When my down-the-block neighbor Ned got out of his car a few days ago in a Santa suit so red you could see it from Schoharie or Saturn, I saw gift-giving time has come. “It makes a wonderful gift,” folk singer Tom Rush proclaimed decades ago, displaying his new album onstage at Proctors in Troy. (Yes, the place once presented shows.)
The discounted online gift card offer we ran Monday included only a few restaurants with live music, so giving tunes takes a bit more ingenuity. Many methods are available, including new-tech options: Streaming links and gift cards offer virtual wrapping paper. A vinyl album was once the most obvious gift possible; no mistaking THAT for a sweater. The only surprise was: WHICH album is in there?
My all-time favorite musical surprise was when my daughter Pisie’s fiancé, Tony, told her to take two days off but didn’t tell her why and drove her to Montreal, where the surprise was revealed only when they parked by a club whose marquee shouted “PRINCE” — one of his last-ever shows.
’Tis the season for “Best Of” lists, too; each one offering a shopping guide and jumpstart for arguments. Our own lists run soon, and they’re all over my favorite music-and-arts megaphone, www.nippertown.com. Click it up, discuss. My Adirondack music-gathering host Stephen just told me North Country Public Radio program director Jackie Sauter is retiring. Her goodbye is a list of 47 favorite all-time albums, including gloriously gift-worthy ones, some fresh and recent: https://shar.es/aawnbV.
Giving live music (see the Prince reference, above) may be even more satisfying than recordings. You can share, sitting beside the recipient. Giving specific shows works fine, or redeemable gift cards so the receiver can choose.
What would I choose? Looking back, and spilling the beans a bit on our Best Of lists, I wish I could have dragged everybody I know to the Palace for David Byrne back in September.
And I wish I could shove among everybody’s holiday gifts: Aaron Parks’ “Little Big,” Janelle Monae’s “Dirty Computer,” Ry Cooder’s “The Prodigal Son,” John Prine’s “The Tree of Forgiveness,” Rosanne Cash’s “She Remembers Everything,” Kamasi Washington’s “Heaven and Earth,” Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer’s “Not Dark Yet” (last year, I know, but it’s so haunting it still makes this year’s list), the War on Drugs’ “A Deeper Understanding” (ditto), Paul McCartney’s “Egypt Station” (and not just because my brother Jim Hoke plays on it), Alejandro Escovedo’s “The Crossing,” Bonerama’s “Hot Like Fire,” Brandi Carlile’s “By the Way I Forgive You,” Jon Batiste’s “Hollywood Africans,” Cecile McLorin Salvant’s “The Window,” Charles Lloyd & the Marvels featuring Lucinda Williams’ “Vanished Gardens,” Jazzmeia Horn’s “A Social Call,” James Francies’ “Flight,” Kim Richie’s “Edgeland” — OK, enough!
CAFFE SHOW SHOPPING
Jazz guitars gang up on Caffe Lena this week.
Tonight the Hot Club of Saratoga’s “Gypsy Jazz Party” adds guitarist Sara L’Abriola to their zippy riffs mix. HCS’s elastic lineup orbits around core members Chuck Kish, guitar; Tucker Callendar, violin; and reeds player Jonathan Greene. Just 20, L’Abriola studies (and performs) with gypsy jazz giant Stephane Wremble, who recently played the Caffe. 7 p.m. $12 advance, $15 door, $7.50 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
On Saturday, Frank Vignola continues this powerful picking party, leading a fast-fingered band with fellow-guitarist Vinny Raniolo and bassist Gary Mazzaroppi. Vignola was the strongest player in The Egg’s recent all-star Leonard Bernstein tribute, a terrific show. 8 p.m. $25, $30, $15
Also in the Caffe mix are two rock shows.
Let’s Be Leonard plays “A Very Leonard Christmas” Friday. The Saratoga favorites (Matt Griffin and Karl Bertrand, guitars; Connor Dunn, saxophone; Chris Cronin, bass; and Paul Guay, drums) jam on holiday favorites, plus tunes from their albums “Cow” and “Static.” (A film version of “Static” hits on Christmas Day.) 8 p.m. $14, $16, $8
Sunday, Roomful of Blues play old-school jump-jazz and rock with eight players, including a bunch o’ horns. Everybody’s different from the 1970s lineup when they rocked J.B. Scott’s and every other club and festival in the country, and (briefly, unhappily) backed the Blues Brothers. But this venerable band packs the same riff-rocking energy as ever. 7 p.m. $35, $37, $19
On Friday, the Eighth Step presents its seasonal-favorite celebration “Sing Solstice!” at Proctors The Addy (432 State St., Schenectady, 3rdfloor).
This holiday songfest features folksingers Kim & Reggie Harris, and Magpie (Terry Leonino & Greg Artzner). 7:30 p.m. $26 advance, $28 door, $40 front and center. 518-434-1703 or 346-6204 www.8thstep.orgor www.proctors.org