When my guests walk in the door, I want to greet them with a hug and a smile, great smells of the meal to come and some low-key but always memorable music. We all have different tastes: top 40, rock and roll, oldies…you name it. There’s plenty out there. In our family we love most everything (okay, we do draw our lines in the sand, but I won’t cover those here). All of my brothers play an instrument or three, as do my sisters Amie, Della and Dee.
But if your parties don’t have live music available, your MP3 player can be your best friend. I make iPod playlists, but I also have stacks and stacks of CDs, so whatever suits me the day of my party works.
When I go to a party at my sister Hellen’s, the musical gamut is run because she has lots of younger folks in her house, so you can hear a Sublime CD right after Emmy Lou Harris, Tom Petty following Lyle Lovette or Robert Plant’s newest–all super choices, although they can get loud. My brother Sonny will get you anything from Motown to George Jones to Lightnin’ Hopkins. Della has introduced me to some super music, so you never know what you’ll get at her house, but you can bet it will be good.
Laurie leans toward classic Ella Fitzgerald but is always sensitive to her guests and the style of the party. Me? I’m fairly eclectic in my musical tastes, but for a party, I’m pretty stuck on my background music choices. If it’s my annual Wisteria Tea, I usually have Stephan Grapelli and Django Rheinhardt playing. If it’s a dinner party, you can often hear a mix of Grapelli & Rheinhardt, Charlie Bird, Eartha Kitt and Billy Holiday.
So instead of a recipe today, I’m giving you some jazz essentials for a dinner party. Music that is timeless and almost everyone enjoys; even your teens can find some redeeming qualities in it (OK, maybe it’s only my teen friends; I must admit to being thrilled when my 12-year-old niece Liv asked for a copy of an Eartha Kitt CD).
So here we go:
Eartha Kitt – Miss Kitt to You or the Legendary Eartha Kitt
Billy Holiday – Jazz ‘Round Midnight (but there are plenty more!)
Charlie Byrd Quintet – Du Hot Club de Concorde
Miles Davis — Kind of Blue
Dave Brubeck – Time Out
Ella Fitzgerald – Dream Dancing is my favorite but you can’t go wrong with the Cole Porter Songbook or the Gershwin Songbook, but, really, the list of great Ella recordings is endless!
Django Reindhardt — Djangology
Nor can you go wrong with Great Ladies of Jazz and Great Ladies Sing the Blues, both compilation albums, and every song on them is a winner. These picks are all timeless and fun and most everyone will enjoy them.
Add to it with a few modern(ish) albums. I love Cover Girl by Shawn Colvin, Marc Cohn’s Walking in Memphis, Rosanne Cash’s Somewhere in the Stars and The Mavericks Music for All Occasions.
You can mix up your music, as I did for a Bunco Night fundraiser for 100 with a five-hour playlist to please every age, or you can tailor it to your smaller group. It is lots of fun making playlists but a lot harder to make a compilation that pleases everyone.