Two of my articles are Xmas -themed:
“Holiday Cheer and Voice Leading” (includes comments on Carla Bley and Johnny Greenwood)
The bookstores have Sarah Deming’s Gravity prominently displayed; please keep it in mind if you are browsing for a last minute gift. There aren’t so many record stores around anymore, but my Common Practice with Tom Harrell should be available at those that are left.
I admire the timeless purity of the great Christmas carols: their outstanding melodic and harmonic qualities have kept them in circulation. The 20th-century standards with a holiday theme are less important to me, but a few jazz renditions are fabulous:
A raucous “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” by Bill Evans, Gary Peacock, and Paul Motian.
Dexter Gordon’s stately-but-casual performance of “Have Yourself a Merry Christmas.”
Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” replete with swinging sleigh-bells.
Charlie Parker’s incandescent “White Christmas.” Bird even has a little syncopated arrangement — a rarity for Bird when playing a standard — and he quotes “Jingle Bells” when blowing.
Keith Jarrett brought up jazzy Christmas when I interviewed him for DownBeat:
I was listening to the radio at Christmastime, and there were horrible jazz versions of horrible Christmas tunes. I was going to turn it off, but then Sonny Rollins came on with “Winter Wonderland.” I said to myself, “There’s no way I can turn it off now!”
Sonny put so much of himself into this piece. It was something that was only Sonny, and that something made the little tune transcendent.
For years I’ve thought that it would be good for Jarrett himself to record an album of carols, as the purity of that comparatively antique expression seems like a fit with the “Köln” side of Jarrett.
Until that happens, my favorite choice for holiday LP (the disc to spin while trimming the tree etc.) remains resolutely middlebrow: The Canadian Brass playing Bach’s Art of Fugue.