Jazz Christmas Albums: Everything You Need To Know So Far!

Christmas Jazz Jam is a 2009 Christmas album by Wynton Marsalis released by Compass Productions.

Wessell Anderson on alto saxophone, Vincent Gardner and Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, Victor Goines on tenor and soprano saxophones and clarinet, and Herlin Riley on drums are among the musicians on the album.

10 Best Christmas Jazz Albums

Best Christmas Jazz Albums Ever

10. A Dave Brubeck Christmas (1996)

Dave Brubeck is probably best known for his 1959 hit Take Five. However, fast forward a few decades to the mid-1990s, and we find Dave in excellent if somewhat different, form with this lovely solo piano album of Christmas standards with light jazz touches.

Christmas children’s favorites like ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Winter Wonderland’ get some quicksilver improvisational magic… and there’s even a Brubeck original, the atmospheric ‘To Us Is Given’.

Jazz Christmas Albums

9. Jamie Cullum: the Pianoman at Christmas (2020)

Jamie Cullum, a jazz pianist, and singer got a lot of things right with his first Christmas album. The Pianoman at Christmas managed to be both a great collection of traditional festive jazz/pop standards and a great singer/songwriter album.

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The Pianoman at Christmas was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and includes a nice mix of orchestral, big band, and small group arrangements. Tracks like ‘Christmas Never Gets Old’ has a nice Brat Pack swing to them, while ‘Jolly Fat Man’ has a touch of blues – and plenty of humor.

8. Diana Krall: Christmas Songs (2005)

The mood on this album by singer/pianist Diana Krall is a little more late-night, mellow, and smoky than on many Christmas albums. There are plenty of Christmas classics on here, including such time-honored festive favorites as ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,’ ‘Jingle Bells,’ ‘Winter Wonderland,’ and ‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,’ some of which made our list of the Best Christmas Songs of All Time.

There are echoes of jazz greats such as Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra in here, and with slower numbers to more uptempo party-starters, this will make a great Christmas album for those who prefer a late-night groove.

7. Louis Armstrong & Friends: What a Wonderful Christmas (1997)

The credit ‘Louis Armstrong & Friends is a bit of a stretch, as the great jazz legend appears on only six of the fourteen tracks on What a Wonderful Christmas. Other jazz greats include Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee, Eartha Kitt, and Duke Ellington, among others. Armstrong’s own ‘Cool Yule’ is a standout among a fantastic festive collection.

6. Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas (1967)

This is the first of two mentions in our chart of the legendary Ella Fitzgerald. The jazz legend also appeared several times in our Best Christmas jazz songs feature: it’s safe to say Ella gave a good Christmas. Unlike its predecessor, Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas features the great chanteuse singing her way through a nicely curated selection of religious Christmas songs.

Top Five Christmas Jazz Albums

5. An Oscar Peterson Christmas (1995)

Oscar Peterson, a Canadian virtuoso jazz pianist, and composer are widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, and his talents are displayed to stunning effect on this infectiously joyful 1995 Christmas album. Yuletide classics like ‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town’ and ‘Winter Wonderland’ get brilliantly lively, hook-laden renditions, and Peterson’s guests like Dave Samuels (vibraphone) and Jack Schantz (flugelhorn), as well as drummer Jerry Fuller, match him for swing, rhythm, and sheer effervescence every step of the way.

Jazz Christmas Albums

4. Frank Sinatra: Christmas Songs by Sinatra (1948)

This is the first album on our list, and it harkens back to the 1940s, a golden era for both jazz and Christmas music. As we saw in our article on the Best Christmas Jazz Songs, many of the most popular Christmas jazz songs first appeared in the postwar years. Christmas Songs by Sinatra is a well-balanced collection of well-known Yuletide hymns (‘Ave Maria,’ ‘O Come All Ye Faithful,’ ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’) and other Christmas standards from the jazz and swing canon, including ‘Let It, Snow! Let It, Snow! Let It Snow!’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town.’

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Sinatra’s beautiful light baritone, which so effortlessly ushers in jingling bells, falling snow, and jolly December evenings by the fireside, unites them all and makes this album such a feel-good festive classic.

3. Ella Fitzgerald: Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas (1960)

Ella Fitzgerald’s hymn-filled Christmas album, Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas, has already been chosen. However, we have another festive Ella long player in the works for you. Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas was released seven years before that album to a grateful world.

And we have to say that Ella in a jolly, jazzy, secular mode is possibly even better than Ella in a devotional, hymn-singing mode. Throughout this absolute gem of a Christmas album, that wonderful purity of tone, as well as that crystalline diction and intonation, are heard to marvelous effect. Ella also adds a deliciously unexpected rhythmic kick to songs like ‘Frosty’ and ‘Jingle Bells,’ which you never thought could sound this fresh and joyful.

2. Nat King Cole: the Magic of Christmas (1960)

Nat King Cole recorded a few Christmas songs early in his career. The Magic of Christmas, on the other hand, was his only dedicated Christmas long-player: and what a wonderful thing it is. It’s a beautifully chosen collection of well-known Christmas carols, including ‘Away in a Manger,’ ‘The First Noel,’ ‘I Saw Three Ships,’ and ‘Joy to the World,’ all deftly rendered in Cole’s magical, perfectly-pitched baritone.

While we’re on the subject of Nat Cole and Christmas, no holiday season is complete without a rendition of The Christmas Song, which Cole first recorded in 1946 and later recorded again in 1961 for the long-player The Nat King Cole Story.

Jazz Christmas Albums

1. Vince Guaraldi Trio: a Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

When the beloved cartoon strip Peanuts was given a Christmas TV special in 1965, creator Charles M. Schulz asked pianist Vince Guaraldi and his trio to compose a score that would evoke the strip’s innocent humor and charm. And on this album, Guaraldi and co-performers Fred Marshall (double bass) and Jerry Granelli (drums) do everything asked of them and more, evoking a wonderful world of childlike joy and festive good cheer. The album is also an excellent introduction to jazz for younger listeners.

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