For most Americans, Thanksgiving dinner has a common soundtrack: the sound of NFL football on the TV in the next room. But for jazz lovers, there’s a better way to go – the (now annual) Chicago Jazz Examiner’s Thanksgiving Playlist.
I first pulled this list together from my radio-days files and published it last year. But two-thirds of you didn’t see it: in the last twelve months, foamcage.com has picked up lots more readers, and so has this column. (At least, that’s what I glean from the ever-expanding subscription list.) I’ve added a few tunes suggested by others, and made a few tweaks on my own, and voila! (Or Waapantamwa!, as the first Americans might have put it).
So once again, I present this cornucopia of holiday- and menu-appropriate tunes, perfect for stuffing your iPod and providing the soundtrack for our annual engagement with culinary excess.
Charles Earland, Thanksgiving: Earland, the long-departed “Mighty Groover” of the Hammond B-3, played hard-driving organ jazz suitable for any holiday party – but specifically titled for this one.
Ray Bryant, Hot Turkey: The main course, served up with a mound of rhythm by a sometimes overlooked master of blues piano.
Cyrus Chestnut, Soul Food: How can you go wrong? This pianist’s own name suggests a favorite recipe for the stuffing.
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Home Cookin’: Horace Silver wrote the music; he and his band improvised the solos for the original record; then Jon Hendricks added words to turn it into an ode to the domestic culinary arts.
Thelonious Monk, Stuffy Turkey: From Monk, the mystifying and charismatic piano genius, comes this typically elliptical and enigmatic line (a distillation of the durable jazz anthem “I Got Rhythm”), with a typically Monkish (i.e., unfathomable) title – which is nonetheless perfect for the occasion.
Charlie Parker, Carvin’ The Bird: Parker, the legendary alto saxophonist who co-created bebop, could shred any tune he turned his attention to. This one’s a medium-fast blues, with an all-star L.A. cast recorded in 1947.
Mongo Santamaria, Sweet ’Tater Pie: Latin, bluesy, delicious and nutritious, from the only percussionist to serve as the punch line in a Mel Brooks movie.
Booker T & The MGs, Soul Dressing: The classic pop organist takes the lead on this lean (but high-calorie) plateful of funkified southern cooking.
Jack McDuff, Hot Barbecue: Consistently swinging, always funky, and brainier than that description might suggest, organist McDuff cooks hard on this gem from the mid-60s, when his band included a young George Benson on guitar.
Lee Morgan, Cornbread: Smoking soul jazz, fresh from the hard-bop oven, thanks to the sterling trumpeter Morgan – one of the greatest melodists in the history of jazz.
Cab Calloway, Everybody Eats When They Come To My House: And Calloway, the Swing Era’s rambunctious “Hi-de-ho man,” manages to find a rhyme for all of them in this kitschy artifact. (As in “Try the salami, Tommy; Pass me a pancake, Mandrake.”)
Eddie Harris, That Is Why You’re Overweight: A brilliant saxophonist, Harris puts his wicked sense of humor on display here, as he raps his way down your basic 9,000-calorie-per-day diet.
Dave Brubeck, Thank You: A heartfelt reminder of what the day’s supposed to be all about.
Ray Bryant, Cold Turkey: Leftovers! (A heartburn reminder of what the day has become.)