Merry Christmas From José James (Rainbow Blonde / Universal)

José James

Released in 2021




Combining the classic jazz-crooner elegance of Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole with the earthy sophistication of soul legends Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, “Merry Christmas from José James” raises the bar for the contemporary Christmas album. Covering 10 songs – including two originals by James and his partner Talia Billig – James breathes new life into much-loved holiday classics such as The Christmas Song, White Christmas and Let it Snow. In addition to showcasing his crooner chops, the 50 Shades Darker singer explores his jazz side with a joyful rendition of John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things.”
Accompanied by Grammy Award-winner Ben Williams (bass), Grammy nominated artists Aaron Parks (piano) and Marcus Strickland (saxophone) and rising-star Jharis Yokely (drums) “Merry Christmas from José James” is a world-class holiday experience from one of the greatest living voices in jazz.

Track Listing:

1. Christmas in New York (Talia Billig / José James) 02:58

2. This Christmas (Donny Hathaway / Nadine McKinnor) 03:30

3. The Christmas Song (Mel Tormé / Robert Wells) 03:58

4. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (Irving Berlin) 04:12

5. The Christmas Waltz (Sammy Cahn / Jule Styne) 03:07

6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Ralph Blane / Hugh Martin) 04:18

7. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (Sammy Cahn / Jule Styne) 02:46

8. Christmas Day (Talia Billig / José James) 03:13

9. My Favorite Things (Oscar Hammerstein II / Richard Rodgers) 07:41

10. White Christmas (Irving Berlin) 03:24


José James: vocals

Aaron Parks: piano, Wurlitzer

Ben Williams: bass, vocals (2)

Jharis Yokley: drums

Marcus Strickland: soprano saxophone (9)

Taali: vocals (2)

Anais Giardina-James: vocals (2)

Recorded at Dreamland Studios, Vieux-Montréal, Quebec, Canada, by Ariel Shafir

Produced by José James & Brian Bender

Mixed by Brian Bender

Mastered by Frank Arkwright

Photography: Janette Beckman Design: Hayden Miller


One of the most gifted and versatile jazz singers of his generation, James has crafted an excellent Christmas album, aided by a crack band of Aaron Parks, Marcus Strickland, Ben Williams, and Jharis Yokley. And he gets extra points for writing two originals with his wife and partner Talia Bilig: “Christmas in New York” and “Christmas Day.” The Christmas-music canon can always use new material. Although he didn’t record any Hanukkah songs (no surprise given the album’s title), he does include a version of “My Favorite Things” that’s remarkably faithful to Coltrane’s iconic rendition, albeit without McCoy’s famous clunker. I included that tune on this year’s Hanukkah music mix CD and his take on “This Christmas” on my Christmas one.

Lee Mergner (JazzTimes)