Various Artists

Released in 2006

JazzTimes Top Ten Christmas Jazz Albums Of All Time

All About Jazz Top Ten Christmas Jazz Albums Of All Time




Jazz artists have traditionally recorded Christmas songs from Louis Armstrong to Django Reinhardt, from Charlie Parker to Miles Davis. At Kind of Blue we ask our artists to record one or more Christmas tracks while doing their normal sessions. The result is a superb Christmas album which is truly jazz. A Mellow Jazz Christmas features Stanley Clarke, Patrice Rushen, Ndugu Chancler, Phil Woods, David Benoit, Eddie Henderson, George Cables, Pete Christlieb, Bob Conti, Paul Smith and more. This collection of songs errs traditional, and none of the titles are unexpected. However, the musicians all are afforded the opportunity to improvise, keeping the melody while adding their own character to the chestnut tunes everyone has heard hundreds of times. 

Track Listing:

1. Christmas Time Is Here featuring Stanley Clarke Trio 04:45

2. We Three Kings feat. Stanley Clarke Trio 04:51

3. Silent Night, Holy Night feat. Eddie Henderson Project 04:53

4. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town feat. David Benoit Trio 04:48

5. O’ Tannenbaum feat. David Benoit Trio 03:04

6. Sleight Ride for One feat. Phil Woods Quintet 04:06

7. Little Drummer Boy feat. Bob Conti Quartet 03:07

8. Let It Snow feat. Bob Conti Quartet 03:36

9. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas feat. George Cables Trio 05:22

10. White Christmas feat. Pete Christlieb/Slyde Hyde Quintet 08:09

11. The Christmas Song feat. Pete Christlieb/Slyde Hyde Quintet 05:09

12. Jingle Bells feat. Paul Smith Trio 01:45


Stanley Clarke Trio: Stanley Clarke: bass; Patrice Rushen: piano; Ndugu Chancler: drums

Eddie Henderson Project: Eddie Henderson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Ed Howard: bass; Billy Hart: drums; Kevin Hays: piano, synthesizer

David Benoit Trio: David Benoit: piano; Gregg Bissonette: drums; Brian Bromberg: bass

Phil Woods Quintet: Phil Woods: saxophone, clarinet; Steve Gilmore: bass; Bill Goodwin: drums; Bill Charlap: piano; Brian Lynch: trumpet

Bob Conti Quartet: Bob Conti: percussion; Federico Ramos: acoustic guitar; Tom Walsh: drums; Alphonso Johnson: electric bass

George Cables Trio: George Cables: piano; Rufus Reid: bass; Victor Lewis: drums

Pete Christlieb/Slyde Hyde Quintet: Pete Christlieb: saxophone; Jim Hughart: bass; Charles Harris: drums; Slyde Hyde: euphonium; Tom Ranier: piano

Paul Smith Trio: Paul Smith: piano; Jim De Julio: bass; Joe La Barbera: drums

Recorded May, 2000 – March 22, 2005

Produced by David Baker, Suzanne Severini, Jeffrey Weber

Engineer: Clark Germain


Eight different groups are featured on this Christmas compilation issued by Kind of Blue. An immediate highlight is the Phil Woods Quintet’s pulsating treatment of “Sleigh Ride for One” with Brian Lynch battling the alto saxophonist for solo honors. Pianist George Cables, accompanied by bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Victor Lewis, deliver a lush rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Acoustic guitarist Fernando Ramos is the featured soloist in a striking arrangement of “Little Drummer Boy” by the Bob Conti Quartet. The Pete Christlieb/Slyde Hyde Quintet take a fresh look at “White Christmas” by adding a “Killer Joe” like vamp to it, resulting in a smoking performance. Paul Smith’s miniature of “Jingle Bells” is humorous, working in a bit of Mozart-like runs. Smooth jazz pianist David Benoit sticks to mainstream jazz with a lively bop setting of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and a bluesy, percussive “O’ Tannenbaum.” But there are problem tracks. The unusual arrangement of “Silent Night” features Eddie Henderson’s rich flugelhorn playing straight-ahead backed by Kevin Hays’ distracting synthesizer and a driving rhythm section, neither of which work for the song. The pair of tracks by bassist Stanley Clarke with pianist Patrice Rushen and drummer Ndugu Chancler are disappointing; both “Christmas Time Is Here” and “We Three Kings” sound like mechanical sight readings. Strangely, none of the composers are listed for any of the tunes, most of which are very well known.

Ken Dryden (AllMusic)