Jazzy holiday gift list features calendars, music

by Robin James

Photo courtesy of Concord Music Group

The holiday season is upon us. A time for giving. A time for peace. Among the many items on my Christmas list are the following recommended gifts for music lovers of all kinds.

When I think of peace, I think of the peaceful sounds and rhythms of Africa. African Rhythms, the as-told-to autobiography of NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston, composed by Randy Weston and arranged by Willard Jenkins, is now available and published by Duke University Press.

Weston’s composition “Hi-Fly” is one of the most uplifting songs I have ever heard, which makes me even more curious about the life of this remarkable pianist and composer.

I Wish You Love is the memoir of legendary jazz vocalist Gloria Lynne by Karen Chilton. Most recently, Chilton authored the Hazel Scott bio prior to working with Lynne on her memoirs.

For those of you who have followed “James on Jazz” over the years, you know Pomegranate’s calendars and postcards are a holiday gift guide staple.

It’s strange and disappointing that there is no 2011 jazz calendar; however, the company still has plenty to offer, such as the following now available at www.pomegranate.com.

A Journey into 365 Days of Black History 2011 Wall Calendar: This calendar celebrates the lives of 12 individuals who have risen to prominence — whether through public service, artistic vision, or many other means — despite overwhelming obstacles. The calendar provides short biographies of these pioneering achievers and lists an important birth date or milestone in Black history for each day of the year.

Romare Bearden 2011 Wall Calendar: Bearden (1911–1988) was a master collagist who drew from cubism and Byzantine art. His images were also informed by music from the cultures of the American South, New York City, and the Caribbean; literary themes; and the rural and urban lives of ordinary people. He was well-known for innovation and experimentation, for artistic collaborations, and for grounding his work in his African American cultural heritage and experience.

Covering Jazz: Thirty Classic Album Covers Book of Postcards: Jazz music is a part of America’s cultural identity. From the vaults of Concord Music Group, this collection of 30 full-color reproductions of classic album covers embodies the heart and soul of jazz.

When I think of good music and the kinds of music I would enjoy giving, I think of this round-up of recordings.

In the year of Ray Charles’ 80th birthday, Concord Music Group has released Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters. This collection of newly discovered Ray Charles recordings highlights four decades’ worth of previously unreleased material. Welcome to Ray’s world.

Take 6 offers regal a cappella gospel harmonies from Claude McKnight III, Mark Kibble, Joel Kibble, David Thomas, Dr. Cedric Dent and Alvin Cheaon on The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Heads Up), the group’s third holiday CD. “Silent Night” appears here just as it did on Take 6’s first Christmas release, He Is Christmas.

The Complete James Brown Christmas (Hip-O Select/Universal): James Brown released Christmas albums in 1966, 1968 and 1970, which are reissued here, along with other tracks, on two CDs. Tracks included here are “Sweet Little Baby Boy (Parts 1 and 2)” and “A Lonely Little Boy Around One Little Christmas Toy.”

Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-O (Palmetto): Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-O was recorded live in a room with three musicians. With the tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer and the bassist Paul Sikivie, the drummer offers a reading of “Winter Wonderland,” plus a rendition of “The Chipmunk Song.”

Dedicated to You: Allan Harris Sings A Nat King Cole Christmas (Love Productions Recordings): Think of the Ray Charles-Betty Carter duet “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Here Harris and the soulful vocalist Rene Marie boldly remake the classic and make this recording well worth the price of the ticket.

The Complete 1932-1940 Brunswick, Columbia and Master Recordings of Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra: A collection of Duke Ellington’s Depression-era big-band output on the labels now owned by the Sony half of Sony BMG (Mosaic, mosaicrecords.com). It’s Duke. What else can I say?

World Christmas Party (Putumayo): This compilation includes a wide spectrum of music styles — Latin, African, Brazilian, reggae, Hawaiian, R&B and country. Jamaican legend Jacob Miller delivers “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”; there’s also “Deck the Halls” by Cape Verdean singer Maria de Barros. As for traditional jazz and blues, check out the late Charles Brown’s “Christmas Comes but Once a Year.”

The Complete Ahmad Jamal Argo Sessions 1956-62 (Mosaic, mosaicrecords.com): The jazz piano icon Ahmad Jamal, now into his eighth decade, has still got it — magic. Among these recordings are his best known and previously unreleased material.

Come on and See Me: The Complete Solo Collection Tammi Terrell (Hip-O Select/Motown): Solo recordings and unreleased tracks are here. Irresistible was her only album for Motown, in which she sang “Tears at the End of a Love Affair.” Also on the playlist are “Sinner’s Devotion” and “What a Good Man He Is.”

I’ve always respected Mary J. Blige for her jazz-inspired sensibility. So, when I found out Blige has introduced her new line of eyewear, Melodies by MJB, available at select Nordstrom locations, I just had to add this tidbit to our list. Happy Holidays!

<i>Robin James welcomes reader responses to jamesonjazz@spokesman-recorder.com.</i>