The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration—and of course, music! What better way to get into the festive spirit than with some jazz-infused Christmas tunes?
Jazz and Christmas music have been intertwined for decades, with many jazz musicians putting their own spin on classic holiday songs. From the legendary Vince Guaraldi Trio’s iconic A Charlie Brown Christmas to the sultry vocals of Diana Krall’s Christmas Songs, there are plenty of jazz Christmas albums to fill your home with the perfect ambiance.
In this blog post, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 Best Christmas Jazz Albums that are sure to bring some cheer and warmth to your holiday season. So, sit back, relax, and let these timeless Christmas jazz albums transport you to a winter wonderland, filled with jazz-infused holiday cheer!
The 10 Best Christmas Jazz Albums
Vince Guaraldi Trio
A Charlie Brown Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas is a jazz Christmas album that has captured the hearts of generations since its release in 1965. Composed by the legendary pianist and composer, Vince Guaraldi, the album features a unique blend of jazz, blues, and bossa nova, combined with the iconic characters and story of the beloved “Peanuts” comic strip. The album was created as a soundtrack for the television special of the same name, which follows the adventures of the lovable Charlie Brown and his friends as they discover the true meaning of Christmas.
The album opens with the playful and upbeat “O Tannenbaum.” The track sets the tone for the rest of the album, with its jazzy interpretation of a classic Christmas tune. The album also features original compositions by Guaraldi, which have become classics in their own right.
What makes A Charlie Brown Christmas such a beloved album is its ability to evoke a sense of nostalgia and warmth. The album is a true holiday classic.
Vince Guaraldi: piano, Hammond organ; Fred Marshall, Monty Budwig: double bass; Jerry Granelli, Colin Bailey: drums
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Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas is another holiday classic. Released in 1960, the album features some of the most beloved Christmas songs of all time, including “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” What sets this album apart from other Christmas albums is the way in which Fitzgerald infuses each song with her own unique style and flair.
The album opens with “Jingle Bells,” which sets the tone for the rest of the album with its playful and upbeat swing tempo. Fitzgerald’s silky-smooth vocals are accompanied by a full orchestra, featuring lush strings and bright brass. The album also features several duets with pianist and arranger, Lou Levy, including “Sleigh Ride” and “Winter Wonderland.”
Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas is a must-have for any jazz or Christmas music lover. The album is a timeless holiday classic that is sure to bring joy and warmth to listeners year after year.
Ella Fitzgerald: vocals; Frank DeVol: Arranger, Conductor
A Child Is Born
A Child Is Born is a beautiful and evocative holiday album by the immensely talented pianist and composer Geri Allen. Released in 2011, this album is a soulful and contemplative exploration of Christmas music, blending jazz improvisation with a deep sense of reverence for the holiday season.
Geri Allen’s piano playing is nothing short of enchanting. She approaches each piece with a delicate touch, infusing it with a sense of warmth and tenderness.
Geri Allen masterfully balances traditional holiday melodies with her unique jazz sensibilities. Tracks like “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Silent Night” maintain the familiar beauty of the original carols while incorporating subtle improvisations and harmonies that give the songs a fresh and sophisticated twist.
Geri Allen’s A Child Is Born stands out as a captivating and heartfelt Christmas album that pays tribute to the season’s spiritual essence while maintaining the adventurous spirit of jazz.
Geri Allen: Fazioli piano, celeste, Farfisa organ, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Hohner clavinet; Carolyn Brewer, Connaitre Miller, Barbara Roney: vocals; Farah Jasmine Griffin: spoken word
Christmas Cookin’ is a delightful album by the legendary jazz organist Jimmy Smith. Released in 1964, the album opens with “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” featuring Smith’s signature Hammond B-3 organ. Right from the start–from 0’38 on the video hereunder– you can feel the groove and soul that Smith brings to these holiday classics. His improvisational style adds a sense of spontaneity and excitement to familiar songs.
