Christmas time in San Antonio is a beautiful sight. The air is crisp in December. Overlooking the river, Myrtle trees and Magnolias lining the riverbanks are strung with colored lights, and flat-bottomed boats float down the San Antonio River carrying robed choirs singing carols.
Throughout of 1991 we recorded holiday songs with every special guest who visited The Landing for a Riverwalk Jazz radio show, and we’ve saved them up for Christmas listening like gifts under the tree. Get ready for a Christmas Jam with the 20th century’s hottest, classic jazz talent— piano legend Dick Hyman, Broadway’s Carol Woods, reedman Bob Wilber, songstress Stephanie Nakasian, Jazz Master Clark Terry and bassist Milt ‘The Judge’ Hinton.
Ellington and Basie Band veteran and flugelhorn pioneer Clark Terry offers his version of Mel Tormé's “Christmas Song”—“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”—as only Clark can play it.
With deep bows to the intonation and spirit of the young Ella Fitzgerald, Virginia-based songstress Stephanie Nakasian breaks hearts with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." This tune was introduced by a young Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis.
Sidney Bechet protégé and soprano sax genius Bob Wilber lights up ”Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” with his burnished, larger-than-life sound, startling command, and driving, swinging rhythmic feel. You better watch out!
Dick Hyman and John Sheridan inhabit the soul of Fats Waller as they swing and stride their way through "Jingle Bells," a huge and hilarious hit record for Fats on the Bluebird label in the 1930s.
Carol Woods sings “Santa Baby,” vamping it up in a sultry Eartha Kitt style. "Been an angel all year / so hurry down the chimney tonight!"
Piano man John Sheridan transforms the gentle "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies"—from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet—into a romping, Waller-esque stride piano piece that borders on perpetual syncopation. Latch on!
Bassist Milt ‘Judge’ Hinton plays the melody on “Winter Wonderland.” Until Milt came along in 1936, playing his "Ebony Silhouette" in front of Cab Calloway's band, no one had heard the double bass expose the melody of a tune in a jazz band.
To wrap things up in style, making sure that each stocking is hung with care, Louis Armstrong offers a very non-traditional reading of Clement Clarke Moore’s traditional holiday poem, Twas The Night Before Christmas!
Photo credit for Home Page teaser image: Clark Terry and Jim Cullum. Photo courtesy Riverwalk Jazz.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2012