Super Holiday Jazz selections for 2020
‘Tis the season, and New York Jazz Workshop is here to offer super Holiday Jazz selections to have your holidays cool and swinging for 2020!
Arguably the most famous Christmas jazz piece of all time, pianist Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time” is here exposed several generations to creative improvised music and planted the seed for jazz lovers that continues to endure. In a sense, Guaraldi took the kind of innovations made by Bill Evans and made them accessible for the general public, and like with Dave Brubeck a decade earlier, jazz piano was once more in the forefront.
Miles Davis‘ collaborations with Gil Evans extended into 1962, where two selections were captured featuring the late vocalist Bob Dorough, of Schoolhouse Rock fame. Not only does this performance capture the first encounter between Miles and Wayne Shorter before the tenor saxophonist joined the Davis quintet in September of 1964 for Miles In Berlin but the absurdist sense of humor critiquing the commercialism of the Christmas holiday that Dorough injects makes this one of the most memorable Christmas tracks put to wax.
The suave, debonnair version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” tenor titan Dexter Gordon cut in the midst of his second American comeback period was cut on November 4, 1980 with his quartet featuring Kirk Lightsey on piano, bassist David Eubanks, and drummer Eddie Gladden. The tenor saxophonist imbues the track with his signature sense of practically singing lyrics through the horn and the deep throated Lestorian tone. A shorter version was cut and released on a Blue Note Christmas compilation Yule Be Struttin.
Louis Armstrong recorded many Christmas songs, but the big band arrangement ‘”Zat You Santa Claus” captures his warm, jovial, impish spirit perfectly.
Jimmy Smith’s Verve years made the pioneering organist a star and household name. Occasionally on these recordings he’d scale back into his classic trio configuration, and Organ Grinder Swing recorded on June 14, 1965 at Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs, NJ studio is a stone classic. “Greensleeves” the classic English folk melody which John Coltrane tackled four years earlier is given a delirious burning treatment by Smith that finds the organist entering Trane and Larry Young territory. Most of this session was done in one take, but this track required four takes to get right and this is the take. In September of 1966 Smith would recapture the Christmas spirit and record “Baby It’s Cold Outside” as part of his only studio meetings with Wes Montgomery.
I have been the staff writer for the New York Jazz Workshop School of Music blog in midtown Manhattan since 2014, and that has broadened my freelance writing skills considerably. In addition to writing artist bios, and articles of interest that pertain to the mission of the school, I have interviewed (in print on the site) legendary guitarist and NEA Jazz Master Pat Metheny, trumpeter Cuong Vu, and in 2015 embarked on producing a podcast for the school where I have achieved my dream and interviewed jazz giants such as Dave Liebman, Lenny White, rising talents like Thana Alexa, Logan Richardson, guitarist and bassist Brian Kastan, among others. I also work on SEO optimization for the blog. In 2015 I started my blog Jazz Views with CJ Shearn, and have written liner notes for 5 time Grammy winner and Oscar and Golden Globe nominee, Antonio Sanchez (for his latest recording “Channels of Energy”) and guitarist Gene Ess for his latest recording, scheduled to be released in November 2018.
My passion for jazz music is what drives me, which is an interest I’ve had since I can remember. I initially began writing about jazz at the age of 13 for my high school newspaper, and in my late teens contributed occasionally to jazzreview.com. In college I was member of the Harpur Jazz Project which brought jazz acts to campus. I’ve also contributed in the past to AllAboutJazz where I was mentored by John Kelman. I decided to focus on my passion for jazz music journalism after a job in the social services field as a caseworker went south, and as a person with a physical disability I work on going against the odds, living independently and having accomplished things people had said I’d never do.