Holiday Gift Guide 2008
Of course, it isn't a perquisite that one be able to tell that McCoy Tyner's middle C was 5 cents sharp on A Love Supreme to enjoy the sort of album cover art that I was not making fun of a couple of paragraphs ago. Jazz Covers is a 496-page edition documenting jazz album covers from the 1940's through whatever point in the 1990's that CD covers became too small for aging hipsters to see. Each cover is accompanied by such vital information as the art director, photographer, illustrator, and favorite soft drink of each. Who knew Dr. Pepper was so popular among the jazz set?
The early sixties saw a breezy mix of samba and cool jazz enliven cocktail hours in places where men wearing skinny ties put the make on women wearing too much underwear. Few jazz musicians benefited from the craze as did Stan Getz, whose warm, smooth tenor was tailor-made for the style. It was called Bossa Nova, which means "new flair" in whatever jibber-jabber language that Brazilians speak, and was perhaps the last great moment in the history of jazz as popular music.
Verve's Stan Getz: The Bossa Nova Albums puts together five of his most notable efforts: Jazz Samba, Big Band Bossa Nova, Jazz Samba Encore, Getz/Gilberto, and Getz/Almeida. Unlike most box sets, the albums are included without augmentation. No alternate takes, no unreleased tracks, no special-edition book, no piece of toast with a burned spot that looks like Charlie Byrd.
Listening to all that Getz might put one in a wistful mood for that Technicolor twilight of American hipness, the martini-soaked calm before the storm that was the late sixties. AMC's justly celebrated Mad Men recalls that era almost perfectly, with amazing art direction and a jazz-heavy soundtrack. Ostensibly a "if we knew then what we know now" social criticism, it most often stumbles when it tries too hard to illustrate the failings of the Greatest Generation. Too self-serious for satire, not enough hand-wringing for melodrama, it ultimately creates a nostalgia for the very age it attempts to indict. And, it features the awe-inspiring Christina Hendricks, whom I'm fairly certain is going to be the next ex-Mrs. Genius if 2009 turns out the way that fortune cookie promised.
The Complete First Season is now available on DVD, and in spite of its shortcomings, is still well worth watching. It also makes a nice gift, which is why I mentioned it.
Well, kids, that ought to be enough suggestions to fill even the deepest stockings. Here's wishing you the very best this holiday season, and throughout the New Year. Till next month, exit to your right and enjoy the rest of AAJ.