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NPR Music has an annual tradition around the holidays: Invite some of the world's best jazz keyboard players to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, then set them loose on their favorite Christmas tunes. The results are harvested for the public radio special A Jazz Piano Christmas.
For the program's 23rd year, new Kennedy Center Artistic Advisor for Jazz Jason Moran steps up to the host microphone. He's no slouch himself on the instrument, and leads off the festivities. The brilliant twentysomething pianist Taylor Eigsti follows with tunes he remembers from his family's Christmas gatherings. The other two guests rank among the most widely respected jazz pianists anywhere — and both issued fine Christmas records in 2011. Geri Allen played the title track from A Child Is Born, while Ellis Marsalis played tunes he recorded on A New Orleans Christmas Carol.
This year's special is dedicated to the memory of Dave Brubeck, the legendary pianist and composer who died several days before A Jazz Piano Christmas 2012 was recorded. To close the show, all four pianists get together to jam on the song he made a hit: "Take Five," written by Brubeck saxophonist Paul Desmond.