Nils “Jingle Bells” ~ No song gets us in the Christmas (goodwill towards men) mood better than Jingle Bells. This instrumental has Nils’ guitar singing joyfully.
David Benoit “Linus and Lucy” ~ A great group of musicians joined David Benoit (acoustic piano, keys, arrangements) for his 1986 “live in the studio” project that yielded this great version of the Vince Guaraldi classic. Nathan East (bass), Paul Jackson, Jr. (guitar), John “JR” Robinson (drums), Randy Kerber (keys) and Bobby Hall (percussion) combine to capture nostalgia with this special song.
Nils “Merry Merry Christmas” ~ The lead off track from 2018 Christmas Everyday features a pleasantly soulful vocal by Erin Stevenson to accompany Nils’ sterling guitar in spreading good cheer. The background singers add lush texture. Santa is coming, let us all be merry and bright.
Brian Bromberg “Celebrate Me Home” ~ The Kenny Loggins original is revised for 2020 with Chris Walker taking the vocal duties, with soulful aplomb. A great song about coming home to celebrate a holiday with family and friends. As you’d expect, the instrumentation and production are top-shelf.
Brian Culbertson “This Christmas” ~ This version of the late Donny Hathaway classic is our favorite. Soulful Christmas is the release and this instrumental is oh, so fine. The excellence of production that Culbertson is famous for is on full display. You can almost smell the Christmas cookies baking in the oven; this track is that sweet.
Marcus Anderson “Let It Snow” ~ TLC Christmas is the 2011 All-Star release for this smooth jazz man. Nicholas Cole has more duties than just his usual keys, and he is this track’s guest artist. Together they craft a smooth hot chocolate warming by the fire moment; let it snow.
Warren Hill “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” ~ John Lennon’s classic is given a smooth caress with the lush sax of Canada’s Warren Hill gaining in intensity as the song unfolds. 2002 was the year this unmistakable gem emerged from the Berklee College graduate’s A Warren Hill Christmas.
Hiroshima “Spirit of the Season” ~ The unusual instruments employed by the group grant some variety to the playlist. Variety is the spice of life, we say.
Dave Koz “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” ~ The beguiling guitar and vocals of Jonathan Butler provide a terrific counterpart to Koz’s steamy saxophone on this rhumba reimagined treatment.
Peter White “I Can’t Wait For Christmas” ~ This 2010 track features a sultry vocal courtesy of Mindi Abair and trumpet from Rick Braun. A jazzy/Blues feel emanates with impeccable style from White’s guitar.
Gerald Albright “O Christmas Tree” ~ 2019 album Not So Silent Night was a huge success. A favorite of ours, it features a reverent reading with vocals by the veteran group take 6. Albright’s sax mastery is legendary and he always delivers appropriate sentiments on his saxophones. And that album cover!
Tim Bowman “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” ~ In 2010 this song charted on smooth jazz stations with Bowman’s touch of Wes Montgomery influenced smooth as silk guitar. Getting his early career started in Detroit by joining his older sister Vickie Winan in the Gospel group The Winans, he is a natural fit on this classic.
Spyro Gyra “Baby It’s Cold Outside” ~ Taken at a restrained pace this tune features Jay Beckenstein’s sax and beautiful piano playing by Tom Schuman. Brush drumming by Bonny Bonaparte give the production a jazz club feeling. Bonny B, accompanied by the legendary Janis Siegel of Manhattan Transfer, sings it to perfection on this 2008 rendition.
Mareia Antoinette ” My Favorite Things” ~ The classical music trained harpist brings touches of urban jazz and R&B to her performance. This rarely heard instrument skits above strings and a programmed drum track. You know the song, but Mareia’s take is a bit different, and very pleasing to the ears.
Boney James “The Christmas Song” ~ A great song to listen to in front of the fireplace with your honey.
Peter White “The Christmas Song” ~ This soothing instrumental was included on White’s Songs of the Season, issued on Columbia Records in 1997. Peter’s nylon-stringed guitar is light and breezy skirting jazz and traditional on this classic holiday chestnut written by Mel Tormé and made famous by Nat King Cole.
Randall Parrish is a Senior Editor at Vivascene, with extensive publishing credits at various jazz and blues sites. He is also an avid guitar player whose musical knowledge of jazz, blues and roots music is widely respected. He can be reached by email here: RandallParrish@vivascene.com