It’s a blustery day in London on the eve of the winter solstice – the longest night of the year (at least in my hemisphere) and the Christmas cheer has finally got me. These deep, dark evenings make me yearn for the kind of cosy, musical comfort that can only be summoned by a familiar voice singing a timeless song.
I know I’m not the only sucker for a well crooned Christmas carol, but who are the vocalists that other singers turn to at this time of year?
Both Gregory Porter and Samara Joy have released beautiful Christmas records this year that are destined to become classics – they’ve even duetted. So when they passed through EJ HQ recently, we grabbed a moment to ask them what will be playing in their households this year – and it’s a festive feast.
“In my house, the soundtrack to Christmas always starts with the great Nat King Cole”
That’s the record that I put on when we start to decorate the tree. You know, this is what my mother did when I was a little boy. And so I do it with my kids. And we start there and then we just jump through the whole bunch of different artists from young to old. I love The Temptations’ Christmas record. And then I go to Tony Bennett, lots of different artists. But the start of the Christmas tree decorations is with Nat King Cole. And one I light the fire to is Nat King Cole.
The soundtrack for Christmas in my house would probably be Kirk Franklin’s gospel album. And the main song that I love, it’s called “Jesus Is The Reason For The Season.” And I just love that, how 90s, and how like, groovy it is, for lack of a better word.
Also, Ella Fitzgerald has an album where she sings, just like hymns in honour of Christmas, like she has a Swinging Christmas, but there’s another one where she just sings so beautifully on just like, hymns and like gospel. So I love that too.
I think the reason why vocal led jazz songs are perfect for the holiday season is because they’ve kind of defined the sound for years, whether it’s Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, or Ella Fitzgerald, I think because they’ve kind of defined the fabric of Christmas and those same songs, their interpretations of those same classics have been played year in and year out. It is in everybody’s ear… I want to say public eye but it’s in the public ear.
It won’t be long until the days start to stretch out, and our attention turns to the fresh and new, but until then, sink into those well loved classics – you’re in great company.
And in the words of songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – however you celebrate.
Freya Hellier is a content editor for Everything Jazz. She has spent many years making programmes about all genres of music for BBC Radio 3, Radio 4 and beyond.
Header image (from left): Samara Joy. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for The Recording Academy. Gregory Porter. Photo by Mauricio Santana/Getty Images.