Carla's Christmas Carols

Carla’s Christmas Carols

Carla Bley with Steve Swallow and the Partyka Brass Quintet


I’m somewhat finicky about holiday music, banishing it from the house until as close to Christmas as can be managed. Don’t get me wrong. I adore a well-crafted re-imagining of seasonal chestnuts by an esteemed classical, jazz, or pop artist. But  so many truly wretched  retreads are blared at one in public. Indeed, it’s understandable when some folks sum up holiday music as merely another facet of crass commercialism.

Happily, this year there’s musical rescue at hand. Pianist, composer and arranger Carla Bley has joined forces with esteemed bassist Steve Swallow and the Partyka Brass Quintet to serve up a zesty disc of jazz-inflected holiday cheer. Carla’s Christmas Carols combines elegant contemporary jazz renditions of carols such as “Away in the Manger” and “O Tannenbaum” with clever takes on holiday favorites such as Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song” and the irrepressible “Jingle Bells.” Bley also contributes a couple of sleekly-scored originals to the proceedings, and arranges all of the tunes with characteristic taste and imaginative flair.

Carla’s Christmas Carols proves an ideal way to enjoy holiday favorites anew without ever feeling like too much saccharine’s been slipped into the punchbowl.

Kick off the Holidays with Julian Koster's Singing Saw!

Some musicians tour year round with a band in support of their latest LP. But this December, Merge recording artist Julian Koster is instead going on a caroling tour. He’s taking along his trusty dog Rudolph (no joke!) and a singing saw. You can hear Koster’s deconstruction of holiday chestnut “White Christmas” below.

MP3:  White Christmas

For more holiday sawing, The Singing Saw at Christmastime is available on CD, LP, and digital download.

Better yet, why not have Koster and his carolers visit your abode? Details  below.


You may invite the carolers to visit your house by emailing or by mailing a handwritten letter to  450 N. Harris St. Athens, GA   30601 (due to time constraints, please send an email to let the “caroling ambassador” know you are sending a letter). Be sure to include an email address or telephone number for reply.   Invitations where the hosts indicate that they would be willing to entertain outside guests on caroling night are preferred. Please note your permission to invite others from the area to your house and whether you can offer the carolers a place to sleep in your letter or email.

Once the limit on houses on a given night has been reached, the address of each house that will welcome guests will be distributed via email to all who email and ask to attend. The addresses of the houses will not be posted online.

Proposed Caroling Path:
December 7th, 8th, 9th: Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana & Lower Half of Illinois
December 10th, 11th, 12th: Chicago, Illinois, Michigan
December 13th, 14th, 15th: Ohio, Pittsburgh, Western NY
December 16th, 17th, 18th: Upstate NY, New England (CT, RI, VT etc)
December 19th, 20th, 21st: Philadelphia, NYC, Baltimore, DC, Chapel Hill