This is a very special post, as it allows me to combine two things that I care a great deal about: New Orleans and Christmas music. And clearly, the two are not mutually exclusive. While most would picture traditional jazz, modern jazz, and cajun/zydeco, holiday music reflects the broader spectrum of New Orleans. And while space and propriety might limit this post, there’s plenty of holiday music out there for your enjoyment.
This year’s favorite comes from Ellis Marsalis, the dean of New Orleans jazz. On his updated album, “A New Orleans Christmas Carol,” Marsalis uses his piano to take us on an extensive tour of the season’s music. If you’re looking for a funky beat or New Orleans brass bands this is not your ticket. However, if you like straight-forward, heart-felt jazz, you’ll find a home here.
The playlist includes Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here.” It remains true to the original, but with the added interplay between Marsalis’ piano and his youngest son, Jason, on vibraphone. And if that classic soundtrack to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” strikes your fancy, then there is a lot here that you’ll find appealing. It is truly hard to pick favorites, but other highlights include Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” with Jason Marsalis on drums, a straight-up jazz trio take on “We Three Kings,” and a wonderful celebration of Ellis Marsalis’ piano mastery on Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song.”
Besides Ellis and Jason Marsalis, musicians include: Bill Huntington and Paul Harris on bass; Roman Skakun on vibraphone; and Johnaye Kendrick and Cynthia Liggins Thomas with vocals on “Christmas Joy” and “A Child is Born,” respectively.
This collection might not have the commercial success of a lot of the seasonal dreck that’s out there, but it has quickly risen to the top of the playlist in our household.