusiast or a casual listener, “Christmas ’64” is sure to captivate you with its infectious energy and soulful melodies.

4. An Oscar Peterson Christmas (1995) by Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson’s virtuosic piano playing and improvisational flair elevate classic Christmas carols to new heights of elegance and sophistication on his album “An Oscar Peterson Christmas.” Peterson’s signature style, characterized by his impeccable technique, rich harmonies, and melodic inventiveness, is perfectly suited to the holiday spirit.

The album’s arrangements are tasteful and understated, allowing Peterson’s piano to take center stage.

He brings a touch of jazzy flair to traditional arrangements, while also honoring the essence of the Christmas classics. “An Oscar Peterson Christmas” is a true gem for jazz aficionados and Christmas music lovers alike.

5. Christmas Songs (1948) by Frank Sinatra with Nelson Riddle

Frank Sinatra’s smooth and sophisticated vocals, accompanied by Nelson Riddle’s lush and cinematic arrangements, create a timeless and elegant atmosphere on the album “Christmas Songs.”

Sinatra’s understated delivery and impeccable phrasing bring a sense of warmth and authenticity to classic Christmas carols.

Riddle’s arrangements are full of lush strings, elegant brass sections, and a touch of Latin flair, adding a touch of sophistication to the holiday spirit.

The album’s repertoire features some of the most beloved Christmas classics, including “White Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Silent Night.”

Whether you’re seeking a classic Christmas experience or a more modern interpretation, “Christmas Songs” is a must-have for any jazz and holiday music fan.

6. The Nutcracker Suite (1960) by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra

Duke Ellington’s masterful reinterpretation of Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet score, “The Nutcracker Suite,” is a true jazz classic.

Ellington’s arrangements are full of swing and sophistication, infusing the familiar melodies with a fresh and contemporary sound.

The album features some of Ellington’s most iconic compositions, including “The Sugar Plum Fairy,” “The Dance of the Reeds (Flutes),” and “The March of the Wooden Soldiers.” Ellington’s big band brings the ballet to life with its vibrant energy and expressive playing, making this album a must-have for any jazz or Christmas music collection.

7. A Child Is Born (1990) by Geri Allen

Pianist Geri Allen takes a meditative and spiritual approach to Christmas music on her album “A Child Is Born.”

Allen’s arrangements are spare and intimate, allowing her to explore the emotional depth and expressive power of the Christmas carols.

She infuses the traditional melodies with a touch of jazz harmony and improvisational freedom, creating a unique and captivating sound.

Allen’s interpretations of classics like “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “The Little Drummer Boy” are both poignant and moving, offering a fresh perspective on these familiar songs.

“A Child Is Born” is a thoughtful and introspective addition to the jazz Christmas canon.

8. Crescent City Christmas Card (1995) by Wynton Marsalis

Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis pays homage to his hometown of New Orleans with his spirited and joyful album “Crescent City Christmas Card.”

Marsalis and his band, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, bring a Dixieland-style flair to traditional Christmas carols, infusing them with the infectious energy and rhythmic vitality of New Orleans jazz.

The album features guest appearances from jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Branford Marsalis, adding to its star power.

“Crescent City Christmas Card” is a vibrant and celebratory celebration of the holiday season, infused with the unique musical spirit of New Orleans.

9. Christmas Songs (2000) by Mel Tormé

Mel Tormé’s warm and inviting vocals bring a touch of intimacy and charm to his album “Christmas Songs.” Tormé’s relaxed phrasing and heartfelt delivery make him a perfect interpreter of these classic carols.

He brings a sense of personal connection to the songs, making them feel like heartfelt expressions of gratitude and joy.

The album’s arrangements are tasteful and understated, allowing Tormé’s vocals to take center stage.

“Christmas Songs” is a heartwarming and intimate addition to the jazz Christmas genre, perfect for creating a cozy and festive atmosphere.

10. Christmas Carousel (1960) by Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee’s playful and expressive vocals bring a touch of whimsy and charm to her album “Christmas Carousel.”

Lee’s impeccable timing, effortless phrasing, and infectious energy make her a captivating performer.

She infuses the classic carols with a sense of fun and excitement, making them feel fresh and contemporary.

The album’s arrangements are full of surprises, incorporating elements of swing, bossa nova, and even a touch of musical theater.

Lee’s playful interpretations of classics like “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” are sure to put a smile on your face and get you in the holiday spirit.

Here are some of the criteria that can be used to select the best jazz Christmas albums:

Musicality and artistry

The best jazz Christmas albums are musically rich and engaging, showcasing the artistry of the musicians involved.

They feature memorable melodies, sophisticated harmonies, and improvisational brilliance.

The composition and arrangements should be well-crafted, allowing the musicians to showcase their talents while also adhering to the essence of the Christmas classics.

Creativity and originality

While retaining the core elements of traditional Christmas carols, the best jazz Christmas albums offer fresh interpretations and innovative arrangements.

They incorporate elements of jazz harmony, improvisation, and rhythmic innovation, transforming familiar melodies into captivating and unexpected musical journeys.

This creativity sets them apart from traditional renditions and adds a unique charm to the holiday season.

Festive spirit and holiday cheer

The essence of Christmas lies in its festive spirit and holiday cheer, which should be palpable in the best jazz Christmas albums.

