Various Artists

Swingin' Christmas Party [RCA]

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Traditional European Yuletide music existed centuries before the advent of recording technology, and 21st century listeners will never have a chance to hear European singers and musicians of the 16th or 17th centuries performing the Christmas carols of their time. But American Christmas pop songs from the 20th century are another matter. Standards like Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" and Mel Tormé's "The Christmas Song" were written at a time when millions of people owned record players, and 21st century listeners who want to hear what Christmas music sounded like 50, 60, or 70 years ago need only visit their local CD store. The focus of Swingin' Christmas Party is swing and traditional pre-rock pop artists performing Christmas pop standards, and the recordings (all of them from RCA's vaults) date back to the '30s, '40s, and '50s. European carols like "Silent Night" and "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentleman" are not a priority; instead, one hears American Christmas pop standards being interpreted by the likes of Tommy Dorsey ("Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"), Glenn Miller ("Jingle Bells"), and Sammy Kaye ("White Christmas"). Most of the recordings on Swingin' Christmas Party do, in fact, swing, which doesn't mean that all of them are jazz per se. For example, Guy Lombardo's sweet band (which is heard on the New Year's Eve favorite "Auld Lang Syne") was essentially a pop unit. But Lombardo, Vaughn Monroe, and other traditional pop artists on this disc were certainly influenced by jazz, so they work well alongside improvisers such as Fats Waller and Benny Goodman. Regrettably, RCA fails to provide recording dates, but even so, Swingin' Christmas Party is an enjoyable compilation that is recommended to anyone who wants to hear what Christmas music sounded like in the '30s, '40s, and '50s.

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