The Best Christmas Music: Jazz Instrumentals

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

Check out our top picks for the best Christmas music in the jazz instrumental genre – perfect for getting you into the holiday spirit!

Best Christmas Music: Jazz Instrumentals

It’s that time of year again! The holidays are upon us and what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than with some great holiday music? Jazz instrumentals are the perfect way to set the mood for a festive and fun holiday season. Here are some of our favorite Christmas jazz tunes.

The Nutcracker Suite by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane

Duke Ellington and John Coltrane’s The Nutcracker Suite is a holiday classic. This instrumental version of the Tchaikovsky classic features some of the most legendary jazz musicians of all time.

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a 1965 studio album by American jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi released by Fantasy Records. The sixth album recorded by Guaraldi, it was his fourth and final LP for Fantasy. The project began as an assignment by producer Lee Mendelson to score a half-hour animated TV special based on Charles M. Schulz’s popular comic strip Peanuts; Mendelson recruited Guilty Pleasures vocalist Andrea Marcovicci to provide the voice of the title character and contacted veteran arranger-conductor John Scott Trotter to assemble and record the instrumental tracks.

Guaraldi completed the project in early November 1965, at which point Mendelson asked him if he would be interested in scoring a full-length Peanuts feature film that was already in development. Mendelson had originally envisioned A Charlie Brown Christmas as a television special with minimal involvement from his music department; however, Trotter’s arrangement of “Linus and Lucy” impressed him so much that he decided to use it as the basis for the film’s soundtrack instead. Recording sessions took place in October and November 1965 at Western Recorders in Hollywood, while animation work on A Charlie Brown Christmas was already underway at company co-founder Bill Melendez’s studio in San Francisco.

The album features seven original compositions by Guaraldi, including “‘Linus and Lucy”, which has become synonymous with the special and is considered a jazz standard, as well as six covers of Christmas standards, such as “The Christmas Song”, “O Tannenbaum”, and “My Favorite Things”. Released on December 9, 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas peaked at number 4 on Billboard’s Top LPs chart in time for the holiday season and has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipments of three million copies in the United States. In 2014, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The Jazz Christmas by Ramsey Lewis

Ramsey Lewis is an American jazz composer and pianist who has recorded over 80 albums and has received seven gold records and three Grammy Awards so far in his career. The Ramsey Lewis Trio was formed in 1956 and they released their first album, The Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1957.

The Jazz Christmas is a holiday album by Ramsey Lewis, released in 2008. It features ten holiday songs, including “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “The Christmas Song,” “White Christmas,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” This album is the perfect background music for your holiday gatherings!

Christmas Jazz by Dave Brubeck

If you’re looking for some great Christmas Jazz to help get you in the holiday spirit, look no further than Dave Brubeck’s “Christmas Jazz.” This classic album features some of the best Christmas Jazz tunes of all time, played by one of the most legendary Jazz musicians of our time. From “Jingle Bells” to “Silent Night,” this album is sure to get your toes tapping and put you in the holiday mood in no time. So pour yourself a cup of eggnog, sit back, and enjoy some of the best Christmas Jazz around!

A Jazz Christmas by Oscar Peterson

One of the best-selling Christmas albums of all time, A Jazz Christmas by Oscar Peterson has sold more than two million copies worldwide since its release in 1966. This classic album features some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time playing holiday favorites like “White Christmas,” “Silent Night,” and “The Christmas Song.”

Honorable Mentions

While these didn’t make the top 10, they’re still great Christmas jazz instrumentals that deserve recognition. George Benson’s “White Christmas” is a classic that always puts me in the holiday spirit. Dave Brubeck’s “Winter Wonderland” is another great one.

White Christmas by Miles Davis

Miles Davis’ take on “White Christmas” is a jazzy, bluesy instrumental that will get your toes tapping. It’s the perfect addition to any holiday playlist.

The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole

This is a classic Christmas song that was written in 1944 by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells. It was first recorded by The King Cole Trio in 1946 and released as a single in 1947. The song was Nat King Cole’s biggest hit, spending five weeks at the top of the Billboard charts in December 1948. It has been recorded by many artists over the years, including Bing Crosby, Jimmy Buffett, and Garth Brooks.

Silent Night by Ella Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald’s dreamy rendition of “Silent Night” is the perfect end to any holiday party. The slow, simmering pace of the arrangement is a nice contrast to the more frantic holiday tunes, and Fitzgerald’s vocal performance is nothing short of perfection.

Winter Wonderland by Tony Bennett

If you’re in the mood for something a little more mellow, Bennett’s crooning over a swinging big band might be more your style. This holiday standard has been recorded by plenty of artists, but Bennett’s version has a certain charm that’s perfect for when you want to put your feet up and relax by the fire.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Frank Sinatra

This 1966 recording by Frank Sinatra is a timeless classic. It features a classic Sinatra vocal performance, with lush orchestrations by Nelson Riddle. It’s the perfect choice for a romantic evening by the fireplace.

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