Tonight, a bit of a jazz vibe for our three under the tree.
Our first cut is the first cut off that Christmas tape I recorded off the radio in Madison, Wisconsin, 20 or so years ago. (For more of those tunes, circle back to Vol. 7 and Vol. 13.) I came across it quite by accident the other night. The most pleasant surprise of the season so far.
It’s also the first cut from “Christmas Cookin’,” the 1964 Christmas album from Jimmy Smith, the master of the Hammond B-3 organ in a jazz setting. On this tune, his cool Hammond undercuts some big, brassy orchestration. From the liner notes:
“Jimmy Smith presents music for a modern Christmas. The arrangements are as new as tomorrow’s sports car; the songs included are as traditional as the tinseled tree. …
“This fine album will last long after the shining lights and the yuletide tree have been put away. It is not only a seasonal album, designed for listening when the holiday time is at its height, but a definitive collection of familiar material treated in a highly original manner. Music that will stand up any time.”
Indeed, it has. I’ve enjoyed this for years without knowing who did it.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas Cookin’,” 1964.
Our second cut brings vibes, and good vibes, from the great Lionel Hampton. This is from another album I seemingly have had forever, a compilation of jazz and blues from the ’30s to the ’50s. If you are a regular visitor to AM, Then FM, this is one that could have come from Ray’s Corner. It was recorded on Oct. 27, 1950. In addition to Hampton on the vibes, this one features Milt Buckner on piano and Sonny Parker on vocals.
“Merry Christmas Baby,” Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra, 1950, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. Out of print. Stash, in this instance, is the name of the label — Stash Records out of Brooklyn, New York. (Nice cover, eh?)
Some, but not all, of the tunes on “The Stash Christmas Album” also can be found on “Santa Claus Blues,” a CD released in 1988 on Jass Records. Also out of print, though.
Our third cut is from “An Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas,” another album I seemingly have had forever.
The Kaz Jazz Quartet is a side project of Austin, Texas, sax player Mark Kazanoff, who plays on lots of Texas and New Orleans blues and R&B albums. He’s the sax player for Marcia Ball, the long, tall R&B pianist and singer who’s one of our faves. The jazz quartet has been together since 1985, so this must have been one of its first cuts.
“The Christmas Song,” the Kaz Jazz Quartet, from “An Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas,” 1986.
Enjoy. More to come.