Putumayo has always released a lot of high quality American jazz compilations as part of their international focus on music and Putumayo Presents: New Orleans Christmas is no exception.
Just from reading its title there should be no surprise that New Orleans Christmas is a jazz and blues CD. All eleven tracks feature artists who are natives of the Crescent City or have a long time affiliation with the town's jazz scene.
One of the many jazz veterans who appear on the disc is Lars Edegran, an unknown to the general public even though he has had a long and impeccable career in the business. Edegran is a former Academy Award nominee, garnering the honor in 1979 for the soundtrack to the Louis Malle film, Pretty Baby. On "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" a big band frames Big Al Carson, a popular New Orleans R&B singer for a rousing version of this often tired old classic. Singer and trumpeter James Andrews does his best Louis Armstrong on "Christmas in New Orleans." He has recorded with Allen Toussaint and Dr. John. The Dukes of Dixieland contribute "Holiday Time In New Orleans."
For those who prefer more modern sounds there is Ellis Marsalis, the father of the famous jazz brothers. Here he adds a more modern touch to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" with some fabulous piano work as the leader of a trio that includes his youngest son, Jason, on drums. Singer John Boutte comes from another local musical family and spices up a nice arrangement of "White Christmas," a track that also showcases some nice electric, jazz guitar.
Most of the CD sounds more dated than the latter two examples do, and while everything is superbly played, produced, and arranged, you must like the style and free-wheeling spirit of this great music town to fully appreciate these songs. If you do, you won't find much better party jazz on a Christmas album anywhere.