One of the standout tracks on the album is “Jingle Bells,” where Smith’s organ playing takes on a playful and swinging quality. His impeccable timing and intricate keyboard work make this rendition a joyous and infectious holiday tune.
The synergy between the musicians is evident, creating a tight-knit groove that perfectly complements Smith’s organ virtuosity. So Christmas Cookin’ is not just a collection of holiday standards; it’s a testament to Jimmy Smith’s unparalleled talent. His organ playing is expressive and soulful, breathing new life into these well-loved Christmas songs.
This album is perfect for setting a festive mood during holiday gatherings.
Jimmy Smith: organ; Kenny Burrell, Quentin Warren: guitar; Art Davis: double bass; Grady Tate, Billy Hart: drums; Margaret Ross: harp; Joe Newman: flugelhorn; Paul Faulise, Tommy Mitchell: bass trombone; Chauncey Welsch, Jimmy Cleveland: trombone; Ernie Royal, Danny Stiles, Joe Wilder, Bernie Glow: trumpet; Jim Buffington, Earl Chapin, Donald Corrado, Morris Secon: french horn; Harvey Phillips: tuba; George Devens: percussion
A Dave Brubeck Christmas
A Dave Brubeck Christmas is an album by jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, released in 1996. The album features a mix of traditional Christmas carols and original compositions, all arranged and performed in Brubeck’s signature style of adventurous, complex jazz.
The album opens with “Homecoming,” an original composition by Brubeck that sets a joyous, celebratory tone for the album. Other highlights include “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” which features a playful, uptempo arrangement that showcases Brubeck’s virtuosic piano playing, and “What Child Is This?” a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the classic carol.
A Dave Brubeck Christmas is a unique and adventurous take on holiday music that perfectly showcases Brubeck’s inventive and virtuosic approach to jazz.
Dave Brubeck: piano
Crescent City Christmas Card
Crescent City Christmas Card is a 1990 holiday album by trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis, featuring traditional Christmas carols through the prism of the vibrant musical culture of his hometown, New Orleans.
The album opens with “Carol of the Bells,” which sets the tone for the rest of the album. Other highlights include “Winter Wonderland,” which features a playful, upbeat arrangement that showcases Marsalis’s improvisational skills.
Throughout the album, Marsalis is joined by a talented group of musicians. The arrangements are lively and inventive, incorporating elements of jazz, blues, and traditional New Orleans music into the mix. IN a nutshell, this album is a joyous and inventive take on holiday music that perfectly highlights the unique musical culture of New Orleans.
Wynton Marsalis: trumpet, narrator, arranger; Kathleen Battle, Jon Hendricks: vocals; Wessell Anderson: alto saxophone; Todd Williams: clarinet, soprano, saxophone, tenor saxophone; Alvin Batiste: clarinet; Joe Temperley: bass clarinet, baritone saxophone; Wycliffe Gordon: trombone; Marcus Roberts: piano; Reginald Veal: bass; Ben Riley, Herlin Riley: drums
An Oscar Peterson Christmas
The Christmas Album by Oscar Peterson is a wonderful holiday album. Released in 1995, the album features a mix of classic Christmas songs, including “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “The Christmas Waltz,” as well as lesser-known gems, all performed with Peterson’s signature style and elegance.
Peterson’s piano playing is accompanied by a talented ensemble, including bassist Dave Young, drummer Jerry Fuller, and guitarist Lorne Lofsky. Together, they create a warm and festive atmosphere that perfectly captures the magic of the holiday season.
Peterson’s masterful piano playing and the ensemble’s tight musicianship make for a delightful and festive listening experience.
Oscar Peterson: piano; Dave Samuels: vibraphone; Jack Schantz: flugelhorn; Lorne Lofsky: guitar; David Young: double bass; Jerry Fuller: drums; String orchestra conducted and arranged by Rick Wilkins
Six String Santa
Six String Santa is a delightful and enchanting holiday album by the renowned jazz guitarist Joe Pass. Released in 1986, this instrumental masterpiece showcases Pass’s exceptional fingerstyle guitar technique and his unique ability to interpret Christmas classics with warmth and elegance.
