What are some heartfelt Christmas gift ideas?

With all these global shipping delays, and with Christmas right around the corner, you might be struggling to find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list. To prevent you from seeming like the Grinch, or from having to put coal in the stockings of all your friends, relatives, and coworkers, we’ve come up with some unique gift ideas that won’t require any shipping at all! Don’t believe me, read for yourself:

Mason Jar Alcohol Infusion Kit 

You’ve probably seen these cute jars, filled with dried fruits, spices on Etsy, but did it ever occur to you that you could make one yourself? After all, it is just a mason jar full of herbs and dried fruit—you can buy all those items at your local health food store. All you need is a recipe and some creativity! 

Put dried cranberries, orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and brown sugar into a mason jar and ta da, you just made a hot toddy spirit infusion kit! You might want to add that special touch with a red ribbon around the top, and maybe even a handwritten label that reads, Just add whiskey!

Digital Jazz Album 

No one really uses CDs anymore, so why not gift those music lovers in your life a new digital Christmas album that is sure to knock their socks off? Not to mention, you certainly won’t have to worry about any shipping fees or delays. Just print off a picture of the album and put it in an envelope, or if you really want to be cheeky, wrap it in inside a box with a bunch of tissue paper! And maybe if you’re giving this gift to a significant other, you could invite he or she to slow dance with you to one of the songs—what’s more romantic than that?

You’re in luck because we have quite a few digital albums available in our store right now. Christmas Ain’t Like It Used To Be offers fresh, new and heartwarming holiday songs, along with the stellar vocals of Andromeda Turre; Lorca Hart Trio’s Colors of Jazz takes you on a whirlwind adventure through the rainbow, exploring the vibrancy of contemporary jazz; WJ3 All-Stars’ Lovers and Love Songs sweeps you away on a romantic journey through the ages; and Cryin’ In My Whiskey, featuring Janis Siegel and John Di Martino, is the perfect mix of jazz standards and country classics! You really can’t go wrong with any of these choices.

Personalized Coupons

Grab some card stock, markers, and stickers and make some adorable, personalized coupons that show your loved ones that you really care. Some ideas for coupons: Good for one free hug, one free cuddle, back massage, ice cream date… The options are endless! Just get creative. Oh, and if you really want to have some fun with it, you could even put expiration dates on the coupons—just be ready to redeem them all when the time comes!

Concert Tickets 

Experiences can be more valuable than any tangible object, so, this holiday season, gift your friends, family, and coworkers with an early Christmas gift: tickets to the album concert for Christmas Ain’t Like It Used To Be

On Friday, December 17th at 8pm, Akron will be hosting some of the best musicians in New York City on the Knight Stage at the Civic Center. You and your loved ones won’t want to miss this joyful celebration of Christmas, Hannukah and jazz! To purchase tickets, please see the link below:

https://www.akroncivic.com/shows/370

What are some new Christmas albums?

The classic Christmas tunes are popular for a reason—they evoke family memories, you know the lyrics by heart, and they’ve withstood the test of time—but sometimes the classics can dare I say it, become a bit repetitive, especially if the same station or soundtrack is on loop all day at your work! Sometimes, it’s nice to spice things up and open the genre to new albums. Because remember, all classic songs were at one time, new releases! It’s time to make some room around the open fire for new friends. 

Dolly Parton – Holly Dolly Christmas

Her first Christmas album in thirty years, Holly Dolly Christmas does not disappoint. With a majority of new, original tracks, and some traditional favorites mixed in as well, this album is as charming and optimistic as the country star we all know and love. Including duets with Michael Bublé, Jimmy Fallon, Willie Nelson, and featuring Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Randy Parton, Holly Dolly Christmas keeps things exciting!

The song “Comin Home for Christmas,” which was released as a single in 2009, is particularly cozy and sweet, and sure to bring the family all together. Mama’s in the kitchen, Christmas on the stove, Daddy’s in the woodshed with ax and overcoat, everybody’s helpin’ to place and trim the tree…

Norah Jones – I Dream of Christmas

The wait for Norah Jones’s first full-length Christmas album was well worth it! Her velvety, crisp, and cool voice seems like it was just made for Christmas songs. These dreamy, elegant, and tranquil tracks offer a relaxed backdrop for family gatherings, dinner parties and cozying up by the fire. And with many originals, like “Christmas Calling” and “Christmas Glow,” you’re bound to discover a new favorite! 

