Christmas music can be problematic. The shlock factor is so high, and everyone, it seems has to get into the act of cashing in with a holiday album. But as in any genre, there are good ones, bad ones, and plenty of mediocre ones. I find the jazzy ones to be the easiest to digest, if only because jazz is, at least these days, one of the least commercial styles of music we have, so you're more likely to hear something that's done for the music, and not just the money.
For a tasty, jazzy selection of Christmas tunes guaranteed to put you in a righteous holiday mood without making you feel like you've just ingested valium, you need look no further than "A Very Swingin' Basie Christmas" by The Count Basie Orchestra, recorded and released in 2015 on the Concord label.
2015 marked the 80th Anniversary of The Count Basie Orchestra. William "Count" Basie (1904-1984) started his orchestra in Kansas City in 1935, and proceeded to develop and maintain one of the greatest jazz orchestras in music history. With Mr. Basie's meticulous attention to detail, selecting the very best musicians, and making sure that every tune could be danced to, The Count Basie Orchestra soon became the favorite for everyone to listen and dance to with its irresistible "Kansas City stomp" style. Anyone who ever watched "Blazing Saddles" will never forget their cameo, playing "April In Paris" out in the bright sun on the high plains as Cleavon Little made his grand entrance.
Under the leadership of its Director, Scotty Barnhart, The Count Basie Orchestra has continued the tradition of excellence in swinging and shouting the blues with precision, and continue to be "The Most Explosive Force In Jazz." "A Very Swingin' Basie Christmas!" was released in celebration of the band's 80th Anniversary, and features guest vocalists Johnny Mathis ("It's The Holiday Season"), Ledisi ("The Christmas Song"), and Carmen Bradford ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"). Additionally, Ellis Marsalis (Piano) and Plas Johnson (saxophone) are guest musicians on "I'll Be Home For Christmas."
If you prefer your Christmas music straight, with no chaser, and really want to swing your jingle bells, go out and buy "A Very Swingin' Basie Christmas!", the perfect elixir to get the holidays started off on the right foot.