by Curtis Davenport of CurtJAzz Radio
November 2020 –– Thanksgiving, ostensibly the celebration and appreciation of the bounty of the year’s agricultural harvest, is a holiday that I have always loved. It’s a day not only to give thanks but also a time of family gathering, free from the economic and commercial pressures of the Christmas season, that immediately follows it. It’s the three F’s: Food, Family and Football. For me it’s a day that is almost excellent.
Why almost? Because unlike Christmas, New Year’s Eve and now, even Halloween, Thanksgiving has been a holiday without a true musical soundtrack. Other than “Over the River and Through the Wood”, there is no one song associated with the day or the season. As someone who likes to live life to a soundtrack, this has been problematic. So, this year, I’ve decided to try to fix the problem by “cooking up” this Thanksgiving Jazz Playlist. It includes several jazz classics that celebrate autumn, the harvest, family gatherings, eating, common menu items and of course, a sense of gratitude to those on earth and above, who make it possible. It’s part reflection, part fun and all with love.
A little exposition on a few of the highlights:
Cannonball Adderley (with Miles Davis): Here it the Carolinas, the falling of the leaves, is often still happening around Thanksgiving, so it fits.
Thelonious Monk: leave it to Monk to give us one of the few real Thanksgiving Songs
Vince Guaraldi: The Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, is not as strong (musically or otherwise) as its Christmas and Halloween cousins but the title track is a nice tune.
Everybody Eats When They Come to My House
Cab Calloway: You can’t leave out the Cab, with the humorous holiday theme song of mothers and grandmothers, everywhere.
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman: Trane and Hartman and it’s got Autumn in the title. That’s all the excuse that I needed.
All That Meat and No Potatoes
Louis Armstrong: The classic Fats Waller tune, as interpreted by another legend, Louis Armstrong and Velma Middleton. I don’t know if they were really talking about food here, but it’s a fun inclusion.
Dinner with Friends
Count Basie: This Basie flag-waver, written by Neil Hefti, gets back to what the day is about, and it will get everyone moving after a big meal.
Dave Grusin: This Grusin rarity, is full of beauty and reverence, reminding me of a prayer of thanks, that is said before the Thanksgiving meal.
Sweet Potato Pie
Al Jarreau: This funky, early Jarreau song, like the aforementioned Fats Waller tune, may or may not, be speaking of culinary delights but it does contain one Davenport family truth, in the lyrics; “Anyone who’s ever had sweet potato pie, really don’t want pumpkin again.”