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Hipsters' HolidayLike their Hillbilly Holiday and Blue Yule, Rhino Records' Hipsters' Holiday: Vocal Jazz And R&B Classics (1989) does a commendable job of summarizing a large, delightful subgenre of Christmas music. With one glaring exception (more below), none of these songs can be faulted as less than representative of the form, and almost all rise to classic status. Most notably, Hipsters' Holiday contains some of Louis Armstrong's hippest holiday offerings, three sides recorded for Decca Records during his creative maturity in the 1950's. While Satchmo sides like "Cool Yule" and "Christmas Night In Harlem" form the emotional core of Hipsters' Holiday, the fun just begins there. The disc also includes two great gold digger soliloquies, Eartha Kitt's salacious, celebrated "Santa Baby" and Pearl Bailey's equally evil (if less renowned) "Five Pound Of Money." This pair is juxtaposed with Miles Davis' "Blue Xmas," featuring a venomous rant on commercialism from vocalist Bob Dorough.

More often than not, though, these songs are nothing more (and nothing less) than odes to a new kind of Santa Claus, one who "done got hip" and proceeds to do the boogie woogie, dance the mambo, and live the crazy be-bop lifestyle. Stir in the double entendres of Julia Lee and the blue tones of Lionel Hampton, and we have a spicy, saucy recipe for a swinging Christmas. Spanning over twenty years (1946 to 1966), Hipsters' Holiday provides a vivid snapshot of American jive in the full flower of health.

Disconcertingly, however, Rhino throws a wrench in the works with one remarkably inferior contemporary selection. Tim Fuller, a now forgotten flavor-of-the-month, virtually oozes condescension on his performance of "Silent Night," which mixes cocktail jazz with purloined Beatle riffs (how droll). Fuller is described in the liner notes as "the Tony Clifton of the 90's" - like that's a compliment! In fact, he more closely resembles Bill Murray's Saturday Night Live lounge singer - trying so hard to be hip, failing so miserably to be anything more than pathetic. Perhaps Fuller's inclusion was intended to make everything else sound wonderful in comparison (which it certainly does), but it's another of Rhino's irksome missteps, very nearly spoiling an otherwise brilliant collection. [top of page]

Albums Albums

SongsSongs

  • Be-Bop Santa Claus (Babs Gonzales, 1955)
  • Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern) (Miles Davis, 1962)
  • Boogie Woogie Santa Claus (Mabel Scott, 1948)
  • Christmas Night In Harlem (Louis Armstrong & His All-Stars, 1955)
  • Christmas Spirit (Julia Lee & Her Boyfriends, 1947)
  • Cool Yule (Louis Armstrong & The Commanders 1953)
  • Deck Us All With Boston Charlie (Lambert Hendricks & Ross, 1961)
  • Dig That Crazy Santa Claus (Oscar McLollie & His Honey Jumpers, 1954)
  • Five Pound Box Of Money (Pearl Bailey, 1959)
  • Hello Mr. New Year (Coolbreezers, 1957)
  • Jingle Bells (Leo Watson, 1949)
  • Merry Christmas Baby (Lionel Hampton, 1950)
  • Santa Baby (Eartha Kitt, 1953)
  • Santa Done Got Hip (Marquees, 1959)
  • We Wanna See Santa Do The Mambo (Big John Greer, 1954)
  • 'Zat You Santa Claus? (Louis Armstrong, 1953) star Top 100 Song [close]
    Satchmo cut six Christmas sides for Decca Records in the 1950's as his career as a jazz innovator came to a close and his new status as American icon came into focus. All the Decca sides are enjoyable (and all are included on What A Wonderful Christmas), but "'Zat You Santa Claus" is the one that best captures Armstrong's affable but mischievous persona while preserving his musical integrity. Recasting Santa as night prowler, Satch and his band created the first (only?) Christmas-Halloween hybrid.

Further ListeningFurther Listening

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