Carrie Underwood – My Gift 

A somber, unadorned album, My Gift showcases Underwood’s voice and focuses on the religious underpinnings of the holiday. The slow, poignant songs create an atmosphere meant for deeper emotions and reflection. One of the tracks, “Little Drummer Boy,” even features the adorable vocals of Underwood’s eldest son, which speaks to the familial and spiritual themes of the album. But perhaps the most passionate and profound is “Let There Be Peace,” which was performed at this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

John Di Martino & Andromeda Turre – Christmas Ain’t Like It Used to Be

Last, but certainly not least, this jazz release truly reinvigorates the genre with a complete album of exclusively fresh and vibrant originals from some of the biggest stars in the industry—John Di Martino, Andromeda Turre, Wayne Escoffery, Lonnie Plaxico and Willie Jones III. Offering a lovely mixture of slow, touching songs, like “Star of Wonder;” upbeat, festive tracks like “Make December Stay;” and bluesy tunes like “Christmas Ain’t Like It Used to Be;” this album is extremely versatile and will fit any holiday moment, whether it be baking cookies, trimming the tree, or kissing beneath the mistletoe. 

Christmas Ain’t Like It Used to Be is available now in our store and on all major music platforms. And if you live in the northeast Ohio area, you’re in luck because these musicians will be coming to the Akron Civic Center to perform the album for one night only—December 17th at 8pm. To purchase tickets please see the link below: 

What is a jazz standard? What is a fake book? And what are some examples of jazz standards?

You’ve probably heard the term thrown around before in phrases like, “a modern rendition of the jazz standard…” but what exactly is a jazz standard? 

As the name implies, a jazz standard is a composition that has established widespread popularity among musicians and listeners. There is no concrete list of jazz standards, and they fluctuate with time, but songs that appear in fake books are usually considered standards. 

Now you may be wondering, what is a fake book? Well, a fake book is a collected volume of lead sheets, which are musical notations that specify the crucial components of a famous song.  The melody, lyrics and harmony are marked on a lead sheet, but the chord voicings, voice leadings, and bass lines are not described, thus giving the musician or arranger freedom to improvise. Collections of lead sheets are called fake books because skilled musicians can “fake it” and perform the song decently with only having the rough outline, as opposed to having the full score, which writes out every note to be played and all the intricacies of the song.

Not all jazz standards were written by jazz composers—many were originally Broadway show tunes, Tin Pan Alley songs and even songs from Hollywood musicals. In Europe, fake books may also include traditional folk songs and ethnic music. But, even if a song has non-jazz origins, it can only become a jazz standard when it is played widely among jazz musicians. 

By now you’re probably curious to learn which jazz standards are the most well-known. Well, lucky for you we made a short list below:

Juan Tizol & Duke Ellington – Caravan

First performed by Duke Ellington in 1936, this tune quickly gained popularity for its “exotic” sound, and has since been used in many films, such as Ocean’s Eleven. It is considered one of the most covered songs of all time, with over 500 uses! 

W.C. Handy – St. Louis Blues

Published in 1914, this is an example of a song with origins in another genre—blues—that has become a fundamental part of the jazz repertoire. Artists including Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Bessie Smith, Glenn Miller, and Guy Lombardo have all recorded a version of this tune, which has been nicknamed, “the jazzman’s Hamlet.” 

Hoagy Carmichael – Stardust

Part of the Great American Songbook, this tune was inspired by the ending of one of Hoagy Carmichael’s love affairs, and since its publication in 1929, it has been recorded 1,500 times! My consolation is in the stardust of a song… 

Joseph Kosma – Autumn Leaves

This 1945 tune, with the original lyrics written in French, is particularly popular among beginning musicians because it offers a nice way to become acquainted with jazz harmony.   

You can find modern recordings of iconic jazz standards in our album, Lovers & Love Songs, which features “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” “I’m an Old Cowhand,” and “From This Moment On.” Lovers & Love Songs is available in our store and on all major music platforms! 

What are jazz songs usually about?

To answer this question, we must think about why we listen to music in the first place. Why do we pop in earbuds and jam to our favorite tune during our commute to work? Why do we play music at parties, weddings, funerals, and sports games? Why do we sing along to the radio?

Well, it’s because music is a powerful experience that has been a part of our shared human culture since prehistoric times. As you know, when you listen to a particularly satisfying song, your body undergoes a visceral reaction—you become giddy, you feel chills, or maybe you’re even moved to tears. There’s something magical and transcendent about how music can tap into a deeper part of ourselves. 

