Updated: Apr 12
Here at Savage Content, we love all kinds of music, but jazz holds a special place in our hearts. There is little comparable to the warm feeling you get from hearing a good saxophone solo. There is nothing more harmonious than watching a talented group of musicians comes together to play some amazing Jazz. And when it comes to Christmas songs, well, forget the rest. Jazz reigns supreme. So, to share that love of jazz, and especially jazzy Christmas songs, we put together a festive playlist full of great tunes to throw on while you’re putting up the Christmas tree, sitting the family down for a yuletide dinner, or just unwinding during the season. Don’t think you know any jazz Christmas songs? We guarantee there’s a least one on here you’ll recognize and (hopefully!) love. Check out our list.
Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas album cover | Wikipedia
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“Merry Christmas Baby” - Etta James
Anyone who’s worked in retail with a Christmas station playing around the holidays will probably recognize this song. Etta James takes a slower approach to the tune, but with a silky voice like hers, it’s a pleasant ride and great to throw on while you’re eating a hearty meal.
“Christmas Eve” - Billy Eckstine
With Eckstine’s rich baritone vocals, you’ll love this festive song about the magic of Christmas. It was released in 1955 and it has that classic feel that’s perfect for this time of year.
“Pennies From Heaven” - Louis Prima
This song may not be explicitly about Christmas, but I will take any excuse to include this is in a list because it’s a great tune. Plus, it was also featured in the 2003 Christmas movie Elf, so it’s associated with the holiday in my mind.
“Christmas Time is Here” - Vince Guaraldi
This song comes from A Charlie Brown Christmas, and interestingly enough, when it came to deciding the score, production decided against a pop route and instead asked for a jazz score from Vince Guaraldi. This decision proved fruitful as the entire special’s score is considered their own standards. The score is also one of the top-selling Christmas soundtracks of all time.
“Frosty the Snowman” – Ella Fitzgerald
On a hot August day in 1960, Fitzgerald recorded this tune along with her entire Christmas album Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas which was released through Verve records. Ella took a classic and made it her own with her pure, unforgettable voice.
“Sleigh Ride” - Ella Fitzgerald
Fans of the Christmas movie Elf will also recognize this song, as it appears in the film. I absolutely love Fitzgerald’s version of this classic song. This song is another that comes from her album Ella Wishes You A Swingin’ Christmas.
“Christmas in New Orleans” - Louis Armstrong
Through Armstrong’s unforgettable trumpet playing including a couple of glimmering solos, you’ll be feeling the festive vibe from the moment you hear his first note.
“Christmas Cheer” - Abbey Lincoln & Roy Hargrove
Recorded in 1996 for Verve Records, Abbey Lincoln sings a warm, cheerful tune alongside the flugelhorn player Roy Hargrove. The song is a part of the album, Jazz for Joy: A Verve Christmas Album and it’s a great song to get you in the holiday spirit.
“Away in a Manger” - Kenny Burrell
You’ll love the instrumental version of this classic done by Jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell. If you love his tender version, you’ll probably love more from his Christmas album, Have Yourself A Soulful Little Christmas.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” - Frank Sinatra
This essential Christmas song is beloved by all, and people who have heard enough versions to know there is a line that’s different depending on which version you hear. Frank Sinatra was the one who changed it from, “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” to, “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough” because he wanted something a little jollier for his version. That alone makes it worthy of this playlist.
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” - Ella Fitzgerald
A lot of Etta James on here, but can you blame me? Her entire Christmas album is incredible. I’d add the whole thing if I could, but I figured you guys would want a little variety. This specific version plays a lot on retail Christmas stations, so this one will probably be familiar to those folks too.
“Winter Wonderland” - Bing Crosby
This song goes way back. Composed in 1934, “Winter Wonderland” has been covered by thousands of artists. But no one quite does it the same as Bing Crosby. Released in 1962 on his Christmas album, this is one of the most popular and beloved versions of the tune.
