Gimme Five: Christmas music for people who are sick of Christmas music

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By now, you’ve probably had just enough of the same old holly jolly stuff. Mark Saleski is here to help with some suggestions from off the beaten path …

I don’t know about you, but I can only deal with ‘straight ahead’ Christmas music for a little while. That’s why every year I try to pick out some holiday music in a new style. Here’s a list of my favorites from that collection:

ROOMFUL OF BLUES – ROOMFUL OF CHRISTMAS (1997): Rhode Island’s favored sons, Roomful of Blues turns in a Christmas set that’s both swingin’ and rockin’. Their version of “Run, Rudolph, Run” will make you want to dance ’round that Christmas tree.

VARIOUS ARTISTS – YULE STRUTTIN’!: A BLUE NOTE CHRISTMAS (1990): Well, of course I have to have a jazz collection! I’ve got a few others but this one contains a nice mix of traditional and contemporary jazz: from Count Basie’s “Jingle Bells” and Dexter Gordon’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” to Stanley Jordon’s “Silent Night” and John Scofield’s ultra-cool “Chipmunk Christmas.” There’s fun stuff here for jazz-lover’s of all stripes (except for the free-jazzers … and if anybody knows of a Christmas record with some skronkitude, send me an email!)

VARIOUS ARTISTS – WORLD CHRISTMAS (1996): This one is all over the place. Originally I was drawn to it because of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” – John Scofield and the Wild Magnolias. But there are other gems here: Bob Berg and Jim Beard are joined by Arto Tuncboyacyan and Zakir Hussain for a stunning “We Three Kings,” Angelique Kidjo performs a nice “O Holy Night” and Deep Forest & Lokua Kanza bring “Ave Maria.” For me, the real stunner is Mino Cinelu and Dianne Reeves doing “Twelve Days of Christmas”: elegant and sexy!

THE ROCHES – WE THREE KINGS (1990): Yes, the Roches can be an acquired taste. Maggie, Terre and Suzzy do produce some weird harmonies … but they’re pretty sounds at the same time. Check out We Three Kings if you’re up for some traditional holiday music presented in a distinctly non-traditional manner.

VARIOUS ARTISTS – ULTRA LOUNGE: CHRISTMAS COCKTAILS, PART ONE (1996): You can’t go wrong with the Ultra Lounge series. Certainly not at Christmas time. Christmas Cocktails is a beauty: so put on your best silk pajamas, pour some eggnog into a martini glass and relax to: Peggy Lee, Julie London, Lou Rawls, Dean Martin, Jackie Gleason, Nancy Wilson, Jimmy McGriff and Les Brown & His Band of Renown. It’s plain ‘ole swank-a-licious fun. Or, as it says on the cover: “Hi-Fi Holiday Cheer From Santa’s Pad.”

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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