With the holidays just around the corner (not that corner, the next one, past the bank), you may find yourself in the midst of a panic. There's so much to be done, from decorating to cooking to shopping, when will you find time for it all? Don't panic. While we here at All About Jazz might not be able to supply all the answers, we can certainly help with some of the load. Like what to get your Jazz-loving friendsor anyone who loves the good lifefor Christmas/holiday presents (if you want to give your Jewish friend a Coltrane box set for Hanukkah, or your pagan friend a Nora Germain
CD for Solstice, then more power to you).
It goes without saying that we here at AAJ believe Jazz to be an integral component of fine living. It's not that you can't live well without Our Music; it's like trying to make Beef Wellington without the pâté, still good but not as
good. Or, for those of you with less refined tastes, it's like trying to make pimento cheese without Duke's mayonnaise. Or, for those of you not from the South, it's like serving pastrami on white bread with lettuce and American cheese (which punishable by fine or imprisonment even down here in Dixie).
For those of you following both my Genius Guide to Jazz
and Genius Guide to the Good Life
columns (as well as my short-lived Genius Guide to Pretentious Similes, from whence came the previous Beef Wellington reference), you should already be familiar with many of the gift ideas referenced in this piece. For those of you who have not been following either of my columns, this will be a perfect opportunity to familiarize yourselves with the corner of AAJ I have been occupying steadfastly for 17 long years. Just make yourself at home, ignore all the Coke Zero bottles and the cheesecake pictures of 'Dome crush Tatiana Maslany
Those of you who know me know that one of my all-time favorite musicians is John Coltrane
. Since Trane died months before I was born, 51 years ago, you'd think that all his music has been released on some form of recorded medium. You'd be wrong. After 55 years of neglect, Trane's Both Directions at Once
has once again emerged into the light of day. The mono recordings of the Rudy Van Gelder
session were only recently found in the possession of the family of Trane's first wife, Juanita Naima Coltrane, who had been using the tape on which to hang laundry.
Even Coltrane's record company at the time, Impulse!, didn't have the masters. They may have been lost when the company moved from New York to Los Angeles, or when the label's then-president Bob Thiele decided to organize all their recordings by the aggregate height of the musicians. Though all of Coltrane's released works were safe, this one recording slipped through the cracks both because it had not been released and because no one could agree how tall bassist Jimmy Garrison
Of all the ingredients that go into my writing, one of the most important is alcohol (or, as we call it around the GeniusDome, 'liquid talent'). My fondness for beer and whiskey has been amply documented (in the documentary 80% ABV, 100% Genius
). There has never been a better time to be a tippler in this country. Craft beer breweries are popping up almost everywhere, as are small wineries and craft distilleries. Even the beer and wine selections in your local supermarket are better than they've ever been.
No matter where you are in the United States, there should be at least one craft brewery near you. Even my tiny hometown of Clifton Forge, Virginia, has one (shout out to Jack Mason's Tavern). So there's no reason why you can't make a gift of fresh beer, or bring a growler of it to any of the holiday parties to which you'll be invited this season. Or you could drink it yourself to augment the holiday spirit. Because beer
If I were to recommend a major distillery, it would be Heaven Hill. Located in Bardstown, Kentucky, they are responsible for a wide variety of strong spirits that haunt the 'Dome. Among them, my favorite Larceny Bourbon, and close second Old Fitzgerald (no relation). Both are wheated bourbons, containing a 'whisper o' wheat' instead of the more traditional rye for a softer and, in my opinion, more balanced taste. Another example of a bourbon of this type with which you may be familiar with is Maker's Mark, another 'Dome favorite.