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The Greatest Jazz Christmas Performance of All Time

On Dec. 25, 1948, Charlie Parker created a jazzy manger in the Royal Roost

Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker (photo: William P. Gottlieb c/o Library of Congress)

Charles Dickens, that prose poet of Christmas, believed that the end of the year—the holiday portion—not only was made for the best celebrations but also was the ideal season for us to reflect on pain and loss, and how our life might become better fructified in the future. In other words, it’s a chance to take stock, be grateful, or try to figure out how we might come to a place in our journeys as humans where future Christmases will provide many reasons for gratitude.

We jazz fans always have music to be thankful for, whether it’s that new artist we fell in love with in the past year, or maybe a titan of old we’ve rediscovered, or someone who ought to have been a titan but too long eluded our standard radar for such things. And there are so many wonderful Christmas-related recordings we can dip into from our favorite artists. There’s Ella Fitzgerald wanting us to have a swinging Christmas, or Jimmy Smith offering us some Christmas cookin’—and though the radio playlists, shopping malls, and seemingly a million Starbucks want you to think Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole are seasonal crooners, they were mighty jazz maestros who just happened to invoke the Christmas spirit, a time or two, better than nearly anyone else who has ever decided to open their mouths and sing a tune.

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