Music critics' Christmas suggestions include Bob Dylan

05:00 AM, Dec 24, 2013

Bob Dylan will perform at Darien Lake. TORSTEN BLACKWOOD Legendary American singer, songwriter, poet, artist and actor, Bob Dylan performs from his repertoire of over 400 songs and 50 albums at the 22nd annual Bluesfest music festival near Byron Bay on April 25, 2011. Dylan, age 69, will conclude his tour of Australia with two shows in Sydney on April 27 and 28. AFP PHOTO / Torsten BLACKWOOD (Photo credit should read TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images) (TORSTEN BLACKWOOD)/


CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART. Best Christmas album? The romantic in me says something by Bing or Nat King Cole. But my contemporary ears love Bruce Cockburn’s 1993 Christmas. And this one. I should put a moratorium on listening to Dylan, but indulge me. This release came out five years ago, and it’s the Christmas record that has everyone doing a double-take when they hear it at my house. Dylan’s in a relaxed mood, craggily singing the first verse of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” in the original Latin, thinkin’ about roasting some chestnuts on an open fire. You have to be a fan to really worship this collection, but many of the arrangements are familiar. “Must Be Santa” even keeps intact the polka beat and accordion of the Brave Combo version. He’s always loved traditional tunes, and what could be more traditional than “O Little Town of Bethlehem”?

— Jeff Spevak


HIP SANTA. Lots of Christmas jazz is found on compilations. How about making your own? I suggest you “cherry pick” individual tracks off iTunes or Amazon to make your own holiday album. Grab two versions of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” by Bill Evans and by Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. (Evans recorded it several times. My favorite is on Further Conversations, where the great pianist triple-tracks himself.) Also compare the all-bass version of “Double Decker (Deck the Halls)” by Christian McBride, and “Deck the Halls” by pianist Bobby Timmons. Two holiday songs by legends that never recorded a second Christmas tune are “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells,” by Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington, respectively. Then there’s “O Christmas Tree” by Russell Malone, “Frosty the Snowman” by Roy Hargrove and Christian McBride, “The Christmas Waltz by Pat LaBarbara, a rockin’ “White Christmas” by Allen Toussaint, “The Christmas Song” by Dexter Gordon, “Winter Wonderland” by Red Garland, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Joe Pass, “Sleigh Ride” by Duke Pearson, and “England’s Carol #1 (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)” by the Modern Jazz Quartet. Merry Christmas!

— Jack Garner

Sheila Rayam’s reviews will return.