Duke Pearson: Merry Ole Soul


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It's that time of year—when I pick my classic holiday jazz or pop album. The rules are simple: It has to be an old recording, it has to have escaped most people's radar, and it has to have retained a certain holiday charm—not too sappy and not too earnest. Just timeless fun that brings to mind crackling fireplaces, the smell of toasted marshmallows and the nip of snow. My 2012 pick? Duke Pearson's Merry Ole Soul. [Photo above of Duke Pearson by Francis Wolff]

Recorded in February and August 1969, pianist Pearson was joined by bassist Bob Cranshaw, drummer Mickey Roker and percussionist Airto Moreira. The choices are a mix between children's songs and ballads—Sleigh Ride, Little Drummer Boy, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Jingle Bells, Old Fashioned Christmas, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Wassail Song, Silent Night and O' Little Town of Bethlehem.

What makes this album special is Pearson's hushed way of telling each song's story, complete with touches of jazz and soul.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find Duke Pearson's Merry Ole Soul on a friend's Duke Pearson Mosaic Select box—since the set is now out of print. Two of the tracks can be found as downloads here. If you want the Japanese import, it will set you back $466.

JazzWax clip: Here's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas...

Merry Little Christmas

And now here are my previous year's picks for the JazzWax Holiday Album Hall of Fame...

2011—Urbie Green: A Cool Yule Tide (1954)

Eddie Higgins: Christmas Songs (2004)

2009—June Christy: This Time of Year (1961)

2008—Jo Stafford's Happy Holidays: I Love the Winter Weather (1950s)

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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