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The Missing Specialty Recordings album?

I’ve always respected the fact that there was never a CTI Christmas album… or “holiday special”. Given the 1978 bankruptcy, it would have been easy money to have send a few talented musicians over to Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in New Jersey and get them to record some holiday classics. Creed didn’t. I respect him for that, even if it was because he didn’t think of it, rather than he thought it would be in poor taste.

Looking back at Creed’s ABC-Paramount specialty recording period, it’s even more surprising there wasn’t a Christmas album, after all there were albums called “Bawdy Barracks Ballads”, “Salute The Colleges”, “Drinking Songs Around The World”, “Music To Break A Sub-Lease”, “Songs Of Freedom” as well as the Creed Taylor and ESQUIRE magazine European vacation series.

While discussing it the other day, I started searching, and much to my surprise, found that in fact Creed had produced “Christmas Cookin'”, a rather good Jimmy Smith album for Verve, in 1964. Which got me thinking, were there other tracks, and there were.

The Mix Playlist

Here is the playlist for the CTProduced Christmas mix, available from mixcloud and embedded above. I was actually considering cheating and including “Santa Cruzin”, the Grover Washington, Jr. album “Reed Seed” from 1978, but decided not to when I discovered the excellent “Winter Wonderland” on Hank Crawford’s “We Got A Good Thing Going” album from 1972. The irony of Hank Crawford replacing Grover wasn’t lost on me. Beside which my next post and mix will be about Grover Washington, Jr.

TitleArtistAlbum
1Santa Claus Is Coming To TownBill EvansTrio ’64
2The Christmas SongHank CrawfordWe Got A Good Thing Going
3Jingle BellsJimmy SmithChristmas Cookin’
4A Child Is BornKenny BurrellGod Bless The Child
5Winter MoonStan GetzStan Getz With Laurindo Almeida
6God Bless The ChildKenny BurrellGod Bless The Child
7TroikaJ & KBetwixt & Between
8Little Drummer BoyJ & KBetwixt & Between
9Silent NightJimmy SmithChristmas Cookin’
10White ChristmasJimmy SmithChristmas Cookin’
11Winter WonderlandHank CrawfordWe Got A Good Thing Going
12God Rest Ye Merry GentlemenJimmy SmithChristmas Cookin’

Christmas Cookin’ – Jimmy Smith

The Jimmy Smith album, is somewhat of a classic in Jazz circles. It’s been re-issued a number of times, most notably in 1966 with the original “Christmas ’64” title changed, and a new cover featuring Smith in a Santa costume in a red two seater, open top, sports car. It made #75 in the 1966 Billboard Magazine “Best Selling Christmas LP’s”, with Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Johnny Mathis, Elvis and the Harry Simone Chorale – taking the top-5, so there is that!

It was first made available on CD in 1992, and is also available on all the major streaming platforms. For licensing reasons I was unable to include more than four tracks from the album in the mix, it’s well worth a ‘spin’.

Listed as a “Feature Pick” in a December ’83 issue of Cash Box

CHRISTMAS COOKIN’ — Jimmy Smith — Verve V6-8666 — Producer: Creed Taylor — List: $8.98
Back in the racks! The King of the soul organ’s holiday classic from the mid-sixties, featuring a big band arranged by Billy Byers and Al Cohn. This is proof positive that there is absolutely nothing that Smith can’t turn into funk, including these old holiday
warhorses. Must be heard to be believed.

30-years after release, The Gavin Report had this to say about Smith’s festive offering

Cash Box – December 10th, 1983 – P22

Thirty years after the original release, the Gavin Report said:

JIMMY SMITH – CHRISTMAS COOKIN’ (VERVE/POLYGRAM REISSUE)
with the success of The Master – on Blue Note, 1994 has seen a resurgence of Jimmy Smith’s ’50s -style Hammond organ sound. Over the years we’ve given warm references to Smith’s pioneering Jazz/R&B sound on Blue Note, but have neglected his contributions on Verve. Well, the reissue of Christmas Content’ should help straighten the record. Five tracks are dense with big hand arrangements that at times nearly bury Smith’s wailing Hammond B -3. Our clear favorite is one of the two bonus tracks, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a duet between Smith and Wes Montgomery. Grady Tate and Ray Barretto fill out this prestigious lineup, offering a perfect left field jazz oldie for the holidays.

Gavin Report – December 2nd, 1994

Surprisingly the Urban music page of the November 11th, 1994 issue of the Gavin report recommended reader “try out Christmas Cookin’ from Verve which features organist by Jimmy Smith”.

Personally, when I hear Smith’s organ on classic tunes, my first reaction is John Cleese says “and now for something completely different!”. If Smith’s organ isn’t for you, I’m sure there are more recent Holiday Jazz albums, Barbara Barnes has a vintage 1986 list.

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