Hang the Mistletoe b/w Jingle Bells
Dave Lambert Singers
Dave Lambert was one third of the great jazz/vocalese trio Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross (along with Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross). They were considered pioneers in vocal jazz, setting the stage for many acts to follow (think Singers Unlimited, The Swingle Singers, The Manhattan Transfer).
These tracks predate the formation of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross by two years. I can’t really find any credits that tell us who was involved with the Singers besides Lambert himself. The single is listed on the discography of jazz bassist Bill Crow (though with what appears to be an incorrect date of 1957). There is copyright info and an article in Cashbox magazine of 1955 that mention the single, so 1955 it is. Cashbox gave both tracks a C+ grade, as seen here:
According to a promotional PR piece in the same issue of Cashbox, the record company sent live mistletoe to radio stations:
Hang the Mistletoe
Mitzi Dallas/Dave Lambert
© Ardmore Music Corp. 20 Dec 1955
Hang the mistletoe
Let the candle burn down low
Wait for you love to appear
Hang the mistletoe
Meet her as she stands below
Give her the kiss of the year
In her eyes
A vow unspoken
Will not be broken
Then you’ll find it’s true
She’s been waiting
Just for you
To hang the mistletoe
Thoughts from The King
My path to discovering this jazzy little nugget was through bassist Bill Crow. In doing some research on one of my favorite jazz albums, Night Lights by Gerry Mulligan, I discovered that Crow played on that release. Perusing the discography on his website, I found a reference to this Christmas single and put it in my Saved Searches on Ebay. One popped up a while ago and I grabbed it.
The song is a sweet little number, with the vocal group accompanied simple instrumentation (guitar, chimes, etc.). The vocals don’t quite give a clue to the direction that Lambert would take with Hendricks and Ross, sticking to some fairly traditional singing. But it’s quite lovely. (Folks will note that the track is included on my 2018 King of Jingaling Fling mix.)
On the flipside, we get an interesting little take on Jingle Bells which, according to the label, features “Nellie the Syncopated-Gaited Horse”. This is really just somebody patting along a galloping rhythm, probably on their leg. To be honest, I find the “syncopation” not entirely focused and it distracts me a bit at times. There’s a sweet little jazz guitar solo in the middle of the song (by “Jimmy” somebody, apparently with mittens on…). It’s kind of a throwaway, but compared to lots of versions of Jingle Bells I’ve heard (and I’ve heart a lot…), it’s unique and fun.
I’m happy to have discovered this and to have perhaps brought it out of obscurity. I hope you like it. Please comment below to let me know.
P.S. If you want to enjoy watching Dave Lambert and his singers (from a 1964 documentary by D.A. Pennebaker), CHECK IT OUT.