Category Archives: Diana Krall

My Top 5 Christmas Jazz Albums

After my previous post on the Christmas Oratorio, I thought let’s continue the seasonal music a bit more, but expand to Jazz.

Warning: Cheesy Music Ahead!

Yes, obviously, non-classical Christmas music usually is rather cheesy. If you take it to the extremes, it can feel like a bit too much.

But let’s face it, isn’t this the time for “a bit too much”?

The trick is to find the albums that are still giving you the Christmas feel without completely overdoing it. I’ve looked around quite a bit and found 5 albums that are certainly a bit kitsch, but you (or at least I) can listen to an entire album without the feeling of just too much sugar.

 

Holly Cole: Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Alert Records 2001)

Holly Cole Baby It's Cold Outside

I’m actually surprised I haven’t mentioned Holly on my blog yet, as I like her music very much. She’s located somewhere between Jazz and Pop/Singer Songwriter, and I really like her voice.

My favorite song on this album is the track that is probably given you the least holiday spirit, a cover of Merle Haggard’s If We Make It Through December. You can see from this song already that this is not your typical Christmas album.

Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas (Verve 1960)

0004400650862_600

OK, not a lot of kitsch here, but one of the fastest versions of Jingle Bells ever (OK, not as fast as Barbara Streisand here, but still pretty fast). The track selection is a little bit more classical than Holly Cole, so you get all your Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer, Let It Snow,  and Winter Wonderlands, but with the usual charm and swing of Ella’s beautiful voice.

Diana Krall: Christmas Songs (Verve 2005)

Diana Krall Christmas Songs Verve

This is actually already the second Christmas album by Mrs Krall, the first one is a 1999 EP called Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

Diana Krall’s voice is just perfect for Christmas songs, and the not too overloaded Clayton/Hamilton Orchestra is doing a great job here (although poor drummer Jeff Hamilton probably get’s a bit bored here). OK, you get your occasional dose if strings, but they don’t dominate the album too much.

My favorite song on this album is Winter Wonderland, which has a beautiful swing to it.

 

Emilie-Claire Barlow: Winter Wonderland (Victor 2006)

Emilie-Claire Barlow doesn’t have the same near celebrity status as her fellow Canadian Diana Krall, but she’s also a very fine singer. She has a very particular tone, much brighter than all the other singers listed above, if you’ve heard her once, you’ll recognize her immediately.

 

One particularity of this album is that she turns Sleigh Ride into a Samba.

Emilie-Claire Barlow Winter Wonderland

 

Vince Guaraldi: A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy 1965)

And given that I’m a fan of the Jazz Piano Trio, a non-vocal classic had to be on this list. You’ve never heard O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree) swinging better!

Vince Guaraldi A Charlie Brown Christmas

 

You can find the albums above here:

Holly Cole (ProStudimasters)

Ella Fitzgerald (Qobuz)

Diana Krall (Qobuz)

Emily-Claire Barlow (HDtracks)

Vince Guaraldi (Acoustic Sounds)

Musicophile’s 25 Essential Jazz Albums – Part II

Following up to part I of my 25 Essential Jazz albums, here are the entries 13-25. Again no ranking implied in the numbers, this is just a list of albums I think everybody should have heard, and to give you a good understanding of what it is I really like in Jazz.

13. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Moanin (1958)

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Moanin Blue Note 24 192

Well, my entire mini-series on the Jazz Messengers’s spin-offs wouldn’t have been a series without this group. I’m not sure why I haven’t written about this album yet, but I eventually will.

14: Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands – Here Comes Charlie (1961)

Ella Fitzgerald Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie Verve 1961 24 192

Ella again is somebody with so many good albums to choose from. Just to give an example, the Ella and Louis series has been recommended everywhere, and I concur. The live recording Mack the Knife or her many songbook releases are also excellent.

So why this one? Well, purely subjectively again, it was one of my first I ever owned, and it’s got the outstanding 5 star track Cry Me A River.

15. Wayne Shorter: Adam’s Apple (1966)

Wayne Shorter Adam's Apple Blue Note

Already reviewed here.

16. Duke Ellington: Money Jungle (1963)

Duke Ellington Money Jungle

Duke Ellington obviously had a huge influence on Jazz, also as a composer of many standards. I’m not really into big band, but luckily he also did some albums with smaller crews, like the famous Duke Ellington & John Coltrane album, or this one, with Charles Mingus and Max Roach. I mean, what could go wrong if you combine these giants? This by the way has the best version ever of the great standard Caravan.

