Illustration by David Cowles
November 16, 2008
Howard Reich, jazz critic
Above all, a great party soundtrack requires the sound of the human voice, buoyant one moment, reflective the next. Here are a few sure-fire hits for this chilly time of year.
1. "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" from the CD "Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas." What could be more uplifting than hearing Ella Fitzgerald swinging freely on Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne's wintertime classic?
2. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," from the CD "A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra." The Voice never sounded better, Sinatra's velvety baritone crooning warmly for the occasion.
3. "Keep Your Hand on the Plow," from "Mahalia Jackson: Live at Newport, 1958." The greatest set of pipes in gospel cries out to the heavens before segueing into "The Lord's Prayer." Profound.
4. "Jelly Jelly," from "Count Basie/Billy Eckstine Incorporated." Every gathering worthy of the name requires at least a taste of the blues, and the velvet-voiced Eckstine provides it, with Basie's band whinnying in the background.
5. "Let's Face the Music and Dance," from "Jazz." One of Tony Bennett's most galvanic recordings overflows with indelible moments, none more exuberant or hedonistic than this.