Jazz, like all music, expresses ideas and emotions that may be difficult to articulate through a normal conversation. We also must remember that jazz is a fundamentally diverse and wide-ranging genre, borrowing elements from other styles, like swing, bebop, blues, and hard bop, so there are not exactly strict distinctions when it comes to defining the subject material of jazz. Nonetheless, there are some recurring themes in jazz music that are best explained with examples. Check out the song list below to learn more about the themes of jazz!

The WJ3 All Stars – I’ve Never Been in Love Before

Probably the most obvious theme that first comes to mind when you think of jazz is love. With hits like John Coltrane’s “My One And Only Love,” Johnny Hartman’s “How Sweet It Is to Be in Love” and Nina Simone’s “I Love My Baby,” jazz definitely pays homage to the romantic passion that overcomes us all from time to time. 

Published in 1950, “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” is a great example of a jazz love song. It first appeared as a duet in the musical Guys and Dolls, sung by the main characters Sky Masterson and Sister Sarah Brown when they spontaneously realized that they had fallen in love. Now all at once it’s you, it’s you evermore… 

Since that first showing, the song has become a jazz standard, recorded by many artists including Shirley Bassey, Bing Crosby, and Doris Day. And most recently, the classic has been recorded by the WJ3 All Stars, offering a heartwarming, modern rendition that’ll sweep you off your feet on a romantic journey through the ages. 

Billie Holiday – Good Morning Heartache 

Unfortunately, lots of jazz songs about love means that there will also be lots of songs about heartbreak. It is utterly devastating when that all-consuming love turns sour and what better way to lament than through music, like Billie Holiday’s 1946 song, “Good Morning Heartache”  I’ve got those Monday blues straight through Sunday blues… 

Duke Ellington – Black, Brown, and Beige

Since jazz was conceived by a fusion of traditional African music, brought to the country by enslaved peoples, and “New World” ideas of creative expression found in the cultural melting pot of Caribbean, French and Spanish cultures in New Orleans, it comes as no surprise that the genre often celebrates diversity. 

This extended jazz work, written in 1943, is composed of three movements that Ellington said offer, “a parallel to the history of the Negro in America.” The piece begins with a work song and spirituals, which represent the religious songs that black enslaved people sung, then it moves into more West Indian influences, a celebration of Emancipation and the conception of the blues. Lastly, the piece depicts the African Americans of the 1920s, 30s and World War II. 

The Lorca Hart Trio – Introspection on the 401

Jazz songs don’t always have lyrics and instrumental tunes can provide a listener with a wordless moment of introspection. As we’ve discussed, music often stirs up emotions and thoughts, thus providing an excellent backdrop to do some thinking. This new song from The Lorca Hart Trio creates just the right ambience to do some self-reflection as you drive down the road to work.  

If you’re interested in listening to more jazz songs, and uncovering more themes and meanings, I would recommend our albums, Lovers & Love Songs, and Colors of Jazz, both of which are available in our store and on all major music platforms! 

Interview with Alan Rhody

“The tunes for Night is Alive’s newest album “Christmas Ain’t Like It Used To Be” were selected with the hope of bringing new meaning to a genre of music that is so near and dear to many. A mixture of classic favorites and modern hits, this album includes nine tracks of vibrant holiday music. Diving into the stories behind the songs, Night is Alive presents an exclusive interview with Alan Rhody, co-composer of the tune “Christmas to Christmas”.

Multi-award-winning songwriter and touring solo artist Alan Rhody has written countless songs and released multiple albums over his notable career. He has made dozens of network appearances in the US and Canada and written songs that have been career-changing hits for artists who are now household names.

“Christmas to Christmas” was penned in 1985 by Rhody and hit songwriter, Ron Hellard. The duo has written about a dozen songs together and remain very good friends, still co-writing occasionally. American country music singer-songwriter Lee Greenwood first recorded the tune and used it for the title of his Christmas album and television special.

“I was very excited and pleased when Night is Alive chose this song,” said Rhody. He has often wondered why the tune hasn’t been recorded by more artists in genres other than country, since he doesn’t consider it a ‘typical’ country song and the intro is set for jazz.

Sony had the publishing rights at the outset, with Rhody reclaiming his half of the song in 2017 retaining SonyATV to administrate, which Rhody believes is a good partnership. 

