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Genius Guide to Jazz

Holiday Gift Guide 2005

By Published: December 5, 2005
As a Coltraniac (if that wasn't a word before, I get credit for it), 2005 brought several tremendous discoveries. One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note is a 2-CD set that catches Trane live with his classic quartet as his explorations into the uncharted territories of Free jazz were at their most exhilarating. At Carnegie Hall was another unearthed treasure, capturing Coltrane with the Thelonious Monk Quartet at the storied venue for the first time apart from several abbreviated bootlegs and a similarly-titled but unrelated recording At Carnegie Deli (worth the price to hear Monk try to order the hot tongue platter without giggling).

And speaking of Coltrane, in the wake of the 4-CD set of his 1961 gig at the Village Vanguard (released in 1997) comes Bill Evans' The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961. The 3-CD set catches the renowned pianist during one of his greatest live performances, with perhaps his most complementary supplement of sidemen. What are the odds that a single venue could produce two such historic live recordings in the same year? Vegas says 12:1, but what the hell do they know about jazz?

If you know anything about me at all at this point in our relationship, you know that I am passionate about two things: jazz and baseball. If someone on your gift list feels the same, you may find yourself at your wits end trying to find a gift that combines the two pursuits. Forget the recent tribute to Barry Bonds, I Blame All of You, even though it does feature Fathead Newman with Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Shout! Factory has released The Great American Baseball Box, a 3-CD set that combines Our Music with the National Pastime. If only they could find a way to include beer and kosher hot dogs, I wouldn't have to leave the 'Dome till April.

You've also probably deduced in our time together that I am also passionate about the components of the Good Life that I believe contribute to the overall jazz lifestyle. Foremost among these is alcohol; or, as it is known around the 'Dome, "liquid talent. While most of the staff and contributors of AAJ are wine snobs, manifested in the AAJ Wine Club (which meets during 7th period in the cafeteria, alternating Wednesdays with C. Michael Bailey's study hall), it should be well known to even casual readers of this column that I am in the minority of beer aficionados. Thus, I recommend wholeheartedly Michael Jackson's Rare Beer Club. Jackson (not that one, the non-creepy British one) shares my love of Belgian beers, and membership in his club will certainly broaden the horizons of even the most dedicated ale hound.

So, kids, that ought to be at least a start on your holiday shopping. From all of us at the 'Dome, we'd like to wish you all a wonderful holiday season with all the joy and blessings federally allotted for your tax bracket.

And to all a good night.

Looking forward to the new year, 2006 looks to be a great year both for the Guide and for AAJ. Frequent whipping boy Brad Mehldau will finally get his day in the sun as will the man with the most fun-to-say name in jazz today, Kurt Rosenwinkel. Your Own Personal Genius will plum the rich depths of his Appalachian heritage for the parallels between Our Music and bluegrass. And as Senator Ricci and I renew our annual Baltimore summit and maybe finally get in a full nine innings of O's baseball, I'll offer a helpful guide to the game I love and why the hell you should care. All this and more, on the way.

Till next month, kids, exit to your right and enjoy the rest of AAJ.

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