Christmas Records

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Compilations of Christmas jazz often include “We Free Kings,” a 1961 adaptation of the carol by Roland Kirk. The album of the same title was a breakthrough for the multi-instrumentalist, in part introducing his uncanny ability to work familiar melodies into his music. Late in that decade he recorded half an album, Rahsaan Rahsaan, on Christmas Eve at the Village Vanguard.

The program included on the album, his first to use the swami-like name Irene, doesn’t include any holiday music per se. It does close with risqué blues titled “Baby Let Me Shake Your Tree,” which Kirk credits to “an old gypsy blues singer.” It seemed like as good a place as any to post this year’s first Christmas song.

We have a rule in our house about shaking the Christmas tree. Also about letting the cat climb it.


Leave it to R&B legend and hip hop pioneer Andre Williams to take the idea of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and turn it into something shockingly filthy.

Even though we’ve only got two more days to post Christmas records, we wanted to rerun this one which we first posted last year because the songs are a lot of fun. 

We’re fans of Juan Garcia Esquivel, the Mexican composer and bandleader who was sort of like the Sun Ra of lounge music. His inventive, idiosyncractic arrangements of pop standards defined “space age bachelor pad” music decades before hipsters invented the term, and his unusual instrumentation is instantly recognizable. other worlds other soundsFew other arrangers employed exotic percussion like Chinese bells, triangles and maracas so extensively, or shared Esquivel’s enthusiasm for glassando runs on the slide guitar — this latter providing the distinctive Boing! heard in so many of his recordings. Vocal arrangements were often nonsensical, if meticulous, sometimes seeming as though they were simply reading the text from a fight scene from Batman.


Although his orchestra often performed jazz standards (one of our favorites is his version of “Cherokee”) there was little improvisation besides Esquivel himself at the piano.

In the sixties Esquivel often performed with his orchestra and chorus in Las Vegas, accompanied by a light show which pre-dated Pink Floyd by years, sometimes opening for Frank Sinatra. Check out this section from a 2000 Mexican documentary about him. His albums were hardly best-sellers in the United States so its hard to build up a collection — more recently they have provided plenty of revenue for RCA in the form of lounge music compilations.

christmas pops

Esquivel never had the opportunity to make his own Christmas album, but he did contribute six tracks to this compilation put out by RCA/Victor in 1959. The other songs are provided by Ray Martin, a stuffy Austrian bandleader. On two of Esquivel’s songs, his orchestra is accompanied by the Skip-Jacks, a group who are best known for providing the vocals to the theme from The Flintstones. The remaining four feature his own chorus, which like his orchestra was highly disciplined by their perfectionist employer. Esquivel offers a fun new look at some familiar holiday standards.

Christmas with the Three Stooges is predictably destructive on this classic Golden Records 45.


Yogi Bear, on the other hand, has a more peaceful message wishing us “A Hap-Hap-Happy Christmas.”




“Santaphone” is the title song from the Southside Aces‘ 2012 Christmas disc. Founding members Tony Balluff and Erik Jacobson wrote the song, which we love so much we requested permission to include it on our annual Hymie’s holiday CD last year.

We’re working on this year’s annual Christmas mix CD and we hope to have ’em out a few days before the holiday. It’s gonna be a fun one…

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