Duke Pearson Merry Ole SoulOutside of the great new releases from Real Gone Music (more about them later), I have to say that this is the release I am most excited about for 2014. And I only stumbled on it accidentally while searching the internet for cover images to update my music library on the computer. It’s a Japanese import, and so probably not in the price range for a casual listener ($20-$30US, depending on where you see it online), but worth it for real Christmas music collectors and/or jazz fans.

In recent years I have been delving deeper into the world of jazz and it has become probably the type of music I listen to the most. And so as Christmas approaches these days, I’m more and more in the mood for good jazz Christmas music, and this album is up there in the top 10 of the genre I’d say.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that approaching jazz music can be a daunting and overwhelming task with the decades of history, countless styles¬†and subgenres, as well as the dizzying list of players. But there are many excellent tools for discovery these days that can help you narrow the focus of your interest. I personally go for bebop of the 50’s as well as the cool west coast jazz of the 50’s and 60’s. It’s gotta have melody, not be too noisy, and it should–naturally–swing.

Pearson accomplishes all of these on Merry Ole Soul, putting a great improvisational spin on these familiar songs with enough melody so they don’t stray too far from the spirit of the holidays.

The ensemble consists of Pearson on piano and celeste, Bob Cranshaw on bass, Mickey Roker on drums and the great Airo Moreira on percussion. Recorded in 1969, the audio quality is crisp and the stereo sound places you in the middle of the group while they do their thing.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of Christmas jazz in print from those days. We still need to see remastered versions of Bobby Timmons’ “Holiday Soul”, The Mastersounds’ “Happy Holidays From Many Lands”, and Don Patterson’s “Holiday Soul”. And it would be great to see this receive a proper US release. But until then, I’m happy to have it available as it is.

Here are a few tracks from YouTube for you to check out. And click the link below to buy it from Amazon.

The album is now more widely available via streaming services. Check it out on Spotify below.

The King of Jingaling