The Best Holiday Jazz CDs Ever, from WDUQPittsburgh-based NPR member station WDUQ broadcasts more than 100 hours of jazz programming every week -- a lineup that includes its share of holiday music around this time of year.
Pittsburgh-based NPR member station WDUQ broadcasts more than 100 hours of jazz programming every week — a lineup that includes its share of holiday music around this time of year. Music director Shaunna Morrison Machosky, who also contributes to JazzWorks (a 24-hour syndicated public-radio jazz service), compiled this list of the 10 best holiday jazz CDs.
1. Nat "King" Cole
Nat "King" Cole: The Christmas Songhide caption
"The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)"
Nat "King" Cole's 1946 recording of "The Christmas Song" is considered by many to be the track's definitive reading. Cole's warm voice chases away the winter chill.
2. Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald: Ella Wishes You a Swingin' Christmashide caption
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
The First Lady of Song swings through classic holiday tunes with peerless style. Ella Wishes You a Swingin' Christmas sounds spirited, heartfelt and fun.
3. Vince Guaraldi
Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown Christmashide caption
The classic 1965 holiday TV special still runs today, and the soundtrack sounds just as timeless. Vince Guaraldi's subtle piano work helped bring the cartoon to life.
4. Diana Krall
Diana Krall Featuring the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra: Christmas Songshide caption
With the swinging Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra lending assistance, singer/pianist Diana Krall offers her take on a variety of traditional Christmas songs.
5. Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson: A Nancy Wilson Christmashide caption
"Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"
The legendary singer (and host of NPR's Jazz Profiles) rounded up noted jazz musicians to record a collection of holiday favorites. With proceeds benefiting the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in Pittsburgh — the nonprofit arts and learning center where the disc was recorded — it's for a good cause, too.
6. Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves, Christmas Time Is Herehide caption
"Carol of the Bells"
Reeves brings warmth and finesse to holiday standards that sound anything but standard. Some aren't even immediately recognizable: Her exuberant, swinging take on "Carol of the Bells" is a prime example.
7. 'Yule Be Miserable'
Various Artists, Yule Be Miserablehide caption
"'Zat You, Santa Claus?" (Louis Armstrong)
Holiday music doesn't have to be holly, jolly or bright. Songs on this disc include "Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney," "Nuttin' for Christmas" and "My Birthday Comes on Christmas." Scrooge would approve.
8. 'Jazz Yule Love II'
Various Artists, Jazz Yule Love IIhide caption
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (Sean Jones)
This new holiday collection, showcasing artists on the Mack Avenue label, features trumpeter Sean Jones, legendary composer and arranger Gerald Wilson, and the Hot Club of Detroit.
9. Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis, Crescent City Christmas Cardhide caption
Wynton Marsalis serves up Christmas, New Orleans-style. This disc, originally released in 1989, is worth rediscovering every year.
10. Diane Delin
Diane Delin: Songs for a Peaceable Seasonhide caption
"Overture from the Nutcracker Suite"
Jazz violinist Diane Delin offers fresh interpretations of traditional holiday songs. A Latin-tinged version of "My Favorite Things" leads off this new CD.