With year after year of the same Christmas and holiday music, you may want to, at this point, rip your ears off at any mention of Santa or jingle bells. However, that same old, seemingly boring music can come anew in the workings of innovative jazz musicians.
1. "The Christmas Song" from Ella Fitzgerald's "Christmas" Album
This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs and Ella Fitzgerald's performance of it is simply stunning. The band is swinging, there is a lovely xylophone or vibraphone solo and Ella makes any song she sings instantly pleasurable with her cheerful phrasing and tone.
2. "Ave Maria" from Harry Connick Jr.'s "When My Heart Finds Christmas" Album
Harry Connick Jr., who is known as a singer, is also a gifted piano player in his own right. This tune, while always beautiful, can sometimes weary listeners who have heard it multiple times. Harry retains the beauty of the song, perhaps even making it more beautiful, with a couple of minutes of gorgeous piano playing followed by his lovely, clear voice singing the tune in front of an enchanting orchestra.
3. "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" from the "Frank Sinatra Christmas" Album
Frank Sinatra, deemed a crooner in his early career and a master interpreter in his later years, reinvents this Christmas hit. He swings the tune with the big band behind him and rearranges key melodic parts it to make it new.
4. "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" from Harry Connick Jr.'s "When My Heart Finds Christmas" Album
Harry freshens up this piece with a drum entrance sounding like snow, a break with him singing, and bold big band entrance that starts the tune swinging. The horns play with great skill and add a boldness to the piece, while the strings add a classic element to the tune. Connick Jr. also reinvents the classic melody a few times.
5. "O Holy Night" from Ella Fitzgerald's "Christmas" Album
This hymn is beautifully done normally, but Ella elevates that beauty with her swinging, clear voice and with the lovely choral voices backing her up. The song also ends with a grandeur hit and has some lovely purely vocal parts.
6. "Linus And Lucy" from the Vince Guraldi Trio's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Album
Most people know the main theme of this iconic tune, but they do not listen further to the great jazz work happening. This work has made Guraldi's sound instantly recognizable, as it should be, and is a wonderful holiday tune to get anyone in the spirit.
7. "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" from Harry Connick Jr.'s "What A Night! A Christmas Album"
This from a more recent Christmas album of Harry's. This piece swings hard with muted trumpet, the walking bass and Harry's piano soloing. It is a tune that makes you want to get up and dance and has such interesting instrumental parts. Harry also makes the melody anew with his unique phrasings.
8. "Jingle Bells" from the "Ella and Louis Christmas" Album
Louis Armstrong is one of the only other artists that Ella has done duets with and his superb trumpet playing only elevates her lovely singing. This version of "Jingle Bells" especially elevates the original with Armstrong's muted trumpet playing and the swinging background singers.
9. "O Holy Night" from Harry Connick Jr.'s "When My Heart Finds Christmas" Album
I know I already included "O Holy Night" from Ella Fitzgerald's album, but Harry's rendition of it is so good, and different, that it had to be added to the list. What makes Harry's rendition so good is the instrumentation. Harry sings beautifully, but the eclectic woodwind instruments and the gorgeous french horn add a unique fullness to the tune. It is lovely to listen to and one never gets bored with such unique instrumentation. The tune evolves as it goes on and features many beautiful instrumental solos.
10. "Christmas Time Is Here- Instrumental" from the Vince Guraldi Trio's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Album
A lesser known hit than "Linus and Lucy," but still pretty widely known and popularized by Charlie Brown. There is just such a calming, relaxing and almost romantic quality to Guraldi's piano playing.
Even if you hate the repetitiveness of Christmas music and dread those holiday tunes every year you can find something different in these jazzy pieces. These classic artists reinvent what may seem boring into beautiful and new variations. With such lovely tunes as these, it would be hard to not be excited for Christmas!