A jazzy gift guide for holiday shopping

Yep, it’s that time already. A short list but a good one.


A jazzy gift guide for holiday shopping
The Oakland Tribune

Pardon me if my own mental clock is a bit off, but didn’t we just have the holiday season last month? It sure seems that way.

When it comes to buying presents for loved ones, or even casual acquaintances, nothing beats the gift of music. The following is a look at some of the top gift-worthy jazz offerings available this season.

Perfect Peterson: The Best of the Pablo and Telarc Recordings, Oscar Peterson (Concord, $19.98) — I saw the 82-year-old piano legend perform twice in 2006, first at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square in Oakland, then at the 49th annual Monterey Jazz Festival, and he was terrific on both occasions. Yet, Peterson wasn’t as good as what you’ll hear on the first disc of this two-CD collection. That disc spotlights the best of the pianist’s run at the Pablo label, which lasted from 1953 to 1986, and includes works by the then-young lion that will make your jaw drop. The second disc, which has its moments, highlights Peterson’s more recent work on the Telarc imprint.

Live 2007: 4th Annual Concert Tour, SFJAZZ Collective (SFJAZZ, $35) — Each year, the SFJAZZ Collective spotlights the works of one great composer. For 2007, the troupe picked one of the best of the best — Thelonious Monk. Recorded live during the band’s international tour, this two-disc set features the all-star troupe (led by saxophone colossus Joshua Redman) in a mix of Monk tunes and original band compositions. Don’t delay ordering your copy — only 3,000 were pressed and this set, like prior Collective releases, will someday be a collector’s item.

Tijuana Moods, Charles Mingus (Sony, $13.98) — It seems like every time I turn around, somebody has released a ”newly remastered” version of a Charles Mingus album. The skinny on this one is that it sounds superb — but if someone already owns an older version on CD, he probably doesn’t need the update. Tijuana Moods (1962) stands as, arguably, the famed bassist-composer’s finest hour. More significantly, it’s one of the greatest pieces of improvisational music ever recorded.

The Essential Benny Goodman, Benny Goodman (Columbia, $24.98) — I refer to him as ”The Great One,” a billing that you’ll probably agree with after listening to this two-disc set. An outstanding career overview, it features 40 recordings from his years on RCA Victor and Columbia. Included in the mix are such favorites as King Porter Stomp,Sing, Sing, Sing and Air Mail Special.

Interplay, John Coltrane (Prestige, $59.98) — Coltrane is such a cash cow that there never seems to be a shortage of new product carrying the saxophonist’s name. Sure, he died in 1967, but you’d never know it by looking at the new-releases shelf at your local record store. The latest offering for Coltrane fans is this wonderful five-disc set that collects seven full-length albums plus change. The lion’s share of the music was recorded in just one year’s time — September 1956 to September 1957. That was, to say the least, a fertile period for the saxophonist.

Trio of Doom, John McLaughlin, Jaco Pastorius and Tony Williams (Columbia, $13.98) — Talk about a great triumvirate — guitarist McLaughlin (Mahavishnu Orchestra), bassist Pastorius (Weather Report) and drummer Williams (Lifetime, Miles Davis band) all on the same stage at the same time. The convergence of supreme talents happened only once in front of a live audience, in Cuba in 1979, but the legend lives on. This essential disc features a mix of live tracks recorded at that Havana date as well as studio tracks laid down the following week in New York. Fans should also check out the newly released Essential John McLaughlin and Essential Jaco Pastorius, each of which clocks in with more than 150 minutes of music.


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