Culture / GQ

These are the coolest Christmas songs you’ll hear this winter


The festive season brings the inevitable resurgence of contemporary Christmas singles filling out the radio playlists. Everybody loves The Pogues and Kirsty Maccol’s “Fairytale Of New York”, but GQ’s Christmas playlist for 2014 has a slightly different flavour. Instead of including every X Factor winner of the past ten years, here’s a selection of some of the best jazzy seasonal arrangements.

Louis Armstrong – Zat You Santa Clause?

Perhaps the most celebrated cover of Raymond Scott’s 1936 classic came from Louis Armstrong, premiered via a CBS radio broadcast, featuring lyrics – written by Mitchell Parish – added to the originally instrumental composition. We’re sure you’ll agree that the combination of Armstrong’s notably raspy vocal tones and the brassy arrangement are nothing short of sensational.

Ray Charles & Betty Carter – Baby It’s Cold Outside

Originally written as a romantic winter song, Frank Loesser’s 1944 single “Baby It’s Cold Outside” has become one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. Most notably recorded by Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews in the late Nineties, this much earlier rendition by Ray Charles and Betty Carter’s really strikes a chord. It’s not quite as upbeat as Jones and Matthews’, yet it’s certainly more sophisticated.

Ella Fitzgerald – Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer

Based upon a fictional children’s book, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer has been covered by a countless amount of artists since its original 1940s release. Yet, one that stands above the rest is Ella Fitzgerald’s sleekly insouciant take on the Christmas classic, recorded for her 1960 compilation of festive covers.

Chet Baker – Silent Night

Again, Silent Night has been covered by an obscene amount of musicians in the past. One of those covers came from Oklahoma Jazz musician Chet Baker, and demonstrates the artist’s trumpet playing skills astonishingly. Smooth, laid-back and refreshing, what more could you ask for?

Duke Ellington – Sugar Rum Cherry

Not only has Sir Duke become one of the most renowned jazz musicians of all time, in 1960 the artist ingeniously composed an album based upon Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”. And if you haven’t already guessed, Ellington’s Sugar Rum Cherry is a colourful take upon the iconic Sugar Plum Fairy, albeit considerably different to the original.

Miles Davis – Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)

Legendary trumpeter Miles Davis’ addition to our playlist conveys a slightly different tone. Counting on pianist Bob Dorough for the song’s vocals and lyrics. In fact, Blue Xmas is more of an anti-Christmas song, if anything, featuring caustic cynical lyrics that criticize the season of goodwill. Still, Davis’ compositional skills remain on absolutely top form.

Frank Sinatra – I Believe

One of the coolest recording artists to have ever trodden the Earth’s surface, Frank Sinatra was never a stranger to recording his own swinging renditions of popular Christmas songs. Having recorded so many festive gems across the year with his Rat Pack cohorts, there’s even enough to fill a whole anthology of Christmas classics. However, standing head and shoulders above the rest of Sinatra’s seasonal offerings is “I Believe”.

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