Some of you have asked me about suggestions for holiday gift ideas for the music lover. It’s a matter of musical preference, of course, but if it were all about me, below are several book ideas that would definitely make it onto my wish list for Santa.
Uncompromising Expression. This is the story of the iconic jazz label, Blue Note. It’s a fascinating read, spanning the label’s 1939 founding by refugees from Hitler’s Germany to recent releases by Gregory Porter and others. See photographs of sound engineer Rudy Van Gelder’s parents’ living room, where the Blue Note recordings were made, his legendary Englewood Cliffs studio, where musical magic took place, and many other great session moments captured by co-founder Francis Wolff.
Another hefty tome, this book traces jazz producer Norman Granz’s various labels: Clef, Norgran, Down Home, and Verve Records’ subsequent labels. Verve Records was the home of major jazz icons like Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Joe Pass, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, and many others. Remembered for his bold stance against segregation during the 1950s–1960s, this book chronicles the stories of how he demanded equal treatment for all of the Verve jazz artists.
This reasonably-priced little treasure was published in 2006, but I didn’t know about it until Rhythm Planet’s blog producer, Mary Falcone, lent me her copy. Released originally as collectible trading cards, this hardbound compilation contains his signature illustrated portraits of jazz, blues, and country greats along with capsule biographies for each artist and even comes with a bonus CD inside, curated by R. Crumb. A perfect holiday steal for under $20!
Herbie Hancock’s Possibilities. In this fascinating, new memoir, the legendary Herbie Hancock reflects on his life’s journey and spiritual evolution. Retold through a series of personal accounts of his childhood in Chicago to his countless collaborations with jazz greats to his discovery of Nichiren Buddhism and the profound impact it has had upon his life and work, Herbie evinces the same joy and boundless optimism characteristic of his signature brand of music that is beloved by all.
Rock Covers. Taschen, known for their always beautifully executed publications, has just published a prodigious collection of over 750 classic rock album covers that have made music history. Each one is accompanied by fact sheets, featured interviews, and the top 10 lists of leading record collectors. I hope that Mati Klarwein’s great cover art for Santana is in there somewhere, as well as Blind Faith’s controversial cover of a topless red-headed adolescent.