“I’m hoping more artists will continue to record the song,” mused Rhody. In fact, Night is Alive is the fourth, with soulful vocalist Andromeda Turre. The other artists thus far include Lee Greenwood, Tanya Tucker and Toby Keith. 

As far as his writing process? Rhody said it was Ron Hellard who brought the title idea to their session that hot summer day they created “Christmas To Christmas” in Rhody’s kitchen. Once he and Hellard finished the chorus, they “knew they had a winner.” He also feels it is one of their very best collaborations.

“It’s very personal when I write songs of this nature. whether alone or with a co-writer.” He said his wife Kathy’s presence is always there inside, with those.

So what did Christmas look like for Alan Rhody this year? It was a small gathering, just their two daughters and two grandsons, who all live in Nashville. Their son and his family live in New York City. Rhody and his family have lived in Nashville since the fall of 1977. 

You can hear Night is Alive’s version of “Christmas to Christmas” on “Christmas Ain’t Like It Used To Be”: www.nightisalive.com/christmas-aint-like-it-use-to-be


Interested in learning more? Sometime in early 2022, Alan Rhody will join the Daily Dose podcast, posted regularly 

on Night is Alive’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-yE-rSEiOYWEnIC9F6VXIw

New Christmas Music! – Holiday Concert in Akron, Ohio (2021)

After being stuck inside during the last holiday season, you’re probably antsy to go out and celebrate! It’s time to admire the lights, have a snowball fight, sing carols, and do all the things you couldn’t do last year, like… see some live music! With vaccinations and health protocols, it’s finally safe to go to a concert, experience the passion of the musicians up close and be surrounded by a like-minded crowd of music lovers. 

This holiday season, the hottest show in northeast Ohio is hands down going to be the release concert for the new album, Christmas Ain’t Like It Used To Be. Night Is Alive is bringing the very best talent to Akron for one night only and you just won’t want to miss it. Take your family, friends or a special someone to experience the Christmas album that is going to be like none you’ve heard before. With fresh, original songs that shine a new light on the genre, such as “Happy Hanukkah My Friend” and “Sleigh In The Sky,” you’re bound to discover some new contemporary holiday favorites! 

Featuring artists straight from the big apple—Willie Jones III on drums, Saul Rubin on guitar, Wayne Escoffery on sax, Lonnie Plaxico on bass and the vocals of Andromeda Turre—this show is a unique, one-time only opportunity to see some world-class New York talent right in your backyard. But enough of my gushing—why don’t you take a sneak peek of the title song to see just what I’m talking about.

Christmas Ain’t Like It Used To Be

The classic Christmas songs are great (the lyrics, which you’ve probably memorized, evoke many family memories), but don’t these tunes feel just a bit too comfortable at times? Like you’ve heard them played one too many times at the grocery store? Dare I say it, the classics can sometimes feel a bit tired and overdone, which is why Night Is Alive wanted to take a step away from the usual standards to create innovative songs that reinvigorate your holiday season! 

This blues tune has a nice classic feel to it and showcases the powerful, unforgettable vocals of Andromeda Turre, along with a walking baseline and drum set brushes that’ll make you want to embrace the holidays with a pep in your step. 

The concert will be on Friday, December 17th at 8pm at the Akron Civic Center. General admission is $20 and there is a student discounted ticket for only $20. To purchase tickets please see the link below: 

https://www.akroncivic.com/shows/370?fbclid=IwAR2FSa2NAas75Q00Uu7qs66Of_1c4hetxQjw3k4T9rVBX1BiBFqMFxj0F1Y

And not only can you experience this album live, but you can also purchase VIP tickets to meet the band and even take private lessons with the musicians! If you’re interested in lessons, please just send us an inquiry at kathy@nightisalive.com

We will see you there smiling in the crowd at this special one-night only event! Happy holidays!  

Songs for a Walk in the Fall Leaves

With the autumn leaves beginning to change colors, you’re probably ready to grab a pumpkin spice latte, put your earbuds in and go for a nice long walk in the park. Bask in the rich golds, bronzes, saffron, oranges, yellows, and reds. But before you go, make sure to read this guide to all the fall leaves and trees, complete with some great song recommendations for fall! 

Red – Red Roses For A Blue Lady by Wayne Newton

During your walk, you may be wondering, what trees turn red in the fall? Well, as the weather cools, the wine-colored leaves of the classic red maple and red oak become richer in tone. In addition, flowering dogwood, hornbeam, sourwood, and winged sumac also take on the deep hues of crimson, maroon, and cherry. And what pairs better with red than roses? This easy listening tune from 1965 will help you to unwind, be in the present moment and let all your daily worries fall away, just like the rusty red leaves.  

Purple – Purple Rain (Blues Cover) by Miche Braden

We often forget about the purple foliage, which is less common than the other colors of fall, but no less beautiful, just like this blues rendition of Prince’s famous pop song. Revel in the breathtaking violets, plums and burgundies of sweet gum, smoke trees, eastern ninebark and oakleaf hydrangea while you listen to this heartbreakingly beautiful song. I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain…

Orange – Autumn in New York by Billie Holiday

As your strolling, you may wonder, what exactly causes leaves to change color in the autumn? Well, you may remember learning about chlorophyll in high school or college biology class—the green pigment in a leaf that absorbs sunlight and transforms carbon dioxide and water to sugars and starch, aka foods that allow the tree to grow. But in addition to chlorophyll, there are also yellow and orange pigments, carotenes ad xanthophyll, that are masked by the immense amounts of green in the leaf—that is, at least until fall rolls around. Due to changes in temperature and the length of daylight in autumn, the leaves stop making food, so the chlorophyll breaks down and the green colors disappear, thus giving the yellow and orange pigments space to flourish.   

The sugar maple and Japanese maple change into particularly beautiful shades of orange that, as Billie Holiday first sang in 1956, make autumn in New York so inviting. On benches in Central Park, greet autumn in New York, it’s good to live it again…

Yellow – Dayne by the Lorca Hart Trio

There’s no better way to revel in the rich stains of fall than with an album titled, Colors of Jazz. With its fast pace, this vibrant tribute to Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter represents yellow. Imagine speeding down the road in a bright yellow sportscar, with the top down, peering through your sunglasses at the golden yellows of the American elm, black cherry, cucumber magnolia, shagbark hickory and witch hazel.  

If you’re looking for more brilliantly colorful songs for fall, Colors of Jazz is available in our store and on all major music platforms!

What songs should you play at a dinner party?

Cooling temperatures mean fewer barbeques and outdoor gatherings, but it also means more
dinner parties inside, more evening chats over glasses of wine by the wood-burning stove.
Whether you’re hosting a vegetarian dinner party, a formal dinner party or a birthday dinner
party, we’ve hand selected some tunes that are sure to set the perfect mood for your guests.
Billie Holiday – All of Me


There’s no better way to start the night off than with a well-known jazz standard from the iconic
Lady Day. First published in 1931, this tune revolves around the emotional despair of a
heartbreak, yet, with the repetition of high notes, it has an almost jubilant feel to it.
WJ3 All Stars – I’ve Never Been In Love Before

A heartwarming instrumental jazz song like this provides a lowkey and sophisticated background
great for sipping on cocktails and munching on hors d’oeuvres. Bruschetta anyone?


Andy Williams – Moon River


Even if your guests aren’t jazz enthusiasts, they’ll most likely recognize this song, which won an
Academy Award for Best Original Song when it was first performed by Audrey Hepburn in her
1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Then, a year later, Andy Williams covered the song, and it
became the theme to his T.V. show. The Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri was also
named after Williams’s cover of the song!


Jimmy Durante – Make Someone Happy


Enjoying good food with loved ones is bound to make everyone happy, just like this 1965 song!
Durante’s gravelly voice and his Lower East Side accent and style also create a nice ambience to
light up a cigar after dinner and settle into a comfy armchair.


Dean Martin – Ain’t That A Kick In The Head


After everyone has relaxed and digested their food for a bit, it might be a good time to dance to a
swinging big band jazz arrangement like this one. Martin originally performed the song in the
1960 film Ocean’s 11 and surprisingly, it did not end up charting. But no matter, it’s still one of
Martin’s most beloved songs, and it will still get you swirling around and tapping your toes with
a dance partner!


Lorca Hart Trio – Bye Ya


Eventually, to everyone’s’ dismay, the hour gets late, and the night must come to an end. But
first, one last laugh and hug! While guests are putting on their coats and kissing cheeks goodbye,
this upbeat, jovial instrumental, with a slamming drum solo to boot, will keep everyone
marching happily along and remind them of all the fun you had that evening.

If you’re looking for more lovely jazz music to play at your elegant dinner party, we recommend
Lorca Hart Trio’s album, Colors of Jazz, and the WJ3 All Stars’ album Lovers & Love Songs,
both of which are available in our store and on all major music platforms today. And