Right up front let me make clear that I’m bending the rules here. Writing Music Monday is expressly dedicated to music from the Creative Commons that you can write to. Sometimes I find good music under a Free Art License (FAL), but since that’s compatible with one of the CC licenses, that’s not really contrary to the spirit of the series.
And once in a great while, I’ll send you to something that is free to download, but not CC-licensed (or copyleft in any way at all). To my recollection, this is the third time.
Believe me, I am not sorry to do it this time.
On Reddit recently, I came across a reference to “the best Christmas jazz album you’ve never heard of”. And the redditor was right — despite my dedication to obscurities, this album was both completely new to me, and completely excellent.
Christmas With The Believers was recorded by short-lived San Francisco-based jazz trio The Believers in the fall of 1986. They parted ways in March of 1987, and this tape (by way of CD and ripping to 320kbps MP3) might be the only recording of their work. You can read the story of how this recording started going viral on Salon:
One day, a little over 20 years ago, my wife and I were riding in a car with another couple, Mitch and Koekje Dutton. This was well into the Christmas season. Koekje, in her single days, was Koekje Schwekendiek, and on this particular day she had received a tape from her brother Donny Schwekendiek, who was living in San Francisco and eking out a living playing jazz piano.
The tape she had received was a recording of Donny and two other guys playing Christmas music. She asked if we’d like to hear the tape.
Mr. Schwekendiek has been living in Japan since 1987, and had this to say:
the trio was rounded out with neal heidler on the bass and barry puhlovski on the drums. […] i’m pretty sure we formed the group in ’86 — i know the recording was in the fall of that year. at the time i thought it was a really original idea but i’ve since found christmas jazz coming out of the woodwork — and that’s a GOOD thing.
It’s thirty-one minutes of absolute Christmas jazz perfection. If you download and listen to nothing else I’ve ever posted, get this one. It’s that good.
As a sample, here’s “O Christmas Tree” for you:
Christmas With The Believers by The Believers is free to download, but is not available under a Creative Commons license at the time of this writing.
(Given that only one of the tunes is in the public domain, it is unlikely that it can be licensed to the Commons, but I’m reaching out to Mr. Schwekendiek to determine if a CC BY-NC-ND license might be possible even with the copyrighted tunes. Because this recording should go on.)