It's much better with than without it
I first saw Vinx opening for Sting during the Soul Cages tour in 1991. It's an amazing thing to watch one man, alone but for a drum and a hell of a baritone voice, hold the attention of an entire arena. Seeing him live a few years later at Blues Alley remains one of the top five mind-blowing music moments of my life. So I was thrilled two years ago when he released a Christmas album, Little Drummer Boy.
I think of Vinx's work as jazz, although I've seen it called "world music" too. (What does that mean, anyway... is someone out there listening to music not from the world?) Both are fair descriptions of this album, full of syncopated rhythms and resettings of classic carols. Vinx's lush voice can croon The Christmas Song or rip the roof off of We Three Kings. His New Orleans shuffle version of Jungle Bells and his reggae Winter Wonderland are among the highlights of my holiday.
Hipster's Holiday is a Rhino Records compilation which I bought for one song, my absolute favorite Christmas song: Pearl Bailey singing Five Pound
Box of Money. The album is a fun compilation of jazz and R&B, mostly from the '50s. Some of it is very accessible, like Louis Armstrong hamming up 'Zat You, Santa Claus or Lionel Hampton hollering Merry Christmas Baby. Other tracks may have to grow on you, like Lambert, Hendricks and Ross' Deck Us All With Boston Charlie or Leo Watson's scatted Jingle Bells.
I think the reason I like this album is what it reminds me of. I used to love to do my Christmas shopping with my Walkman on, listening to WPFW Pacifica Radio. When Pacifica wasn't railing against the corruption inherent in the system, they had the best blues and R&B DJs in DC. Those guys would dig up the most magnificently soulful holiday one-off singles and play them non-stop the week before Christmas. As soon as I got out of the malls and away from their Muzak versions of "Carol of the Bells," I went to 'PFW for the antidote.
Hipster's Holiday also reminds me of the Dr. Demento show. When we'd just started going out, Herself and I used to stay up until 1 or 2 AM on Sunday night listening to Dr. Demento on WHFS. It was a great wind-down from the weekend, even if it did mean we dragged a bit on Monday morning. The good Doctor used to do Christmas songs every week from Thanksgiving until the New Year's countdown, and every year at this time, I wish somebody near me carried him.
'HFS dropped Demento, and eventually changed formats entirely, and I moved to the boonies. But whenever I hear We Wanna See Santa Do The Mambo or Be-Bop Santa Claus, I can't help but think fondly of those old days.