“What Child Is This?” - Oscar Peterson
In 1995, Oscar Peterson at the age of 70 released his own Christmas album called An Oscar Peterson Christmas in which this song can be found. Peterson with a good band behind him took this old Christmas carol and made it anew.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” - Jimmy Smith
You’ll love this high-energy rendition of this classic from organist Jimmy Smith. He’s joined by other jazz talents on this song, and the rest of his Christmas album including Kenny Burrell, Joe Newman, and Jimmy Cleveland.
“Cool Yule” - Kurt Elling
While this tune has an original recording by Louis Armstrong, I wanted to include Kurt Elling’s 2010 version because I think it’s a great reimagining. It’s also a song from 2010, and we need to have some more modern tunes included, of course!
“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” - Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett has made a number of classic jazz albums, and he’s also made a number of Christmas albums. But his classic rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is a known favorite and for good reason. His rich and upbeat voice will bring you warmth on those chilly Christmas nights.
“White Christmas” - Charlie Parker
Did you know there was a Charlie Parker Christmas song? I sure didn’t. Parker is just one of those musicians that it would be a crime to leave out. Check out his instrumental rendition of this classic.
“Show Me the Magic” - Jamie Cullum
We can’t have a jazzy playlist without some modern songs too. Released in 2016, this original Christmas song by pianist Jamie Callum is definitely worth a spin.
“The Christmas Song” - Nat King Cole
Fun fact: this song is said to have been written in the heat of summer to try to help visualize colder times to help cool them off. It’s now one of the quintessential Christmas songs. And Nat King Cole’s version is just classic.
“Those Soulful Jingle Bells” - Mark Whitfield
If you’re looking for a soulful, more sophisticated version of “Jingle Bells” then look no further than Jazz guitarist Mark Whitfield’s version. You’ll fall right into the tune and Whitfield’s guitar playing.
“Wintertime” - Norah Jones
While this track leans more blues than jazz, we couldn’t not include Norah Jones. I mean, she was named one of the top jazz artists of the 2000s! This song, however, came out in 2019, and it’s a nice modern wintery track.
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” - Michael Bublé
Michael Bublé released a Christmas album in 2011 called simply Christmas. It was wildly popular, and now he seems to be associated with the holiday season a lot, but for good reason! His version of this classic with a big band backing him up is a great festive tune to throw on for the season. The entire album has a great jazzy feel, so if you’re looking for a full Christmas album to spin, give this one a try.
“Baby It’s Cold Outside” - Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan
For anyone who loves this song, you’ll surely love Ella Fitzgerald’s 1949 version with Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five.
“’Zat You Santa Claus?” - Louis Armstrong
I absolutely love this song. Armstrong’s voice is already so iconic, and it’s the perfect voice for this sort of song. If you tell me you listened to this song and didn’t groove at least a little bit, I’ll be convinced you’re lying.
“I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” – Billie Holiday
There are hundreds of versions of this song out there, but not a single one sounds like Billie Holiday’s version. It’s not a Jazz Christmas playlist without her version of this classic.
“I’ll Be Home or Christmas” - Stephen Scott
You may hear this song in your head with vocals, but Stephen Scott’s version is instrumental, letting him toy around with the song on his piano. This version has often been used in films since its release in 1996.
“Mr. Santa’s Boogie” – The Marshall Brothers
If you’re looking for a fun Christmas track that also has a classic blues feel, you’ll love this track from The Marshall Brothers.
“I Want to Spend Christmas with Elvis” – Debbie Dabney
This is such a fun song, and those jazzy instrumentations paired with Dabney’s vocals begging for Elvis for Christmas are so great. This song is full of Elvis puns, and for that alone, it’s worth giving at least one listen.
There’s our curated playlist of some great jazzy Christmas songs! You see the full version on Spotify here:
Which is your favorite from our list, or if we missed yours, what’s your favorite jazz Christmas song? And for those who aren’t into jazz, we hope this list helps you find at least one song you jive with. Thanks for reading, and we hope you have an incredible holiday!
Written by Kristen Petronio
Special thanks to the following sources that helped me gather info for this playlist.
Feature image sourced from LouisArmstrongVEVO