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Five Guitar Christmas Albums that Warm Up the Season



JGT contributor Joe Barth shares some of his favorite Christmas albums for the holidays – thanks Joe!

Kenny Burrell:  Have Yourself a Soulful Little Christmas; Cadet Records LPS 798

Kenny Burrell is the “Elder Statesman of Jazz Guitar.”  Recorded for the Christmas season of 1966, Kenny is in fine form here, and always his bluesy self.  The arrangements are more pop-oriented and heavily orchestrated yet tasteful.  A master of the ballad, Kenny especially shines on Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin’s “Have Yourself a Merry Christmas.”  “My Favorite Things” kicks and swings as if John Coltrane were playing it.  There are twelve Yuletide favorites altogether.

Larry Carlton: Christmas At My House; MCA Records; MCAD-6322. 1989

One can hear in this album why Larry Carlton was such an “in demand” studio guitarist in his younger days.  He is always fresh, flowing, and inventive in his improvised lines.  For this album, he has put together a great combo featuring Terry Trotter on piano and Abraham Laboriel on bass.  On a few selections, the album also features Larry’s then-wife Michelle Pillar on vocals.

Jimmy Ponder: Guitar Christmas; HighNote Records MCD 7034; 1998

Pittsburgher Jimmy Ponder assembles the best of other Pittsburgh musicians for this recording with Dwayne Dolphin on bass, Cecil Brooks III on drums, and Don Braden on tenor saxophone.  Ponder was a seasoned traditional jazz guitarist with great taste in his approach.  My favorite on the album is Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song” which features a nice solo guitar rendition by Jimmy.

Jack Wilkins: Christmas Jazz Guitar; Mel Bay Records MB20257CD; 2002

Jack Wilkins plays duets (electronically) with himself on this tasteful holiday chestnut.  His arrangements of these classic Christmas songs are always well thought through and stylish.  His Benedetto guitar sounds rich and warm on the thirteen songs of this recording.

Dave Stryker:  Eight Track Christmas; Strikezone Records; 2019

Dave comes up with fresh arrangements with each of the albums in his “Eight Track” series.  He continues to be fresh in his renditions of classic Christmas songs in this Eight Track Christmas.  He and his longtime collaborator, organist Jared Gold, have assembled a powerhouse combo with Stefon Harris or Steve Nelson on vibes and McClenty Hunter on drums.  Favorites on the album are the funky yet syncopated “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and the deep-pocketed groove on “This Christmas.”

Happy Holidays from Jazz Guitar Today!

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