Look no farther than your favorite CD and book sources for last minute stocking stuffers for the jazz fan on your list.
Geri Allen, A Child Is Born (2011, Motema). Geri Allen surrounds herself with keyboards (piano, Fender Rhodes, concert celeste, farfisa and clavinet) and voices (vocal, voice samples and spoken word) to celebrate the joy and wonder of the holiday seasonand more generally a wish for hope and peace on A Child Is Born. In addition to the title track (dedicated to the late Hank Jones), Allen covers traditional music, favorite carols and two original compositions. O Come, O Come Emmanuel" highlights the voices of the Quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama, thus playing traditional church ritual chants against rural Americana, setting the stage for Allen's lyrical arrangement of this holiday folksong. The original tracks include Journey to Bethlehem," a very brief interlude referencing both the pilgrimage of the Magi and Allen's visit to Bethlehem in 2006, with the soulful voice of Carolyn Brewer providing a backdrop. Brewer and singer Connaitre Miller join forces with Allen on another original inspired by her Bethlehem visit, setting the text of Matthew 1:23 God Is With Us" as a short, magical prayer.
Chris Bauer, In a Yuletide Groove: Harmonica Jazz for the Holidays (2011). There's something so utterly charming and swinging about the harmonica, especially when applied in a jazz groove to seasonal favorites like Winter Wonderland" and Frosty the Snowman." This self-produced project brings the listener 16 gifts that infuse the musical joy of Toots Thielmans with a swinging quintet. It's easy listening, but nothing simple about the arrangements and artistry of these musicians. This is the perfect recording to play for the diverse tastes of extended family gatherings around the holidays.
Elisabeth Lohninger Band, Christmas in July (2011, Jazzsick Records). Austrian-born vocalist Elisabeth Lohninger and her accomplished European band bring bebop riffs and swinging inventions to a dozen holiday songs reflecting global cultures and highlighting Lohninger's multi-lingual chopsshe sings in nine languages. With arrangements quoting Coltrane and Parker in surprising contexts, Lohningerwhether offering the straight lyric or horn-like vocalesepresents many moods for the holidays and many interpretive twists that will linger long after the season. And as common as Christmas in July."
Matt Wilson, Christmas Tree-O (2010, Palmetto). Issued for the 2010 holiday season, this one deserves repeated recommendation. And it is so Matt Wilson... you half-expect the clever drummer to pop down the chimney wearing a bright red suit and big grin, as he dumps his bag of quirky holiday gifts at your feet. Or in this case, in your ear. From what other musician would you expect to find, on the same CD, The Chipmunk Song" and Alvin Ayler's Angels"? And of course there is Matt's version of Little Drummer Boy."
Jazz for All Seasons
Some top releases of 2011 (listed in no particular order) make great gifts to be enjoyed all year long.
Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel (ECM)
Brad Mehldau, Live in Marciac (Nonesuch)
Three Cohens, Family (Anzic)
Pilc/Hoening/Moutin, Threedom (Motema)
Denny Zeitlin, Labyrinth (Sunnyside)
Karrin Allyson, Round Midnight (Concord)
Tierney Sutton Band, American Road (BFM Jazz)
Lynne Arriale, Convergence (Motema)
Fred Hersch, Alone at the Vanguard (Palmetto)
Joe Lovano & Us Five, Birdsongs (Blue Note)
Bill Carrothers Trio, Live at the Village Vanguard (Pirouet)
Pat Mallinger, Home on Richmond (PJM Records)
Chick Corea/Stefano Bollani, Orvieto (ECM)
Kurt Elling, The Gate (Concord)
James Farm (Redman, Parks, Penman, Harland), James Farm (Nonesuch)
Dan Tepfer, Goldberg Variations/Variations (Sunnyside)
Terell Stafford, This Side of Strayhorn (MaxJazz)
Matt Slocum Trio, After the Storm (Chandra Records)
Konitz, Mehldau, Haden, Motion, Live at Birdland (ECM)
Jacqui Naylor, Lucky Girl (Ruby Star Records)
Gary Burton New Quartet, Common Ground (Mack Avenue)
Charles Lloyd/Maria Farantouri, Athens Concert (ECM)
And for fans of Twin Cities jazz, or those who should be:
Bryan Nichols, Bright Places
Mary Louise Knutson, In the Bubble
Doug Haining, Last Man Swinging
Christine Rosholt & Kevin Hall, Pazz
Charmin & Shapira, Dawning and Daylight
Joel Shapira Quartet, Open Lines
Atlantis Quartet, Lines in the Sand
Jana Nyberg Group, Fever
Jerry O'Hagan Orchestra with Charmin Michelle, Dance Time Volume 1
And for a wee bit of holiday joy, Lee Engele's A Hot Christmas.
OK, this probably won't fit in a stocking... but get it anyway.
Kathy Sloane, Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club (2011, Indiana University Press). If there is to be one book on your list this season, let it be Kathy Sloane's collection of interviews and stunning black and white photos in tribute to the one-time hub of Bay Area jazz, Keystone Korner. Todd Barkan's legendary club comes to life through commentary from Barkan, Orrin Keepnews, staff, and artists who regularly performed thereGeorge Cables, Eddie Henderson, Steve Turre and more. The text recreates the San Francisco scene of the 70s and 80s, the struggles to keep jazz alive yet accessible to all, to respect the musicians and the music. Yet it is Sloane's photography that really sells the story, the struggle and the artistry of the era. And there's a bonus CD included from tapes recorded live at the club, featuring Stan Getz, Art Blakey, Bill Evans, Dexter Gordon and more.
Happy Holidays from JazzINK!