Leslie Odom Jr., who won the 2016 Tony Award as Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in Hamilton, released a Christmas album, mainly featuring reinterpreted holiday classics on November 11.
Titled Simply Christmas, the album is now available from S-Curve Records. The recording can be purchased here. Songs include Odom Jr.’s jazz versions of Christmas tunes, including “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “The Christmas Song,” “First Noel,” and more.
Here is a YouTube clip of the singing actor performing Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson’s “Winter Song” (audio only):
Here is an earlier clip of Odom Jr. singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (audio only):
Odom Jr.’s earlier jazz album on S-Curve Records debuted at #1 on Soundscan Current and Traditional Jazz Charts.
Another unexpected box to check? A Christmas album.
“I was getting asked about making a Christmas album since the first one came out,” Odom Jr. said over the phone. His first album, eponymously named, was released in June.“We give ourselves permission to abandon ship if a project isn’t working out. We’d rather walk out then put something out that’s subpar. We didn’t know if the Christmas album would be something we’re proud of, but it is.”
The challenge was creating an album that didn’t feel disconnected from the political climate. “The country, the world, is different from when I was a kid.” Instead of “lying about that,” Odom Jr. says, he crafted the album with a “finger on the pulse of the time we’re living in.
“We love Bing Crosby, and Nat King Cole, but they sang for their time,” Odom Jr. said. Recreating that sound in 2016 would be “disingenuous.”
Simply Christmas, then, is an album about a holiday of celebration released for a time when people aren’t feeling very celebratory.
“I think it’s always reaching for hope. If you lose that, you lose everything. [The album is] always hopeful, always hopeful. And as joyful as it can be. I think we’re striving for joy, and then when you can’t have that, the least you can do is be honest.”