Merry Christmas! I know that’s a bit premature, but everywhere I go I hear carols or the jing, jang, jingle of music accompanying advertisements. There’s such a wide range of presentation and quality. I try to look at it as an opportunity for musicians everywhere to get creative within a structure that features evergreens, an excuse for giving, elves, a big guy with a sled, and, even, a little religion. I can’t help but get a bit excited. I love the lights! I love the snow, too, if there is any.
There are aspects of the holidays that are problematic, which is not to say they’re problems, but I’m not going there. I’m concentrating on the great tunes! Whether played straight or interpreted, whether traditional or newly minted (peppermint-ed?), and no matter what tradition they’re from, there is an amazing variety of styles, moods, and emotions that get addressed.
Elves from Bing Crosby to David Bowie, Barbra Streisand to James Brown, Bob Dylan to Booker T. and the MGs, The Beach Boys to Justin Bieber have all contributed to this pile of presents. And that’s just some of the Bs. If you’re a player and don’t have a Christmas album it means something. Could mean something naughty or it could mean something nice, it just depends. I have a long list of favorites that is always expanding to include choirs, atheists, motorcycle gangs, pickers, yodelers, postal employees, and new age enthusiasts.
The variety is incredible and the whole thing is improbable. Maybe most improbable is how the songs can transcend the performers. Not to mention, how the old can be made new and the new can sometimes be as good as the old. Or, how after years of hearing the same tunes, innumerable times, they still have the ability to warm my heart. Maybe it’s just the eggnog or the mistletoe or the anticipation, but I don’t think so. It’s something about the tunes.
Here’s a short selection of the great variety that comes out of the speakers at this time of year.
The Drifters White Christmas Unknown Barbershop Quartet Jolly Old St. Nicholas Mike Marshall Silent Night Johnny Mercer Santa Claus Is Coming To Town Mabel Scott Boogie Woogie Santa Claus Tchaikovsky Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies Steve Lacy A Merrier Christmas Bing Crosby A Hawaiian Christmas Paul McCartney Wonderful Christmas Time Big Al Anderson Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer