Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Little Night Music

I thought I would briefly transition back into party planning mode and keep you in suspense for a little longer in regards to what part of my world is now coated in a gallon of Galactica semi-gloss (that, and I'm not finished...sometimes Sunday afternoon projects bleed into Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.)

When we're planning our next shin-dig, whether it be a simple, September Saturday Night in the backyard with the fire pit-a-blaze, an engagement cocktail party, a themed dinner party, or a sit-down Sunday brunch for 6, what are we going to focus on? Well, the food, the drinks, and the decor, of course. Or as I like to call them, The 3 D's: Decor, Drinks, & Deliciousness. And why wouldn't we focus on these things? Having quality food, beverages, and a timeless design plan can either a. make you a chapter in Colin Cowie's next book or b. make you the laughing stock amongst all of the women in your Glaze Your Own Pottery class. I mean, who wants to go to a party with no food and libations? Not this guy. While these are the staples of the successful shin-dig, there's still more to it than that. Today's lesson: Don't Neglect the Music. So, on the bottom of your planning list, under "Drive to Foods of All 'Inflations' and buy impressive cheeses", write "pick out music for party." Done.

I love music. I think music is one of the ways we are really able to connect to people. Whether it be going to a concert with your friends or hearing a song in a restaurant that everyone knows/yet haven't heard since high school, music is a memorable element of many happy occasions for a lot of people. I mean, who doesn't love those moments when everyone in the bar starts singing the words "Josie's on a vacation far away, come around and talk if over" at the top of their lungs?" I certainly do. I think picking the right music can not only enhance the mood of your next party, but it can make for a much more memorable evening for your guests. Whenever I've planned or catered a party for friends in their home, I include samples of the music in the design proposal. I use music to really convey a theme and a concept. Let's face it, there's a big difference between a sleek Holiday cocktail with peppermint martinis and a "bring your children" Holiday Open House. It's Bing Crosby vs. Bling Crosby. You want to put thought into your music selections.

I'm going to be honest for a moment (like that's something new). If I come to your dress up cocktail party and you start playing Britney Spears' "Circus," I'm going to judge you a little bit. It's not a bad jam, but save it for the club, or for the hour prior to the party when you're getting ready, dancing around in your underwear, and reminding yourself how fabulous you are. This example highlights the underlying thought to this all. You want to think about the purpose of the music. If you're rolling up the carpet in the living room and having dance party, awesome. Pump up the volume, Pump up the volume, Pump up the volume, Dance, Dance. However, if the music is meant to be background music to fill any awkward silences over dinner or to distract from and drown out the fact that your new condo is next to the train tracks, then it's a different ball game.

We all make a lot of simple mistakes when it comes to the music. The first being that we play it too loud. Your guests should never have to shout because they can't hear each other over your "smooth jazz." We also pick the wrong music for the occasion (please see the aforementioned Britney example.) If the music is solely meant to be in the background in areas where guests are going to be talking and mingling, I typically go more instrumental. It provides a great opportunity for you to break out songs from jazz legends, new electronica/fusion artists, and no one gets bogged down in trying to listen to words that they can't quite hear clearly. One of my favorite things to do is find funky, instrumental versions of classic songs (and no, I'm not talking elevator Muzak). You get the memorable melody, with a twist. If you're having an event outside, you have more room to play, so have fun with it. Go for some Motown classics for the background cocktail, or bluegrass for the barbecue, and turn it up a little bit. Whatever you do, keep it at a good volume and consider the purpose/feeling and mood you're trying to convey. Maybe you love REO Speedwagon, but maybe they don't go so well with Eggs Benedict and mimosas served in your Tiffany champagne flutes.

I'm a big fan of the playlist. I think crafting a quality playlist for your Ipod is a wonderful shout out to the lost art of the Mix Tape. Seriously, if a guy wants to win my heart, he needs to stand outside my window with an old school Boom Box over his head ala "Say Anything." However, I think playlists could be a whole other, endless entry, and I'm all about making this super easy for folks. So, I thought I would include a few of my favorite "Go To" albums that I like to rotate and rock at various occasions at my house. I think having a few CDs you can pull off your shelf and pop in the player is a wise investment. It's very set it and forget it. You can let it play, knowing the next song isn't going to be something offensive or something you're going to want to run to the stereo and skip over to avoid embarrassment. "Oh, gosh, how did that song from 'Dream Girls' get on my Ipod playlist? One of my fraternity brothers must be playing a trick on me! (awkward laugh)" In efforts to avoid any of these embarassing adventures in entertaining, here are a few of my favorite "Go To" albums that you might consider for your next shindig.

Outernational Sound-Thievery Corporation
It's like telling a story with two turn tables. A great mix of electronica, organic mixes, and smooth sounds from around the world. Each song is so unique, it sounds like you're rocking a playlist. Great for cocktail parties or sharing tapas with friends.

Sounds From the Verve Hi-Fi-Thievery Corporation
More from the same dynamic DJ duo. A great collection of old meets new, feels very 21st century "Mad Men" lounge with a kick of Brazilian/Latin flavor. Great for cocktail parties.

