The Hammond organ may just be the musical instrument best suited to Christmas and holiday-themed music. It produces a gloriously warm, rich and full-bodied sound, the aural equivalent of a hug from Santa Claus. Place that instrument in the hands of a genuine virtuoso and you have the recipe for an instant classic of a Christmas album. Which is precisely what Joey DeFrancesco has produced with “Home for the Holidays,” the first holiday album of his 25-year career. Disc one of the two disc set features many of the most popular Christmas and holiday songs ever recorded, “the typical Christmas party songs,” as Joey puts it. DeFrancesco calls disc two “the more traditional liturgical side of Christmas music.
American soprano Renee Fleming’s first-ever holiday album celebrates the beloved and iconic Christmas season in New York City. From the holiday windows lining 5th Avenue to the red and green-lit spire of the Empire State Building, the essence of the city at the most wonderful time of the year is captured on “Christmas in New York.” Jazz notables Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Elling, Brand Mehldau, Gregory Porter and Chris Botti join Renee has she lends her sublime voice to a program of seasonal gems.
Also in the holiday spirit this week, guitarist Larry Carlton takes an intimate approach on nine new arrangements of classic holiday songs on “Four Hands and a Heart Christmas”; award-winning trumpeter and bandleader Irvin Mayfield debuts his first disc of holiday music with “A New Orleans Creole Christmas,” with his handpicked small ensemble the New Orleans Jazz Playhouse Revue; Mack Avenue Records celebrates the season with its brightest stars in a collection of familiar and not-so-familiar holiday tunes with “It’s Christmas on Mack Avenue,” including Sean Jones, Christian McBride, Cyrille Aimee, Hot Club of Detroit and Sachal Vasandani; and contemporary jazz vocalist Maysa unwraps “A Very Maysa Christmas.”