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The best Christmas song ever

December 21, 2011 - John Mehno
I know radio stations have been playing Christmas music since mid-November, and maybe you're a bit burned out on Rudolph and Frosty and the rest of the usual suspects.

Here's a sweet piece for you, and it won't cost you anything to sample.

In 1961, the Modern Jazz Quartet recorded an album with a symphony orchestra in Germany. It doesn't matter if you don't like jazz and don't like symphony music. Trust me, this works.

John Lewis, the MJQ's pianist and musical director, had been playing variations on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" for years. He called his composition "England's Carol." The MJQ recorded it several times as a quartet, but the version that kills is the one with the orchestra. You get the strings augmenting the basic MJQ sound (Lewis on piano, Milt Jackson on vibes, Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums) and it soars. It's absolutely majestic, and it demands your full attention. This isn't background music for when the kids are screaming.

Someone kindly put it on youtube in full stereo, so it's yours to enjoy for just a click. There's nothing to see here, so just focus on the incredible sounds.

This track used to get played on the radio in the '60s, but it's too long and complex to make the playlists now. They'd rather give you Stevie Nicks bleating "Silent Night."

Give this a listen and see if it doesn't instantly become a favorite. The link is over there on the right side of the page.

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