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The Ultimate Winter Jazz Playlist

Jazz is a year-round must, but there’s something about listening to it on a quiet, chilly night that makes for a perfect ambiance. You might recognize some of these tracks – many are classics. But good music should be like comfort food – there’s nothing that feels as good as returning to a familiar favorite. If you’re looking to freshen up your jazz collection, distract yourself from the dreary weather with our round-up of the genre’s essentials.

“Blue Moon”, Billie Holiday

“I’ll be Seeing You” is always playing on jazz stations, but this underrated classic automatically infuses you with a little hope. As always, Billie’s voice is pure, glorious honey, playing against a relaxed piano accompaniment and reminding us, we’re not alone.

“Beatrice”, Sam Rivers

A slowed-down horn moment taken straight out of an old New York film, this trip down nostalgia lane is an extremely mellow ride. Featured on the album Fuchsia Swing, “Beatrice” was named after Rivers’ wife. It’s the ideal accompaniment for a snowy ride home or a cup of hot cocoa.

“My Favorite Things”, John Coltrane Quartet

Julie Andrews might have made this song famous, but it’s never been more irresistible than in the sumptuous, flowing rendition by John Coltrane. The imaginative reinterpretation does the song the real justice it deserves and is the first album where Coltrane plays soprano saxophone, which he does to perfection.

Related: “Lost John Coltrane Album Is A Fiery Revelation”

“Hunt Up Wind”, Hiroshi Fukumura

If you were wondering if 1970s Japanese jazz-funk fusion is a thing, it is, and it’s catchy as hell. Fukumura does wonders on the trombone. It’s hard not to start head nodding to this track as soon as it comes on. Other notable tracks by this artist include “White Clouds” and “Capitan Caribe.”

“Feeling Good”, Nina Simone

If your jazz collection is lacking a little edge, “Feeling Good” is the call to action you’ve been missing. It reminds us all to live a bit more freely and remember that every day is a chance for a new beginning, even if that day does start with freezing temperatures. Thankfully, Nina’s thick voice will warm you up in no time.

“When There Is No Sun”, Sun Ra Quartet

This mostly vocal track is slightly experimental and lets your mind wander in the best way possible. The lyrics to the free jazz piece goes, “the sky is a sea of darkness when there is no sun,” which is fitting subject matter for the next couple of months. That being said, winter has never sounded better – Sun Ra helps us light the way home.

“Like It Is”, Yusef Lateef

Lateef’s whole discography is worth a listen, but the beauty of this 1968 track is that it showcases how truly diverse and multi-talented this artist is. From multiple woodwind instruments to the tenor sax, Lateef’s tracks all have an enchanting and mystical nature, which “Like It Is” embodies.

“Cheek to Cheek”, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald

Nothing says winter like the rumbling, comforting vocals of Louis Armstrong. “La Vie En Rose.”  But there’s nothing to uplift a cloudy day like playing “Cheek to Cheek” on loop. Whether you’re with family, having a date night, or going on a stroll, there’s really no mood that this song doesn’t fit.

Related: “All Roads Lead to Louis Armstrong”

“Soul Lament”, Kenny Burrell

While many wind and brass instruments shine on this playlist, no one plays a velvety guitar more winter-appropriate than Kenny Burrell. This track isn’t about showiness – it’s barebones, minimalist and flawlessly produced. The energy is a sublime balance between dreaminess and introspection that’s made for those thoughtful moments alone.

-Naima Karp

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2 comments on “The Ultimate Winter Jazz Playlist

  1. Bob Taylor

    Listen to “Snowy Morning Blues,” by James P. Johnson, who was maybe the earliest jazz pianist. The man had wonderful taste, and a real gift for composition. You can hear his version of “Snowy Morning Blues” on YouTube. It’s infectious in the best way. I defy you, or any reader of this comment, not to like it.

  2. Bob Taylor

    I submitted this earlier, but it appears not to have survived cyberspace: listen to James P. Johnson’s recording of his composition, “Snowy Morning Blues.” Johnson may have been the first true jazz pianist. He had wonderful talent and taste, a real gift for composition, and, predictably, was underappreciated in his lifetime and is virtually unheard of today. But his influence on the development of jazz piano was great, and he was a treasure who should never be forgotten.

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