17. Stan Getz and Kenny Baron – People Time (1992)

Stan Getz Kenny Barron People Time The Complete Recordings

This is another example of a large box of “last concerts” recordings similar to the Bill Evans Consecration I wrote about in Part I of this post. This concert was recorded in Copenhagen very close to Stan Getz too early death.

Often duos in Jazz lack something, not here. This one is just beautiful, and a pleasure to listen to. If you don’t want to go for the full 6 box Complete Recordings, there’s also a 2 box compilation.

18. Oliver Nelson: The Blues And The Abstract Truth (1961)

Oliver Nelson Blues And The Abstract Truth 24 96

Oliver Nelson in a way is the One Hit Wonder of jazz. Or could you name any other album from him (with the possible exception of less known and less interesting part II follow-up with a different cast)?

In any case, just look at the line-up here, Evans!, Chambers!, Hubbard!, Haynes!, Dolphy! and you know you’re onto something. One of my favorite Impulse albums.

19. Oscar Peterson: Exclusively For My Friends (1968)

Oscar Peterson Exclusively For My Friends MPS 24 88

You could nominate many Oscar Peterson albums here. He is really one of the best pianists of all times. However, this set recorded in the cosy Black Forest in the personal studio of Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer, is probably one of the best, and most intimate. This album has recently been remastered from the original tapes.

20. Ray Brown: Summer Wind – Life At The Loa

Ray Brown Trio Summer Wind Live At The Loa Concord

You cannot talk about Oscar Peterson without mentioning Ray Brown, his legendary bassist. Ray has recorded several outstanding albums with the combo of Jeff Hamilton on drums and Gene Harris on the piano. To quote one of the tracks: It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. Well, this one’s got plenty.

21. Diana Krall: The Girl In The Other Room

Diana Krall The Girl in The Other Room 24 192

Talking about Jeff Hamilton, he also plays on this one.

But now you may ask me: what, 25 albums, only 3 vocal jazz among them, and you chose Krall vs. all the other alternatives? Well yes, you could argue about the choice of Krall in general, but not this album. This to me is the best she ever did, by far. The influence of her husband, Elvis Costello, on the songs is clearly there, and this is the first time in my opinion that she truly moves beyond the (very high-class) cocktail bar jazz of her previous albums. Unfortunately, she’s never again reached this level of musical depth since (I personally didn’t like her last two albums, Wallflower and Glad Rag Doll).

22. Grant Green – Idle Moments (1965)

Grant Green Idle Moments 24 192 Blue Note

I’m usually not a big fan of guitar jazz, but the nearly 15 minutes of the title track of this album with so many outstanding musicians, including Joe Henderson (see my post on him here) justifies the including here. I guarantee there’s not one minute of boredom in this slowly developing and evolving track.

23. Michael Wollny Trio – Weltentraum (2014)

OK, so ECM, the great German jazz label, got their share of albums here. Let’s make sure we add another great German jazz label, ACT.

Michael Wollny is one of the great German talents of today, and both the 2014 album Weltentraum as well as this live version are creative, inspired, and fun to listen to.

Michael Wollny Trio Weltentraum Live ACT

24. Alboran Trio – Near Gale (2008)

Alboran Trio Near Gale

Another ACT album. The Italian Alboran Trio seems to have completely disappeared since this 2008 album, and it’s equally great predecessor, Meltemi (2006). What a pity, this is again to me the epitome of a piano trio album.

25. Keith Jarrett: Solo Concerts Bremen-Lausanne (1973)

Keith Jarrett Solo Concerts Bremen Lausann

Yes, I’m cheating. I said in my own rules only one album per artist.

Well, but first of all I make the rules on my own blog, and then this blog has Keith Jarrett in the subtitle. I couldn’t walk away from this without a Jarrett Solo Concerto, given that this was the topic of my very first blog that started this entire adventure entry here.

I could have chosen the Köln Concert, and yes that is a must have for everybody. But so are the Sun Bear Concerts, Bremen Lausanne, The Carnegie Hall Concert or pretty much any other of his solo albums for that matter.

I still have the original vinyl of the excellent Bremen Lausanne, and it is basically just a placeholder for his entire solo works. If I have enough time, I’ll try eventually to review in detail all Keith Jarrett solo concerts.

So, that’s it folks, looking forward to your feedback!

Download sources:

Moanin: here (Qobuz)

Here comes Charlie: here (Qobuz)

People Time: here (Qobuz)

Oliver Nelson: here (Qobuz)

Oscar Peterson: here (Highresaudio)

Ray Brown: here (HDTracks)

Diana Krall: here (Qobuz)

Chick Corea: here (Qobuz)

Bremen-Lausanne: here (Qobuz)

Michael Wollny: here (Qobuz)

Alboran Trio: here (Qobuz)