Mars Willams Maps the Way to an Ayler Xmas

Christmas music often comes with a strong undercurrent of nostalgia as the songs evoke times that seem simpler in retrospect. That isn’t an issue for Mars Williams’ Ayler Xmas project, which steers into the heart of the tensions and uncertainties of improvised music based on pieces of adventurous Black art from the early 1960s.

Better Christmas Music Through Science

“Love’s Not Just for Christmas” isn’t only a good song. It opens doors to a host of good questions from the first upward sweep of strings. Just before they reach a crescendo, a buoyant piano pumps out chords over which a female R&B singer describes a domestic vignette from the holiday season. “The whole world smiles as there’s only love in the air,” she sings before the female vocal ensemble that back her step warmly into the bouncy chorus that concludes with the title sentiment.

Judith Owen Sings About What's Really Important at Jazz Fest

When Judith Owen presides over the annual Christmas sing-along show that she does each year with husband Harry Shearer, she's a big presence. She can be as tender as the moment requires, but she can also ride herd on the audience if necessary, charming or cajoling a situation into submission as the show requires. Nobody brings more lion tamer to the holiday season than Owen.

Christmas Vacation with Andra Day, Jon Batiste, and Kacey Musgraves

Historically, Christmas records served as a vacation from the artist’s career. Singers stopped building their images and presented themselves as people like you who love Christmas too. Married singers who portrayed themselves as ready for love suddenly sang the joys of domesticity, complete with kids. Rock ’n’ roll complicated that Christmas vacation because pop vocalists in the 1940s and '50s were hitmakers who reached a broad demographic.

Unseasonal Songs for an Unseasonal Christmas

Not only is New Orleans unlikely to see a white Christmas this year, but it's doubtful we'll see a cold one either. Most of the rest of the days before Christmas will be like today--lows in the 60s, highs in the 70s. Not quite shorts and flip-flops weather, but there's little call for chestnuts or anything else by an open fire.

Merry Christmas Semi-Live from St. Roch Market

Saturday afternoon, I DJ'ed an afternoon of Christmas music at St. Roch Market as part of Tales of the Cocktail's holiday pop-up store. After I played "What You Want for Christmas" by Quad City DJs, The 69 Boyz and K-Nock, one woman came up to tell me she'd forgotten about that song, and another wanted to know where she could get the playlist because she liked it too.

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