A Holiday Playlist...and Menu...

Inspired by my fellow music educator and blogger, Jersey Jazzman, and to offer a break from my typical posts about the horrors of education reform, here's a playlist of some of my favorite seasonal tunes. And because the holidays are about indulging--in great music and great food!--each selection is accompanied by one of my favorite recipes. So snuggle up around the fireplace and pour a drink...or 6...

Let's start with an oldie-but-goodie from my favorite crooner, Frank Sinatra: Mistletoe & Holly. There's just something so nostalgic and comforting about this tune. For me, it brings back memories of my childhood when we listened to Christmas albums collected from the local gas station that were given out when you filled up your tank...and to accompany this tasty, jazzy appetizer, a 1960s-era throwback--shrimp cocktail, with a chipotle-infused cocktail sauce to bring it into the 21st Century.

Next up is a beautiful cover from Wayne Bergeron of O Holy Night--and what a great arrangement! This live performance is really impressive, and features Wayne on both flugel and trumpet. Who does that, and sounds that good on both horns? Wow...now, what to pair with this? The only thing that can stand up to this kind of sonic power is a perfect beef tenderloin...with horseradish creme...and the ideal, fool-proof way to make sure this amazing beast turns out perfectly cooked is to use the "reverse sear" method, explained in painstaking detail here...

The next entry on the list is this swinging arrangement of Sleigh Ride by Ella Fitzgerald, which is featured in our favorite holiday movie, Elf. The trombones in the opening bars of this arrangement set the tone for this bluesy take on the holiday standard.



And to go with this tune, my favorite holiday side dish...a chipotle sweet potato dish from chef Bobby Flay...every time I've made this dish it gets rave reviews, so hurry up and get this on your table, too!

A bonus addition to the list is my new favorite Christmas tune from my friend and colleague at Michigan State University, Etienne Charles. His new album, Creole Christmas, is on heavy rotation whenever I'm in the car or out for a run, and my favorite cut from the album is This Christmas (featuring Mykal Kilgore on vocals). Etienne's arrangement is just superb on this tune, with such a laid-back, cool feel and great horn lines.


Here's a link to the Amazon.com web page that contains a sample cut of the tune, and please head over to Etienne's website to pick up your own copy of this great album--and the rest of Etienne's CDs; all of them are fantastic!

For after dinner, there's only one choice--the urtext version of The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) by Mel Torme. This is the one song to listen to at the end of the night, by the fire with your favorite person.


To accompany this classic, we have a lovely glass of port, with some stilton, fruit, and perhaps a drizzle of honey...no recipe needed.

And that's the great thing about holiday music...each one of us could come up with another set of tunes that are just as wonderful, and hold special memories of our families and loved ones. 

Keep these tunes handy the next time life deals you a bad hand, and best wishes for the most wonderful of years!