Joe Pass’s fingerpicking style is both expressive and intricate, and it brings a sense of intimacy to each track as if he is personally serenading the listener with each note.
Pass masterfully navigates between traditional holiday favorites such as “Silent Night” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and infuses them with his own unique jazz sensibilities. His improvisational skills shine brightly, and each song feels like a fresh and engaging interpretation.
Joe Pass: leader, arranger, guitar; John Pisano: rhythm guitar; Jim Hughart: acoustic bass; Colin Bailey: drums
Ramsey Lewis Trio
Sound of Christmas
Sound of Christmas by the Ramsey Lewis Trio is a classic holiday album that features the talented jazz pianist and his trio performing a mix of traditional Christmas songs and original compositions, released in 1961.
The album kicks off with the upbeat and swinging “Merry Christmas Baby.” Other standout tracks include “Winter Wonderland,” and the incredible “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”:
Sound of Christmas is a joyous and festive album that perfectly captures the holiday spirit. Lewis’ dynamic and virtuosic piano playing is complemented by the tight musicianship of the trio, creating a lively and upbeat listening experience.
Ramsey Lewis: piano; El Dee Young: bass; Issac “Red” Holt: drums; String section arranged and conducted by Riley Hampton
A Merry Christmas!
A Merry Christmas! is an album by the Stan Kenton Orchestra, one of the most influential and innovative big bands in jazz history. Released in 1961, this album is a festive and spirited collection of Christmas songs, uniquely arranged and performed in Kenton’s signature progressive style.
Right from the start, you can hear the Kenton Orchestra’s unmistakable sound – bold and brassy, with intricate arrangements and rich harmonies. Stan Kenton’s vision was to push the boundaries of traditional big band jazz, and he does so with flair on this holiday recording.
A Merry Christmas! captures the essence of the holiday season with its fusion of progressive jazz and Christmas classics. Stan Kenton’s arrangements are intricate and imaginative, often featuring contrasting textures and tonal colors that make each song a unique journey.
Stan Kenton: piano, celeste, conductor; Ernie Bernhardt, Bud Brisbois, Larry McGuire, Bob Rolfe, Dalton Smith, Sanford Skinner: trumpet; Bob Fitzpatrick, Paul Heydorff, Tommy Shepard: trombone; Jim Amlotte, Bob Knight, Dave Wheeler: bass trombone; Joe Burnett, Dwight Carver, Keith LaMotte, Gene Roland, Gordon Davison: mellophone; Clive Acker, Albert Pollan: tuba; Pete Chivily: bass; Artie Anton, Jerry McKenzie: drums; Larry Bunker: percussion; Emil Richards: bells, percussion, vibraphone
The Best Christmas Jazz Albums
- Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy, 1965)
- Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas (Verve, 1960)
- Geri Allen – A Child Is Born (Motéma, 2011)
- Jimmy Smith – Christmas Cookin’ (Verve, 1964)
- Dave Brubeck – A Dave Brubeck Christmas (Telarc, 1996)
- Wynton Marsalis – Crescent City Christmas Card (Columbia, 1989)
- Oscar Peterson – An Oscar Peterson Christmas (Telarc, 1995)
- Joe Pass – Six String Santa (Laserlight, 1992)
- Ramsey Lewis Trio – Sound of Christmas (Argo, 1961)
- Stan Kenton – A Merry Christmas! (Capitol, 1961)
In conclusion, Christmas jazz albums are a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday season, while enjoying some of the most iconic jazz musicians, and their unique interpretations of classic Christmas songs. These albums offer something for every music lover, so whether you’re snuggled up by the fireplace or hosting a holiday party, these 10 Best Christmas Jazz Albums are sure to bring some festive cheer to your ears. Pick your favorite album, pour some eggnog, and let the soothing sounds of Christmas jazz music transport you to a magical world of holiday bliss. Merry Christmas!