By Blair Jackson
Wait a second! Can it possibly be December already? How did that happen? Well, at any rate, we’re delighted to once again feature cool ukulele holiday music for the (five) Fridays in December, culminating December 30. We invite you to join our month-long holiday celebration of ukulele holiday music for 2022!
We’re doing things a little differently this December, because for the first time in a number of years we’ve brought back our “Holly Jolly” invitation for Ukulele readers to submit holiday videos they’ve made, whether this year or sometime in the past. It’s not a “contest” per se, because there is no “winner” nor prizes. But we’ve gotten such a great response this year that for each of the three Fridays that follow this first one (December 2), we’re going to present five of your videos, and we think you’ll really enjoy the variety, spirit, and uketastic playing and singing of your fellow readers!
But for this first Friday, we’re offering some selections from a handful of uke professionals. So break out the mulled wine and enjoy!
‘Carol of the Bells’ by Taimane
Leave it to the passionate and sometimes downright incendiary virtuoso Taimane to take the lovely holiday song “Carol of the Bells” (you love the famous harmonies) and turn it into an instrumental shredathon! In this video, shot in the craggy, verdant hills of Makakilo on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Taimane is joined by a frequent collaborator, guitarist Rachel Look.
‘Christmas Time is Here’ by Gerald Ross
Multi-instrumentalist Gerald Ross is well-known as a top jazz player, so it’s appropriate that this version of Vince Guaraldi’s immortal theme “Christmas Time Is Here,” written for the 1965 television special A Charlie Brown Christmas, gets a jazzy workout from this consummate musician.
‘This Christmas’ by Brittni Paiva and Lise Lee
This video brings together two great players—Hawaii’s Brittni Paiva and Southern California’s Lise Lee—for an instrumental version of the Donny Hathaway’s soulful holiday romp “This Christmas,” which originally came out in 1970 and has since become a Christmas classic. Both women get nice solo spots on the lively tune. Incidentally, Lise often performs with her uke-playing sister Emi as the Lee Sisters.
‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ by Cynthia Lin
“Rudolph” has been covered in just about every style imaginable by this point, but we were still struck by this excellent version, which seems to have a distinctive New Orleans lilt to it, conjuring “Iko-Iko” and other second-line favorites with its beat. Lin plays banjo-uke on the track and is accompanied by the outstanding bassist Colin Williams. (This arrangement appeared on Lin’s fine Cozy Christmas album from 2017.)
‘Jingle Bells’ by Kalei Gamiao
Short and sweet, this exciting instrumental improv version of “Jingle Bells” was no doubt shot as a promotional vid for the aNueNue tenor uke that Gamiao plays so wonderfully on the much-loved tune. OK, the uke does sound great; it helps that it’s in the hands of a true master.
Next Friday, December 9: We unveil our first five “Holly Jolly” reader-submitted selections!