A Classic Christmas Playlist chosen by Neil Hughes

Neil Hughes, Director of Jazz for the Buxton International Festival, joined the team in September 2021 and has scheduled a full jazz programme for July 2022, from duo to Big Band (Jazz Weekender tickets now on sale). Here, he lets us in on a few of his family Christmas favourites. Neil ran The Cinnamon Club in Altrincham for nearly twenty years and directed Southport jazz Festival from 2017-2020.

Listen to each piece individually by clicking on the links below. Alternatively you can enjoy the full playlist here.

The Christmas Song  Natalie Cole & Andrea Bocelli

Written by Mel Torme, Robert Wells

What a version to start with, two voices spanning jazz and classical coming together in the magical concert setting. Of course,  Natalie’s Dad knew a thing or two about singing Christmas songs and I will feature Nat King Cole later, but for now, enjoy this heavenly tune.

Merry Christmas Baby – Gregory Porter with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Big Band

Written by Lou Baxter

There is just something about a Big Band rendition of a great blues/jazz song. I  love the Etta James version, but I had to feature the smooth baritone voice that is Gregory Porter. I can imagine this one at full volume as I am cooking the turkey, enjoy.

The Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth) –  Bing Crosby & David Bowie

Written by Peter Alexander, Katherine K Davis

This is an interesting choice and not one I would have made a few years ago, but I have been listening to more Bowie recently. It was considered a made-for-TV concoction at the time and rumours abound how David Bowie only did it because his Mum loved Bing Crosby. Either way it got made when the TV producers wrote counterpart lyrics in the hour before recording, and this is what ends up giving the performance its depth. I particularly like the conversation before the music starts, a demonstration of both singer’s acting skills. Very sadly Bing died just one month after recording.


River – Joni Mitchell

A Christmas song that is not about Christmas ? The song is set by a Christmas tree, and talks of reindeers, and singing songs of joy and peace but is really about Joni’s relationship breakdown and her desire to escape the pain and skate away. It has become a staple festive tune and many performances feature a nod to well know carols within the mix.

Christmas Songs – Nat King Cole

My final treat for you, a whole album of classic Christmas songs by the one and only Nat King Cole. This was always on the turntable at Christmas time, the perfect voice and arrangements for the family to sing along to.

I have missed so many, I know. Frank, Ella, Ray Charles – so many classics in the mix for the festive period. Let me know your favourites and I’ll take a listen. Have a great Christmas, hold those you love close, sing your sings of joy and peace and remember those less fortunate than ourselves. See you on the other side.

Merry Christmas