The Seacoast Jazz Society's Favorite Holiday Tunes
Compiled by Mike Guy
Few things can warm this Grinch’s soul like fun renditions of holiday tunes. Jazz is the go-to here, but any genre works. A few weeks ago, a request was sent out to the Seacoast Jazz Society’s Illuminati to discover their holiday favorites and, selfishly, as a way for me to find some additional cool tunes and provide a column for December. It worked. Members of the SJS Board of Directors and Advisory Board responded quickly with songs and anecdotes. Their tunes and words follow on the order that they responded:
Chris Klaxton, trumpeter, educator, and Seacoast Jazz Society Advisory Board member was the first to respond with an album that I suspect I’ve sold at least a dozen copies of by passing on his tip. As Chris wrote:
I’m a big fan of Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings Christmas album: It’s a Holiday Soul Party! They sound so good, have a “vintage” equipment kind of sound, the holiday standards are well done, and their originals are excellent....and hilarious!
Check out this NPR Tiny Desk Concert of Sharon & Kings doing some of the songs from the holiday album live. You’ll be hooked and, no, Chris I don’t get a cut when you buy the CD. I tried to buy the LP on Amazon — sold out.
Mark Shilansky, pianist, educator and Seacoast Jazz Society Advisory Board member:
“I Wonder as I Wander” - New York voices. Cool arrangement with great reharmonizations that don’t mess with the tune too much. Swingin’ groove too. It’s like the tune was supposed to be that way.
Holly Cole - “River.” A somber version of the Joni tune, produced by Larry Klein who knows a thing or two about Joni’s music. I like the way the phrases are extended, and Holly’s overall despondent vibe.
Matt Langley, saxophonist (saxoffinist), educator and Seacoast Jazz Society Advisory Board member:
My all-time favorite Xmas tune and favorite version of the said tune is Rahsaan Rolland Kirk’s, “Christmas Tune.” From the whacky intro, Rahsaan's badass tone, the goosebump-inducing string backgrounds, the corny ending. Gets me every time! Another fave is "Mary Did You Know?" and the version that made me aware of the tune was my friend Carri Coltrane's. Don't know where you can find a copy of that other than from Carri. (I failed to find Carri’s song, so I’ll owe you one – MG)
Charlie Jennison, saxophonist, educator SJS Past President and current Seacoast Jazz Society Advisory Board member:
How about "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"? Frank Sinatra does a great job. I should mention that it was one of Tommy Gallant's favorite Christmas selections and he had some wonderful substitute changes.
Ryan Parker, pianist, Seacoast Jazz Society Secretary, and Press Room jazz shaman:
One of my favorites and not as popular as most, is Louis Jordan’s version of “Santa Claus, Santa Claus.” As a 12 bar blues it’s a nice departure from the standard Christmas type song. And of course Steve Guerra’s arrangement of it on my album featuring Sharon Jones. Another favorite is a VERY unknown version of Bill Evans singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”…if you can call it that! Nice to hear him, a typically fairly serious and introspective personality, come out of his shell. We are lucky to have it recorded.
Terry MacDonald, drummer, jazz sage, former Vice President and current Advisory Board member of the Seacoast Jazz Society, and Creative Director of Seacoast Jazz Notes:
Some 20 holiday seasons ago, at the Pottery Barn on Newbury Street in Boston, I spotted a special Pottery Barn holiday jazz CD featuring various jazz artists. To my delight, among the artists was Roger Kellaway, an old friend. His recording of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” has been part of our holiday season soundtrack ever since. It’s a sweet little arrangement of the classic holiday song. We went to New York over the weekend (Nov. 2019) to hear Roger and his trio performing at Birdland, on the occasion of Roger’s 80th birthday, so there’s also a certain symmetry about my choice of this recording. Happy holidays!
Bruce Pingree, well, there’s not much related to music in the Seacoast that Bruce is not or has not been involved with. I’ve even seen him in the airports of distant cities, there to hear music no doubt. In my next life, if I can’t be Matt Langley, I’ll be Bruce:
I may be a bit late, but here's a few of my favs.. Louis Armstrong's " 'Zat You Santa Claus," Louis Prima and his N.O. Gang, "What Will Santa Claus Say?" Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby," Pearl Bailey's " Five Pound Box Of Money," Mabel Scott's "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus," Sugar Chile Robinson's "Christmas Boogie," Lionel Hampton's version of "Merry Christmas Baby," Charles Brown's "Please Come Home Christmas"...I could go on forever...I've done many Holiday shows over my 47 years of radio…