Christmas Special 2023: releases & upcoming holiday shows

The first annual, where we take a fun look at the new seasonal music from our community

Christmas Special 2023: releases & upcoming holiday shows

This is the first annual Christmas special, where you and I take a fun look at the new seasonal music from our community. We've got:

  • Two new tracks from Laila Biali (with one more coming next week)
  • One from Nicky Schrire
  • One from Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop
  • One from Caity Gyorgy
  • A full 'funky Christmas' album on Cellar from San Francisco artist Adam Shulman

Laila Biali

"Four Sundays to Christmas"

This weekend, it'll be four Sundays to Christmas! Biali's piano opening has Celtic trills as she brings in the great violinist Natalie MacMaster. Oh yeah, and there's a string arrangement bolstering her regular trio of bassist George Koller and drummer Ben Wittman. The groove switch in the middle is something. My Christmas playlists don't usually yearn for epic tracks like this, but your mileage may vary:

Belle nuit de Noël

Sung in French and played solo by Biali, recorded from home, this is my kind of Christmas track: soft and muted. There are a couple of sparkles, along with a piano comp that evokes Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" intro. Biali co-wrote the song with fellow Juno-award winning vocalist, Sonia Johnson – the Francophone contributed the lyrics:

Biali has one more in the can: "Joy to the World" on Dec 8 will be another big-budget affair.

Nicky Schrire


Pianist Chris Donnelly and bassist Dan Fortin reunite with Schrire from her recent album Nowhere Girl. The string arrangement weaves in and out of this inside-sounding mix; Schrire sounds cozied-up inside the windows she sings about, as opposed to the cover's snowy streetwalk. The two-violins and cello solo interlude cradles some Christmasy melodic bits just as Schrire's recognizable, clear voice does in the verses:

Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop

"Little Drummer Boy"

The drummer and jazz publicist's 2020 Juno-winning sextet turns probably my least favourite Christmas song into a vehicle for tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm's high-energy blowing. Alto saxophonist Tara Davidson delivers the melody in a barely-recognizable way, at high speed, at first just with Cervini's drums. The trombone, piano, and bass thicken it up before launch:

Caity Gyorgy

"Perfect Time of Year"

Gyorgy drops a nice new entry to the 'jazzy holiday songs' lineup right in the Ella Fitzgerald pocket. It's her first track with strings, prompted by Gyorgy's duo-mate Mark Limacher offering to arrange and record a string section for her back in the summer. Cedric Blary's clarinet solo is sweet atop Limacher's smooth arrangement. Returning her close collaborator's extra effort in style, Gyorgy animated the lyric video herself:

Adam Shulman

We Wish You A Funky Christmas

This is a full album, the American keyboardist Shulman's fourth record for Cellar. Shulman and company synth-up some holiday favourites into post-Head Hunters, post-souljazz, Vulfy fun jams. Jesse Levit plays mean alto as well as electronic wind instrument, the drumming is tight, and the bass is fat. From the organ-jazz quick closer on "Silent Night" to the 10+ minute slow jam on "Let it Snow," the disc could help you change up the holiday playlist as the month gets long:

Round 2

I added more music I found throughout the week, below for subscribers: