Just like pairing the right wine with an entree can make a tasty meal all the more scrumptious, selecting the right music while entertaining can take a dinner party from a blasé get-together to an affair to remember. A great album can be played all the way through — no need to skip tracks. That means saying goodbye to awkward silences during dinner because great music can be a conversation piece in and of itself. With this in mind, consider playing one of the following albums at your next soirée.
Saxophone Colossus, Sonny Rollins
This album features the well-known “St. Thomas,” a breezy calypso-inspired theme. While Saxophone Colossus is a work of melodic jazz improv, it manages not to be too “out there.” In other words, you don’t have to be a jazz aficionado to dig it. The verdict: A classic jazz album and a great dinner soundtrack alike.
Love Is All I Had: Tribute to the Queen of Jamaica, Phyllis Dillon
The late songstress Phyllis Dillon was not only a reggae musician but a ska performer as well. This collection pulls together nearly 30 of her tracks, an impressive feat by the legendary Trojan Records given that her music is often hard to find. A soulful female voice, Dillon tackles both bittersweet love songs (“Love Is All I Had”) and challenging social commentary (“Woman of the Ghetto”).
Priceless Jazz, Ahmad Jamal
My most played jazz album after Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue,” this compilation of Ahmad Jamal’s greatest hits features a live version of his beloved track “Poinciana.” No song better uses blank space than this, with its glassy piano over a bouncy bass and minimalist drumbeat. It’s deceptively simple, artful and meditative. I also recommended the album Alhambra, if you can find it.
Carried to Dust, Calexico
Tucson band Calexico delivers perhaps its most cohesive album to date with Carried to Dust, a work to be relished from start to finish. Chock full of the border music stylings that define its sound, Calexico combines mariachi horns, American folk-rock, pedal steel guitar and jazz-infused ballads on the album. The songs are reminiscent of film scores that evoke a dust-blown, stark and beautiful landscape. The track “Fractured Air (Tornado Watch)” is my personal favorite.
Tanto Tempo, Bebel Gilberto
Bebel Gilberto descends from Brazilian bossa nova royalty, as she’s the daughter of João Gilberto (“The Girl From Ipanema“) and Miúcha. She gives a more modern take on the lush tradition with this hypnotic, electronic album. Standout tracks include “Samba Da Bencao” and “Sem Contençāo.”
Which music is your go-to for a memorable dinner party?