It's beginning to look a lot like….Christmas! (I'm writing this in my green reindeer pajama pants.) As a teacher, I find it interesting that kids and teenagers can't wait to play Christmas tunes while the grown up students want to wait as long as possible. They usually end up waiting too long and not being able to really get more than one tune or so together before Christmas break. The connotation Christmas music has is so different for the two groups. It's really unfortunate but commercialism has done its damage. Instead of associating peace and gratefulness with Christmas, some people get stressed over all the obligations to full fill and expectations to meet, not to mention the post-holiday financial hangover.
Then there is the arrangement issue. I had a student who didn't want to play "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" because it was lame or corny. I tried to demonstrate how that depended on the musician's treatment of the tune and how different approaches could communicate different atmosphere. I think I convinced him that is was a hip tune after all.
I actually don't have that many Christmas albums. I guess I listen to the same stuff year after year. Ella Fitzgerald's "Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas" is definitely my favorite Xmas album, filled with joy only she could bring. Another one I like is Starbucks own (don't tell anybody) "By Golly Get Jolly." I particularly enjoy Lena Horne's groovy 'Jingle All The Way', and I think "That's what I want for Christmas" by Nancy Wilson is a beauty. "James Taylor at Christmas" is like someone said in the Amazon reviews "a golden nugget shining brightly" with the wonderful Larry Goldings on piano. I used to have the Jackson 5 Christmas Album on vinyl and am glad to finally have it on my computer to enjoy this Christmas. These all bring joy to the Holidays. I have a few more CDs but it is usually the same tunes over and over again, with slightly different arrangements. In spite of that I probably wouldn't hesitate to buy a Brad Mehldau trio Christmas album or one by Bobo Stenson.
Yes, how nice would it be if Bobo Stenson or Tomasz Stanko made a Christmas album for ECM? So I googled Christmas and ECM and found that Carla Bley just released Carla's Christmas Carols, but not Bobo or Thomas. But through the wonderful feed of twitter I did find out about a very interesting album by Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick (an ECM recording artist).
It's called "Tre Vise Menn" (Three Wise Men) and joining Eick in interpretations of various Christmas carols are Ertan Tekin from Turkey and Pasha Hanjani from Iran. Now that sounds like a breath of fresh air.
Hip me to your favorite Christmas albums.