For me, the computer "era" did not actually begin until 1998. As usual, when I got my first Mac, I was behind everyone else and had to try to catch-up with all of the new devices and technologies as quickly as I could. At the time, iTunes was a wonder, and I knew that, over time, I would have to being to convert all of my CDs, at the albums and songs that were of great significance for me, to digital. In doing so, I would have to learn how to best organize them for easy access. Of course, creating very personalized playlists became an essential part of this process. Of course, as a musician, I had always owned a couple of real component-based stereo systems with powerful amps (100w per channel) and a multi-CD player in the living room system. As a kid, growing-up in West Los Angeles, I remember that during every Holiday Season,Spotify Xmas Samplers CD Covers my father would always break out the most wonderful LPs of Christmas songs - all sung by the greatest singers from the '40s, '50s and '60s. And so, I attempted to create Christmas Samplers, 3 volumes of them, within my iTunes. Of course, I became rather sentimental about all of this music - remembering various people who are in my life or who have passed through my life. Eventually, I would burn CD-Rs of the Christmas Samplers and would place them in the multi-CD player and just hit the "random" option and enjoy whatever songs came up - because they were all special to me. And so now, here we are, and it is 2023, and through Facebook and the great popularity of Spotify I have sought to share these playlists, perhaps expanded a bit, with friends near and far so that those who care to can now enjoy what I've been enjoying most of my life.
    Once again, wiith the help of my close friend, pianist Antonio Mazzei, who now lives in Barcelona, Spain - after having spent many years here in New York - and who IS well-versed in Spotify - we would assemble these Christmas Sampler Playlists, and he would create them for me @ Spotify. As I had already created 3 of them, I felt that this would be more than enough songs to serve people over a seasonal period of 3-4 weeks. The music would be perfect for quiet mornings or evenings surrounded by family and friends.
    As I alluded to, Antonio and I created 3 playlists - all coming to a total of as much as an hour plus of music. There will appear to be as many as 20 or more songs per playlist because of the short nature of Christmas songs as opposed to our previous Jazz Sampler Playlists where each song can be very long. Here, with Christmas/Holiday music, I don't know that people will have difficulties getting through listening to one single song without being interrupted by their damn smartphones, or some other contemporary distraction! [Welcome to Short Attention Span Theater] So, why bother to put so much love and effort into these playlists? I suppose that the best answer that I can come-up with is that, these Samplers are seasonal, aimed at one brief period of weeks per year, and that, this time, LOTS of people will enjoy them as intended.
    After much thought, my plan became to present the 3 Playlists over a period of one week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, and then to see what happened, if anything. Oh, one last little note. Like so many musical sites and formats, over time, the music gets repackaged and the original LP/CD covers are lost. Spotify is as guilty of this as anyone. But in truth it really begins with the record companies who do the repackaging in order to simply MAKE MORE MONEY!!! In the little collage above that I created, you are able to see some of the really vintage/priceless original artwork for some of these albums.

    For Christmas Sampler #1, I am offering songs sung by: Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Nat "King" Cole. Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte, Ray Charles and Lou Rawls. Those songs take me back to childhood and a lot of great sentimentality for this old "fool." For me, nothing says Christmas more than hearing Frank Sinatra singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas" which opens this presentation - always so warm and special. Usually, I can't make it past the first couple of songs without getting all misty-eyed! Yes, it's true. As we recently lost Tony Bennett, hearing him sing both "Snowfall" and "Christmasland" become especially moving - his usage of space and breathing is so perfect.
    Hearing Peggy Lee sing my father, lyricist Sammy Cahn's one and only true Christmas song, "The Christmas Waltz" is very meaningful for me. I just love me some Peggy Lee. This set of Christmas music closes with my own interpretation of that very same song, performed with dear friends Randy & Michael Brecker from the 1995 Blue Note album, "JAZZ TO THE WORLD" which was produced by Christine Martin to benefit Special Olympics. If there is someone amongst you who is interested in the full story behind our recording of "The Christmas Waltz" just click on the link and you will arrive at a page that I wrote about that experience, and you can even view the mini-score for the arrangement. Also, from that same project, "O Come O Come Emmanuel" comes to you from John McLaughlin, arranged and orchestrated by the uniquely brilliant Jim Beard - this one is a true beauty.
    The magnificent Take 6 contribute 4 gorgeous a cappella versions to this collection. For me, there are no greater interpreters of this genre of music and they come to it from a most devoutly religious perspective.
    As I wanted to have some instrumental versions as well, from the Jazz world, perhaps my all-time favorite Christmas album was by one of my great guitar heroes, Kenny Burrell and his 1966 Cadet album, "HAVE YOURSELF A SOULFUL LITTLE CHRISTMAS." Kenny also appears with organ great, Jimmy Smith playing, of all things, "Jingle Bells." Lastly, there are some international interpretations from Brasil by Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso singing together, and Joyce makes her own appearance as well. As it is with any such playlist @ Spotify you can just go into Shuffle mode and the songs will come-up in a random order and surprise you. Eventually with all 3 X-mas Playlists, you can shuffle away to your heart's content.
    Some of you might be wondering: "Steve, how could you NOT have included your father's song, "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow"? Well, as my father always used to say to anyone who would listen: "'"Let It Snow' is really NOT a Christmas song, it is a 'winter' song!" So, there you have it. However, in what has become my favorite interpretation of the song, here is the version by the most magnificent Take 6. Happy now?

