JazzTimes 10: Classic Jazz Christmas Albums

Recordings that always make for a cool Yule

Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown Christmas
  1. Ella Fitzgerald: Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas (Verve, 1960)

Though it only comes off the shelf for a few weeks each year, Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas is one of the highlights of Fitzgerald’s justly celebrated Verve era. The liberties she takes with the melodies are unusually constrained, but it doesn’t matter. Who knew there were such rhythmic possibilities in “Jingle Bells” or “Frosty the Snowman,” those chestnuts of all chestnuts? Speaking of chestnuts, the album also includes an unjustly overlooked take on Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song,” which Fitzgerald stamps with her indelible, irrepressible finesse. Best of all is a delightfully down-home take on Count Basie and Jimmy Rushing’s “Good Morning Blues.”

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.