JAZZIZ Editors’ Choice: The Christmas Playlist

The editors of JAZZIZ have the good fortune of being able to listen to new music before it’s officially released in stores and streaming platforms. And because we’re always listening to new tunes, we always know just what to recommend. That’s why we’ll bring you a roundup of ten songs each Monday, featuring music from our favorite new albums, singles and other tunes that may have flown under your radar. And, for good measure, we’ll be throwing in some “golden oldies” as well…

This weekend’s playlist includes a healthy mix of Christmas jazz old and new. We kick off with Oscar Peterson’s lightly-swinging take on “White Christmas.” Next, jet-setting trio Khruangbin offer their psychedelic version of the Charlie Brown anthem, “Christmas Time Is Here,” originally composed by Vince Guaraldi. Organist Jimmy Smith’s version of the quintessential traditional festive song, “Jingle Bells,” appears on Christmas Cookin’ from 1964.

Next, Samara Joy reinvigorates the wintry classic “Warm in December.” “The Christmas Song” is one of five tracks to add a string section to the Ramsey Lewis Trio lineup on the group’s popular holiday-themed full-length, Sound of Christmas from 1961. And there’s more Christmas jazz piano trio goodness: “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” the sole festive track on Trio ’64 by Bill Evans with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian.

Andy James opens Bells Are Ringing with a version of “Winter Wonderland,” arranged by pianist Bill Cunliffe. Vibraphonist Warren Wolf applies his mastery of groove and swing to “O Christmas Tree” from 2020’s Christmas Vibes. John Beasley pays tribute to Duke Ellington’s version of The Nutcracker with his rendition of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” on his first-ever holiday-themed album, Holidaze. And closing out our playlist, John Coltrane’s version of “Greensleeves,” as performed live at the Village Vanguard in 1961.

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