|Illustration from GRP Christmas Collection CD (1988)|
I've heard many people say they "hate" jazz, and I can sympathize. Some jazz can be frantic, non-melodic, showy and loud. But there's also a genre called Smooth Jazz, derived from West Coast Jazz, invented by my dear, late friend Shorty Rogers. Christmas jazz is almost always smooth. In this day of iTunes, where you can purchase individual songs, it's never been safer, easier and more affordable to spice up your Christmas repertoire with some tasty jazz. I'll give you some links to sample a few luminous examples below, but first consider that you probably already own at least one jazz Christmas CD: the Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas.
I still consider The Carpenters' Christmas Portrait to be the best yuletide recording of all time—which is vocal pop and symphonic instrumental, with only sprinkles of jazz-like piano tossed in. I then rank Amy Grant's 1983 A Christmas Album in second place, followed quickly by Michael W. Smith's 1989 Christmas. Don't even think of not buying the complete album if you don't already own these vocal classics (which also contain entire instrumental songs).
The CD cover atop this post perfectly epitomizes jazz: an incomplete drawing, an iconographic representation, beckoning you to fill in the blanks. And so I offer the GRP Christmas Collection as the best-of-breed (it has grown to three volumes). Next is from our local boy, Larry Carlton, who offers Christmas at My House, and he's in a quartet too: FourPlay, whose 1999 classic Snowbound opens with my all-time favorite Christmas instrumental recording—Angels We Have Heard on High. The GRP label also released the wonderful Making Spirits Bright in 2004, following the 2002 success of trumpeter Chris Botti's pensive December on Columbia (a title he shared with George Winston's famed 1982 CD).
I hope this small sampling is enough to convince you to check out some smooth jazz this Christmas—and become part of the celebration of Jesus' wondrous arrival on earth.
I don't make any money from any of the links above. GooglePlay offers web-based 90-second samples—triple what Amazon offers. The app-based, proprietary iTunes Music Store also gives 90-second previews, but doesn't offer any way to "share" music. So listen at Google and buy wherever you wish.