The music should evoke feelings of joy, warmth, and celebration, transporting listeners into the heart of the holiday season. These albums become a soundtrack for the festive spirit, adding to the magic of the holidays.

Timeless appeal and enduring popularity

The best jazz Christmas albums transcend the boundaries of time, remaining relevant and enjoyable for generations to come.

They possess a classic quality that resonates with listeners of all ages, ensuring their enduring popularity year after year. These albums become timeless classics, cherished by jazz enthusiasts and casual listeners alike.

The overall mood: 

Some jazz Christmas albums are more upbeat and festive, while others are more introspective and meditative. Choose an album that suits your mood and the atmosphere you want to create.

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Jazz Christmas albums have had a significant impact on the evolution of jazz music, the expansion of the Christmas music genre, and popular culture as a whole.

Contribution to the evolution of jazz music

Jazz Christmas albums have showcased the versatility and adaptability of jazz music, demonstrating its ability to seamlessly blend with traditional Christmas melodies and create fresh interpretations of familiar carols.

These albums have expanded the boundaries of jazz, introducing new elements of harmony, rhythm, and improvisation to the genre.

Expansion of the Christmas music genre

Jazz Christmas albums have enriched the Christmas music genre, introducing a unique and sophisticated dimension to the holiday soundscape.

They have expanded the genre’s appeal, attracting listeners who may not typically enjoy traditional Christmas music.

The popularity of jazz Christmas albums has also helped to legitimize jazz as a serious art form.

Cultural impact and enduring legacy

Jazz Christmas albums have left an indelible mark on popular culture, becoming an integral part of the holiday season for many people.

They have been featured in numerous films, television shows, and commercials, further solidifying their place in the holiday tradition.

Their enduring popularity is a testament to their timeless appeal and ability to evoke feelings of joy, warmth, and nostalgia.

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Jazz Christmas albums have become an enduring tradition, providing a unique and sophisticated soundtrack to the holiday season. They offer a fresh and creative take on classic Christmas carols, infusing them with the improvisational spirit, rhythmic energy, and harmonious textures of jazz music.

These albums have had a significant impact on the evolution of jazz, the expansion of the Christmas music genre, and popular culture as a whole.

Jazz Christmas albums are a must-have for any music lover’s holiday collection. They provide a delightful blend of festive spirit, musical artistry, and timeless appeal, making them the perfect accompaniment to the holiday festivities.

So put on your coziest pajamas, grab a mug of hot chocolate, and let the smooth sounds of jazz fill your home with the joy and spirit of Christmas.

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What are Best jazz Christmas songs?

Here are some of the best jazz Christmas songs:

  • “Jingle Bells” by Ella Fitzgerald

Ellie Fitzgerald’s swinging rendition of “Jingle Bells” is a classic for a reason. Her scatting and improvisation are top-notch, and the arrangement is full of energy and fun.

  • “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” by Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra’s smooth and sophisticated vocals are perfect for this classic Christmas song. The arrangement is simple and elegant, and Sinatra’s phrasing is impeccable.

  • “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole’s version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a heartwarming and nostalgic classic. His warm vocals and the gentle arrangement make it the perfect song for Christmas Eve.

  • “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby’s iconic recording of “White Christmas” is one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. His voice is smooth and dreamy, and the arrangement is full of lush strings and a haunting melody.

  • “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” is another classic that is sure to get you in the holiday spirit. The song is full of warmth and cheer, and Cole’s vocals are as smooth as ever.

Is the Christmas song a jazz song?

Yes, “The Christmas Song” can be considered a jazz song. It has a swing tempo and features improvisational elements, which are two of the hallmarks of jazz music.

The song’s melody is also quite catchy and memorable, which is another characteristic of many jazz standards.

While the original version of “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole is not explicitly jazz, it has been interpreted in a jazz style by many artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Kenny Burrell. These interpretations typically feature improvisational solos, syncopated rhythms, and a more upbeat tempo, making them distinctly jazzy in nature.

Therefore, while “The Christmas Song” is not strictly a jazz song in its original form, it has become closely associated with the jazz genre due to its frequent reinterpretations in a jazz style. It is a testament to the versatility of the song and the adaptability of jazz music.

Why is Christmas music so jazzy?

There are a few reasons why Christmas music is often associated with jazz.

  • Jazz music is inherently festive and celebratory. The improvisational nature of jazz allows musicians to express the joy and excitement of the holiday season in a unique and authentic way. The upbeat tempos and syncopated rhythms of jazz also contribute to the festive atmosphere.
  • Many of the earliest Christmas carols were written during the jazz era. This means that many of the traditional Christmas melodies lend themselves well to being reinterpreted in a jazz style. The harmonies of jazz music can also complement the harmonies of traditional Christmas carols, creating a harmonious and pleasing blend of sounds.
  • Jazz musicians have a long history of recording and performing Christmas music. This has helped to popularize the genre and make it more widely accepted. Jazz musicians such as Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and Vince Guaraldi have all recorded iconic Christmas albums that have become classics in their own right.
  • Jazz music is a genre that is open to improvisation and innovation. This allows jazz musicians to put their own personal stamp on Christmas music, creating unique and fresh interpretations of classic carols. This freedom of expression is part of what makes jazz so appealing and enduring.

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