You can’t buy ‘em music, ’cause you don’t know what they’re missing – so try other music and beyond formats (books, videos, music toys) as stocking stuffers for the out-leaning —
Having already posted a 10-best+ list, but having acquired a lot of other enjoyable items over the past year, I want to mention some gifts that might please readers of this blog (ok, get them for yourself). In other words, some things I like.
- Miles On Miles: Interviews and Encounters with Miles Davis, edited by Paul Maher Jr. and Michael K. Dorr (Lawrence Hill Books). George Avakian to Mike Zwerin, canny writers approach the ultra-charismatic Dark Prince of jazz, who parries as he pleases and remains out of reach. Seldom deep musical analysis, nor much speculation, so it’s a fine complement to my own tryptich Miles Ornette Cecil — Jazz Beyond Jazz, which I’ll flog here the last time this year.
- Worlds of Sound: The Story of Smithsonian Folkways, by Richard Carlin (Smithsonian Books/Collins). An extremely handsome and substantive volume on the unparalleled productions of Moses Asch, the heroic American musicologist who believed “jazz is folk music” because he knew real folk music has the spark that’s in jazz. More than a label bio, this is a history of the U.S., mid 20th century, and the opening of our ears to culture without borders (lace or otherwise). Carlin is clear and knowledgable, a devotee of the music and acolyte of Asch’s. Nice job.
- Duke Ellington, His Life in Jazz with 21 Activities, by Stephanie Stein Crease (Chicago Review Press). An introduction (or review) on the great composer-bandleader that seems especially designed for young and older readers to share of an afternoon, in an easy-to-read format with excellent archival photos and fun things to do (learn a ragtime rhythm, write a lyric to “C Jam Blues,” bake cornbread for a house party, design costumes for a Cotton Club revue). The bio is upbeat and uncomplicated yet realisti (if not as far as I’ve skimmed it newly revealing); Crease is reliable, and writes warmly of the man, his music, his collaborators and larger circle during times just as turbulent as now.
DVDs, because sometimes you need to break from reading:
- Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, in particular, from the Jazz Icons Series 3 release, which comes in a boxed set of eight. Nina Simone, Oscar Peterson, Lionel Hampton and Rahsaan Roland Kirk are also featured in studio and club or concert settings, with good sound and solid performances from all, but Sonny is at the most dynamic visually as well as musically; Cannonball’s band with his brother Nat, reeds specialist Yusef Lateef and pianist Joe Zawinul the most companionable for casual viewing and Evans, to whom Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau both owe their careers, is compelling in five different settings trio settings from ’64 to 75. I’m a big Rahsaan fan but he seems so isolated by the camera, and as for Oscar, after a while he seems to glower rather than enjoy what he’s playing. Series 1 and 2 include equally solid programs of Coltrane, Wes Montgomery,Chet Baker, Buddy Rich, Armstrong, Gillespie, Getz, Blakey, Ellington, Mingus, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. — invaluable documentation, though I gotta admit I get impatient watching people play (medium hot) on any sort of screen (medium cool).
- Colorful plush squeeze birds with authentic songs, from the Hunger Site. Lifelike design certified by the Audubon Society, sounds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a dozen species from Eastern Bluebird to Western Meadowlark, trés cute and each one bought for $8.95 provides 25 cups of food for humans in crisis overseas. Be politically correct, collect them all.
- Afghan Embroidered Handbell made by female artisans in Afghanistan and refugee camps in Pakistan, on sale for $4.95 and also providing 25 cups of food per sale from the Hunger Site. About palm sized, and the embroidered part is a loop for hanging. Also: large Rawandan calabash shaker ($8.95).
- Pocket saxophone. Molded, synthetic (what do you want for $54?), but durable, strong sound, in tune, brass fittings. Blow up a storm, just right for New Year’s Eve. (from San Francisco-based Lark In The Morning world music instrument store).
Just notions. Enjoy giving, enjoy having, enjoy being, love now. Happy holidays.