Now beings the season of the Dinner Party. It’s not as if we lock our doors and close our blinds during the rest of the year, but when we have guests over for dinner in the summer it’s much more of a free-form affair, spent wandering from the patio to the kitchen to the grill. With a dinner party, it’s always a more structured evening, complete with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and dinner. And a dinner party is my greatest extravagance.
(Next to cheese and dogs. And cameras. And travel. I’ll shut up now.)
Just like the talented and always entertaining Jennnifer says about dinner parties, I love the process of the entire event–the planning, the cooking, even the cleaning. And one element that always gets special attention is the music.
I grew up in a home where music was played every day and it is a big part of who I am. Of course I’d love to have a grand piano and gather around it with martinis as I played some Bacharach, but until that happens I’m content with loading my favorite selections onto the iPod and tucking it away while it does its thing.
God Bless Technology.
Matt’s Favorite Music For Dinner Parties
You’ll always hear some of these artists at some point in the evening if you come over for dinner. And remember, music makes the perfect holiday gift.
1. Bud Shank
I adore the brilliance of Bud Shank, an American saxophonist who doesn’t play the sax as much as makes it sing in a sweet and sultry tone. This man has been making music for years and has quite a library to chose from.
2. Cal Tjader
If there was a religion that worshipped this man I’d join in a second. I’d be a Tjaderite of the highest order and willingly give 10% of my income to him. Ok, I exaggerate, but hello, have you met me? Callen Radcliffe Tjader, Jr. played the vibraphone, and in some circles is considered the grandfather of Latin Jazz, which is funny when you consider he was a Swedish guy from Missouri. Anyway, I could spend about 2 years talking about him and his career, but I think you should go listen to some of his music. Cal makes me happy.
As in Antonio Carlos Jobim. As in the name we are giving our first child. Known as Tom to his friends, Jobim was a Brazilian composer, pianist, singer, and one of the originators of bossa nova. The man is a genius and I am going to cry right now. I love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love him.
4. Luiz Bonfá
Another Brazilian composer, Bonfá was a guitarist that had a huge influence on the world of bossa nova as well as Samba-canção, a slower type of samba music from Brazil. This man dedicated his life to music, and his career spanned numerous musical endeavors from his home in Brazil to the United States. He makes me wish I could play the guitar.
5. Bajofondo Tango Club & Gotan Project
This category of music, known as Electrotango, is the fusion of electronica with traditional acoustic tango music. If you’re scratching your head right now you’re having the same reaction I did initially. Electro What? Tango What? But the result is lovely, sexy and sophisticated, and is helping to reintroduce tango to audiences.
6. Buena Vista Social Club
This album has always been close to me since it was released years ago. In fact, it never really goes out of rotation in my world. Take first-class Cuban musicians, more soul and heart than is humanly allowed, and mix thoroughly. Buena Vista Social Club is transcendent. Of all the music I own I encourage you to seek this one out if you haven’t already.
7. Gloria Estefan – Mi Tierra
I’m not particularly a big fan of Ms. Estefan’s pop stuff, but this Spanish album from 1993 updates Cuban classics and finds her sounding her best when backed by a mambo ensemble. It’s good stuff, really good stuff. But you’ll want to dance. O cantar. Si señor!
8. Lisa Shaw – Cherry
Smooth. Sultry. Sexy. When I need a good beat in my life I always turn to my favorite, Lisa Shaw. A New Yorker via Canada, Lisa has been THE voice of soulful deep house music for years –no one even comes close. Cherry is her first full-length album on Naked Music, the label that produces some of the grooviest dance music on the planet. Put this CD on when you need a modern beat rooted in slightly retro grooves, and prepare to swoon to Lisa’s always understated, always delicious voice. And grab a cocktail.
9. Nina Simone
What is a dinner party without Nina? Nothing, I tell you. You might as well grab a TV tray and sit down in front of “Deal or No Deal.” Anything from The High Priestess of Soul is appropriate, except “Strange Fruit”. Talk about a crowdkiller.
10. Anything Hotel Costes
Ok, so the hotel might be nice (I’ve never been), but I’m referring to the music compilations that they’ve issued over the past few years. Mixed by DJ Stéphane Pompougnac, these compilations are always interesting and make the perfect background for cocktail parties. In a world of chill compilation copy cats, this is the real deal and worth checking out.
What albums do you dig while dining? I wanna know!