I am a great lover of Christmas Music. It often gets a bad rap because every mall plays the same mix of songs over and over throughout the season, but there is so much great music out there that never makes it on the radio. I’ve spent years building my collection of Christmas songs, and pulled out a few of the more obscure gems that I thought might put you in the spirit of the season.
Harry Connick Jr.: “I Pray On Christmas.”
Harry Connick Jr. is probably the most recognizable name on this list. He’s built his career crossing through genres and mediums with success in TV, movies, and as a recording artist. He started out as a New Orleans jazz pianist, and those talents shine through on this original tune. It’s so hard to write Christmas songs that stand out, especially since we have some of the best of the best songs from hundreds of years of music. This track has made it on to my list of Christmas standards, and hopefully yours, too.
Nnenna Freelon: “Spiritual Medley: Children Go Where I Send Thee/Go Tell It”
Nnenna Freelon is a great jazz singer who takes her time exploring “Children Go Where I Send Thee” with her vocals totally exposed over light drums. When the band comes in, the tune fills out, taking her away into “Go Tell It” where she just riffs over the laid-back groove.
Joe Williams: “A Child Is Born”
Joe Williams was the singer and frontman for the Duke Ellington Big Band in the 1950’s. His Christmas album came later, working with a much smaller and more intimate band. This song, “A Child is Born,” is a jazz standard written by Thad Jones for the birth of his daughter. Joe Williams and a few other jazz artists have appropriated the beautiful song for their Christmas albums. Williams rich baritone voice was always strong and robust, but there is a vulnerability that peeks through on this recording that always moves me.