Classic Christmas: Ella Fitzgerald's Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
Over the holidays, we're looking back at some classic Christmas albums taking some track by track and just digging on others.
There is an admission that I have to make having written all these Classic Christmas posts this year. When I think of Christmas, I don't think of carols or choirs or chamber orchestras or classical music. I don't think of chipmunks or children singing or dogs barking. When I think of Christmas, I think of jazz.
In fact, when I don't even really care to listen to jazz in the summer. I just feels like a winter artform, like the middle of the city on an overcast day when it's cold as hell outside and everything is in black and white. It's clearly a bias that hasn't impacted my desire to listen to music that isn't jazz around the holidays, but I've been guilty of making playlists that include both holiday music and non-holiday jazz because they seem to go together.
When it comes to jazz singers of the female persuasion, Ella Fitzgerald is near the top of my list with Sarah Vaugh, Billie Holiday and Lena Horne. I had forgotten she had a classic Christmas record until I downloaded the soundtrack for Elf (don't judge!) a few weeks ago and her version of "Sleigh Ride" was on it. My next download was Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas.
Recorded in 1960 and remastered in 2002, this is exactly what it says it is: A swinging record. The orchestra was conducted by legendary jazz composer and arranger Frank De Vol, who worked for some of the seminal artists of the time including the aforementioned Sarah Vaugh, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Doris Day.
This is pure swing awesomeness with only a very gentle offering of traditional instruments like strings, favoring instead classic big band horn sections, piano and vibes, though one of the most beautiful recordings on the record is Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen composition "The Christmas of Secret," which is replete with feather soft harp and the bittersweet lilt of a chamber orchestra.
Unlike some of the other records I've written about over the last couple weeks, Fitzgerald opted almost entirely for wartime songs and popular American Christmas tunes instead of traditional carols, which is well suited for her brand of swing. This is one of those records that, if you had a big fancy cocktail party at an apartment in the middle of the big city with attractive people dressed to the nines, this is the record that would be playing in the background.
It's also a pretty damn great record for everyplace else although I wouldn't look directly into the eyes of the psychedelic unicorn on the cover.
Check out previous classic Christmas album recaps:
Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song
Elvis Presley - Elvis' Christmas Album
Perry Como - The Perry Como Christmas Album
Bing Crosby - White Christmas
Charles Brown - Merry Christmas Baby
Johnny Mathis - Merry Christmas
Andy Williams - The Andy Williams Christmas Album
Phil Spector - A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records
Frank Sinatra - A Jolly Christmas fro Frank Sinatra
The Carpenters - Christmas Portrait
Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas
George Winston - December
Various Artists - A Very Special Christmas
Mel Torme - Christmas Songs