This interview was originally broadcast on December 19, 2005.
In time for the holidays, Fresh Air presents an in-studio concert. Singer Rebecca Kilgore, trombonist Dan Barrett and pianist Rossano Sportiello played at the NOLA studios in Manhattan.
Kilgore is one of the leading interpreters of American songs. She became known for her work with pianist and composer Dave Frishberg.
In 2002, Kilgore formed her own band, BED; Barrett also plays trombone in the band. Their latest CD is BEDlam.
Sportiello, a stride pianist from Italy, has played to crowds the world over, winning fans with his brilliant technique and a deep knowledge of stride piano. He records on Barrett's Blue Swing record label.
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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:
Christmas has generated more songs than any other holiday, including a few that many of us dread hearing over and over this time of year. But there are some gems, some well known, some a little more obscure. We thought we'd share one of each from a performance Terry Gross recorded a few years ago with singer Rebecca Kilgore who has several CDs under her own name.
Rebecca is accompanied by trombonist Dan Barrett and pianist Rossano Sportiello.
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
I'd like you to do a song that is really about not being able to be home for Christmas, although it's called "I'll Be Home For Christmas." Would you sing it for us, Becky?
REBECCA KILGORE: I sure will. It's by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent and Buck Ram, 1943. "I'll Be Home for Christmas."
(Singing) I am dreaming tonight of a place I love even more than I usually do. And although I know it's a long road back, I promise you, I'll be home for Christmas. You can plan on me. Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree. Christmas Eve will find me where the love light gleams. I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.
GROSS: Thank you for doing that song. A beautiful version of a beautiful song. Well, next song we're going to do, this is a really fun novelty jazz song. Becky.
KILGORE: It's a great song and I'm very excited about doing it. It's called "Santa Claus Blues." It's quite old. It's from 1924. And we actually borrowed a portion of an arrangement by John Sheridan of this song. It was recorded by a dear friend, a great vocalist, Banu Gibson. Thank you, John and Banu, for allowing us to use this arrangement of "Santa Claus Blues."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SANTA CLAUS BLUES")
KILGORE: (Singing) The merry bells are ringing today but they don't mean nothing to me. I hear the children singing today but I'm as blue as I can be. Oh, Santa Claus forgot my address, that's one thing I can plainly see. It may be Christmas to some folks, it's just December 25th to me. No money. No honey to buy a present for me.
Nobody. No toddy to make things pleasant for me. Last night my stocking I hung, just like when I was young. But this morning there was vacancy. No mingling. No jingling of coins. No picking, non-chicken, a pork chop tenderloin. And soon I'll hear the Happy New Year chime, that just means that there's more hard times. Bad luck, you're hard to lose. I've got the Santa Claus blues.
BIANCULLI: We've been listening to signer Rebecca Kilgore with trombonist Dan Barrett and pianist Rossano Sportiello from a performance recorded in 2005. You can hear Rebecca sing many other Christmas songs on the CD "Hurray for Christmas" with the John Sheridan Big Band and she has many CDs under her own name, including a recent one with the Rebecca Kilgore quartet. It's called "Yes, Indeed." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.