It is now December 21, 2011, so I wish all of you a happy Solstice!
But if the evidence around me is to be taken seriously, many people are rushing around in search of the perfect last-minute holiday gifts. I have a great deal of ambivalence about this, although I haven’t renounced materialism entirely. The holiday season intensifies the loud drumbeat of the online entreaty BUY THIS NOW AND BE HAPPY! Once you are past childhood, you sense that some purchases lead to nothing more than January remorse. How many sweaters does anyone need, especially when we know that some people don’t have sufficient clothing to keep them warm?
But — even with all that in mind, I wish to quietly offer a few last-minute JAZZ LIVES suggestions for gifts that won’t be tossed aside on December 27.
Tops on my list is a membership in support of the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Here’s the link: LOUIS! There are benefits and perks to becoming e member, supporting the best museum I know. But even if you don’t have the minimum amount for membership, generosity is possible on a smaller scale. If everyone who ever was moved by a Louis Armstrong recording or video sent the museum a dollar, it would make it possible for the LAHM to keep the legacy of Louis vivid and tangible in this century.
Perhaps you would like something for your contribution? If you live close enough to Corona, Queens, New York, to pay the LAHM a visit, paradise awaits those who walk through the front door, in the gift shop. Alas, the SATCHMO box sets have all been bought up, but there are racks and shelves of Louis-related gifts, from bags of rice with his picture on them, boxes of Swiss Kriss (something for Secret Santa at work, perhaps?), wonderful books by Ricky Riccardi, Michael Cogswell, and Jos Willems, DVDs and compact discs.
Did someone say “compact discs”?
The LAHM is the only place on the planet that has Gosta Hagglof’s lovely Ambassador series of discs — a wonderful labor of love, documenting Louis’ great work in the Thirties and Forties (and beyond) — with the Decca recordings, broadcasts, and more. In fact, several of the Ambassador CDs contain music you can’t find anywhere else: the “Dancing Parties” one, devoted to Louis’ live recordings with Sidney Catlett, many of them from the Cotton Club, is extraordinary, as is the first volume of Louis and the All-Stars in Philadelphia 1948. Unfortunately, the LAHM can’t ship you a boxful . . . you’ll just have to come to Corona in person, which is a life-changing experience.
Other jazz gifts?
Michael Zirpolo’s new Bunny Berigan book is a wow. Find out more here
So is Dr. Judith Schlesinger’s feisty and compelling THE INSANITY HOAX. Check it out here
Dawn Lambeth is coming out with a new DVD (hooray for Dawn and Chris Dawson) and there is a DVD documentary devoted to Marty Grosz, RHYTHM IS HIS BUSINESS. Details to follow!
Another possibility — giving thanks directly — is to go to a local jazz club. Listen closely to the men and women swinging so deliciously. Put something more than a dollar in the tip jar. Buy a CD or DVD directly from the players.
And if all of this is beyond your capabilities, make sure you have jazz playing in your house . . . to lift your spirits, to make the rafters ring ‘way up to Heaven, and to enlighten your visitors. If one more person gets to hear the 1938 Basie band, or George Wettling, or any jazz that makes you tingle, we are that much closer to creating and maintaining the wonderful world Louis sang about.
Happy holidays, dear friends!