Jazz Vocals

Symphonic Chestnuts


Ironically, Mel Tormé -- the guy who co-wrote one of the most memorable Christmas songs of the 20th century -- waited nearly 50 years to build an entire holiday album around it. Christmas Songs, released on Telarc in 1992, came 47 years after Tormé and Bob Wells penned the lyrical and evocative "The Christmas Song" in 1945.

Available as part of Concord's holiday music promotion, the set wraps up two very distinct genres and generations in a single shiny package. Tormé, who was 67 at the time of this recording, had already logged five decades as a high-profile jazz composer and bandleader. He and his trio -- pianist John Colianni, bassist John Leitham and drummer Donny Osborne -- are assisted by the Cincinnati Sinfonietta, led by Keith Lockhart, then the 32-year-old assistant conductor of the Cincinnati Pops and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (and the newly appointed music director of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra).

Several of the holiday standards are here in full orchestration, beginning with a medley of "Jingle Bells," "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," "Winter Weather" and "Winter Wonderland." And of course, Tormé couldn't cut a holiday record and call it Christmas Songs without a rendition of his own classic contribution to the yuletide songbook. Off the beaten path but equally festive are "Glow Worm" (a Johnny Mercer composition recast here in a Christmas arrangement), the bouncy "It Happened In Sun Valley" and the jazzy and spirited rendition of the traditional "Good King Wenceslas."

Tormé passed away in 1999, just a few years after Lockhart left Cincinnati to lead the Boston Pops. But like all yuletide carols sung by a choir (or a jazz performer with orchestral backing), Christmas Songs endures and remains a favorite in any stocking or under any tree.