Simple Things-Zero 7
A hot mix of electronica/techno beats with inspiration of cool jazz, soul, and Quincey Jones, George Martin, and David Axelrod. Perfect for a sit-down dinner party. I'm not going to lie folks, this is a sexy CD. You might want to skip having the guests over all together, have a nice dinner for two, and have a little night music of your own. I'm just saying.

Whipped Cream & Other Delights REWHIPPED- Herb Albert & The Tijuana Brass
Progressive jazz versious of the classics from Herb Albert's 1965 "Whipped Cream & Other Delights." Mixed by DJs but maintaining the Herb Albert trumpet solos, it's a fun, funky approach to old classics. Great for a cocktail party or fiesta with friends.

Riverside Profiles-Bill Evans
A 2 CD set/tribute to the infamous piano trio of yesteryear. A lot of the tracks are from the 50's and 60's but remastered with a crystal clear sound. It's a great mix of memorable,instrumental, classic jazz piano. Includes both some upbeat tunes and slower tempo tracks. Perfect for a sit-down dinner party, cocktails, or a Sunday Brunch.

When I Fall in Love-Chris Botti
The legendary trumpeter of our time, paired with a real orchestra (no cheesy synthesizers here). The man seriously shines on this CD. Lots of classics like "When I Fall in Love, "The Look of Love" and "What'll I Do." Great for a sit-down Dinner Party, or a quiet dinner for 2. Meow.

Kind of Blue-Miles Davis
There are no words to even say. The man's a legend. You can't go wrong. It's a short album (6 tracks, although several are 10 minutes long) so pair it with another Davis classic or some John Coltrane. Great for a cocktail party.

A Strange Arrangement-Mayer Hawthorne
A modern day answer to Motown/neo-soul. It's nostalgic but with some urban twists. Lots of great Motown covers (Smokey Robinson, Temptations, Curtis Mayfield.) So good. This is a fun CD to use if you're going for the feel of Motown but you don't want to literally play "Tears of a Clown."

Summer Love Songs-The Beach Boys
No explanation needed. I mean, "wouldn't it be nice if we were older? Then we wouldn't have to wait so long." God Only Knows? Don't Worry Baby? It doesn't get much more Summer Saturday Night. Perfect for a summer barbecue/outdoor gathering. This one is sure to have your guests singing along.

Reach Out: The Motown Record -Human Nature
Australia's premier male vocal group takes a fun spin at Motown classics. "My Girl" "Ooh Baby Baby, etc." Has a great orchestra sound. Nice covers. Great for a barbecue or casual night on the deck with friends.

Melody A.M.- Royksopp
Think of this CD as morning recovery from a crazy night at the club. Fresh, mellow dance beats from a Norwegian electronic music duo. A fun alternative for the next cocktail party. You might even recognize their song "Remind Me" from a popular commercial.

The Greatest Hits-James Taylor
You can't go wrong with ol' JT. "Carolina in my Mind," "Shower the People," "How Sweet it is (to be Loved by You"). Great tracks that span generations. It's one of those CDs I appreciate just as much as my parents. Everyone will surely have their feet tapping at the next barbecue or outdoor soiree. If you're looking for covers, JT does a great album called well, "Covers." He does a great beachy/bluesy version of The Temptations' "It Keeps Growing."

Lady Day: The Best of Billie Holiday
The infamous blues legend doing what she does best, flexing her pipes. You'll love her renditions of "God Bless the Child," "The Very Thought of You," and "Summertime." It's that great sound that just begs for rocking chairs, mint juleps, lemonade, and catching up with friends. Rock it at your next summer/spring soiree.

The Complete Verve Remixed- Various Artists
What do you get when you take Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Dizzy Gilespie, Ramsey Lewis, and mix them with popular DJs? You get The Complete Verve Remixed 4 CD set. The four Verve volumes originally sold separately, but can now be purchased as a set. Twenty jams by blues/jazz legends kicked in the seat of the pants with steel-toed boots. Another fun alternative for your next cocktail party/mixer or Happy Hour.

I could seriously go on forever, but these are meant to be a good base for your collection. Definitely worth the investment. A great place to start is Itunes. Search a genre, find a song you like and explore the whole album. If you aren't digging all 13 tracks, just go for the one and add it to your playlist. So set the mood, Set the volume, and remember, Lady GaGa and your Mother's Day tea just don't mix.

A little night music never hurt anyone.



  1. Ed, you rock. I absolutely love Thievery Corporation, they are my go-to 'chill out' music for gatherings. I also love Brit Brit for when I clean, which is similar to going to the club, right?

  2. Hey Sara!

    Aren't they the best? I'm beyond excited because they are playing here in Cville at the end of the month at the outdoor pavilion a few blocks from my house! I can't wait. I'm glad you're following the blog! I promise to not be gone for so long again. ;)I just read some of your blog and I LOVE your place and style! Such a cute house.