    For Christmas Sampler #2,many of my favorites appear again. Of course, we have Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Take 6 and Kenny Burrell. But this time, they are joined by the wondrous Natalie Cole singing "Silent Night" and the jewel of her voice is set on a lush satin pillow of a Clare Fischer arrangement. Magnificent! Michael McDonald, who sings "Angels We Have Heard on High" movingly joined by his daughter Scarlett and his wife Amy Holland. If you can keep a dry eye through this one? No way! Patti Austin brings us "Christmas Time is Here" caressed by a glorious Mike Abene arrangement.
    From Brasil, this time we hear from the incomparable João Bosco with a very moving performance of "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Portuguese always sounds so warm and wonderful. Salsa is represented by a duet from Gilberto Santa Rosa and Milly Quezada. From Venezuela, we have the beautiful voice of Ilan Chester only accompanied by the late, great Aquiles Báez on acoustic guitar.
    From the Jazz world, I am bringing you all wonderful classic organ trio interpretations by Don Patterson alongside guitarist Pat Martino, and the set closes out with Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery playing "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Good god(!) [w/ James Brown voice!], how much more swingin' could anything be?!?!?!
    In 2001, as a co-leader of the Caribbean Jazz Project, alongside vibist Dave Samuels and flautist Dave Valentín, we recorded 3 Christmas songs for a Concord Records compilation. The rest of the group was Rubén Rodríguez (El. Bass); Richie Flores (Conga) and Dafnis Prieto (Drums). Here we bring you "Sleigh Ride" (in 7/4); "Silent Night" (a Cha-cha-cha) and "Angels We Have Heard on High." Though we have lost both Dave Samuels and Dave Valentín, it becomes a good moment to honor their memory and their great artistry.

    Lastly Christmas Sampler #3 brings us the heavenly voice of Nancy Wilson. Here, she interprets my father's song, "The Christmas Waltz" - always sentimental for me. Tony Bennett, Lou Rawls and Take 6 reappear to delight everyone. Natalie Cole returns singing "The Holly & The Ivy" (with a gorgeous arrangement by Alan Broadbent). Newer Sampler voices come to us via our James Taylor, the heavenly voice of Alison Krauss (a super fave of mine) and Nora Jones. I just love Nora's reading of Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run" which was fortunately added to her album, because it was taken from a spectacular 'live' performance at the top of the Empire State Building. Can't do much better than the funky, distorted sounds of her Wurlitzer electric piano. So unique that instrument.
    The voices of Salsa and Navidad are brought to you in the persons of Puerto Rico's Cheo Feliciano, and the one and only Oscar D'León - the pride of Venezuela. From both of them, their voices and their swing is just so infectious. And one last minute addition had to be some Vallenato from Colombia, "Mensaje De Navidad" by Diomedes Díaz with Colacho Mendoza.
    Jazz is ably represented by pianist Joey Calderazzo playing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" alongside bassist Jay Anderson and drummer, Adam Nussbaum. How swingin' are they?!?!?! Then, we have guitarist Dave Stryker and his group, and lastly the ever-brilliant Keith Jarrett playing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" - a 'live' performance. Latin Jazz is represented on this playlist by Dave Valentín and Poncho Sánchez's group.

    Now, why don't I belong to Spotify? Well, for me and most artists, musicians, composers, publishers, and yes, record companies too - not one of us feels that we are being properly compensated for the usage and performances of our music and/or recordings as people happily, without a care in the world, stream away for some kind of a monthly fee - and we, as artists, are getting paid in, as we like to sarcastically call it, DIGITAL PENNIES. But it is NOT a joke! So, what do we do? On the plus side, that people have access to our music, and they can choose to hear it - that is a gift. At least, perhaps, it is not as bad as file sharing - where NOTHING goes to the artists, etc. It would seem that we all have to accept a part of this and hope that we're reaching someone out there - every so often. But still, there is something not quite right about this system. I repeat, what do we do? What can we do? I have no answers for that - it is far too complex for a humble artist, a small artist, like me to come-up with a global solution that would benefit everyone, and be acceptable to all. I guess this will all be solved eventually, but long after I have passed into another realm/plane of alternate realities. If such a thing exists. Once again, an old hippie talking!

    Sending along Seasonal Greetings and good wishes to one and all - and I'm going to be keeping my own most closely held wishes that 2024 will bring us the kind of peace, domestically and globally, that we would all want to see.

    As Frank Sinatra sings to us each year.... "Oh, by gosh, by golly - It's time for mistletoe and holly".......

    BIG LOVE, Steve