I’ve always wanted to record a Christmas album, but wondered what repertoire to choose. As you can see, I chose to play both jazz and classical styles in a collection of both the familiar and the seldom heard. We have classics, pop standards, jazz and even boogie-woogie. Many of the classics here are seldom played on the piano, such as the Tchaikovsky Nutcracker Suite. Liszt’s Christmas Tree Suite, written as a Christmas gift to his granddaughter Daniela, is almost never played. It’s a masterpiece well worth rediscovering. Liszt was a man of deep spiritual convictions and in the slower pieces (such as In dulci jubilo and Slumber Song) the composer achieves a luminous quality unique in piano music.
We have two versions of Sleigh Ride. The famous one by Leroy Anderson is a jazzy uptempo New England sleigh ride. The other (seldom performed) by Tchaikovsky is a magical romantic version of a sleigh ride in a Russian wonderland of snow and ice. Both Leroy Anderson and Tchaikovsky imitate the clip-clop of horses, but in the Tchaikovsky version the snow also begins to fall ever so delicately.
There are two versions of Silent Night – one as the snow falls, and the other filled with evocative jazz chords. There are also two versions of Jingle Bells – one a short homage to Ella Fitzgerald and the other played as a pop standard. Of course everyone loves Mel Torme’s Christmas Song. I can’t help but recall his velvety smooth voice and the lovely sophisticated jazz harmonies he chose for this Christmas standard.
Finally, I included a new Carrol for piano by my good friend Christopher Haynes. He writes that the music is to be played “as if on a journey”. I like to think of it as a reminiscence of a Christmas journey that we all have taken.