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There's a dearth of new Christmas jazz releases this season, but here's one to stuff in your stocking. What Would Santa Say? is a very enjoyable collection of familiar holiday tunes done up in a swinging trad-jazz style.
Mark Shane is a New York City pianist well known for his stride work. On these 14 holiday tunes he also demonstrates a thorough familiarity with Teddy Wilson's accessible approach to swing piano and a Louis Prima-like vocal style. Shane is joined by five accomplished trad-jazzers from the Big Apple, including guitarist James Chirillo (who arranged half these songs) and trumpeter Jon Erik Kellso.
Whether it's hot Dixieland ("God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"), finger-flying stride ("Joy To the World") gentle samba ("Silent Night") unadulterated swing ("Jingle Bells") or cool blues ("Merry Christmas Baby"), Shane and company play tastefully and with just the right touches of holiday humor. Unlike most Christmas jazz releases, this CD was actually recorded during the holiday season (in 1998), so it's full of genuine yuletide spirit. Shane only sings on a handful of tracks, and the musicians are given plenty of room to strut their stuff.
If you dig Jim Cullum's holiday fare on PBS radio, you'll love the Mark Shane X-Mas All Stars.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.