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 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! 

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!  

What songs are good for going down the river?

From the Grumman and Coleman canoes to the Kevlar, Pelican and Sportspal there are so many brands to choose from when purchasing a canoe, not to mention the material and type—outrigger, aluminum, wooden, cedar strip, inflatable, lightweight. And don’t get me started on kayaks, there are just as many options there as well! Sun Dolphin, Costco, Intex Explorer, Ascend, Sevylor. And should you get a pedal or foldable kayak, tandem, inflatable? 

One thing is for sure, the market for canoes, kayaks, tubes, and rafts is saturated this summer, and with good reason—paddling or floating down the river is an excellent outdoor and socially-distanced activity that can be done solo, with friends or as a couple. And since music is our forte at Night Is Alive, we’re here to provide you with some of the best songs for every river adventure that you may embark upon before August ends and temperatures begin to cool! 

Leon Bridges – River

Described by The Wall Street Journal as a “throwback to ‘60s-soul a la Otis Redding and Sam Cooke,” this contemporary singer and songwriter, only 32-years-old, is an up-and-coming force to be reckoned with. Inspired by gospel music’s historical use of rivers as symbols for change and redemption, this slow, soft tune, featuring the guitar and tambourine, is about finding faith in God during difficult times, which makes it perfect for a solo, reflective, early morning kayaking trip. 

Chattahoochee – Alan Jackson

You really can’t go wrong with this cheerful, nostalgic 1993 country song about coming of age in a small town in northern Georgia, along the banks of the Chattahoochee River. The fast tempo of this tune would pair well with a gripping white water rafting trip, or a more relaxed fishing canoe trip. Never knew how much that muddy water meant to me—I learned how to swim and I learned who I was…

Willie Nelson – Whiskey River

Fans usually think of “Whiskey River” as a Willie Nelson staple, a cornerstone of his career, but the lament about the river of booze was actually a cover of country singer Johnny Bush’s 1972 song. The two, both from Texas, were apparently friends, with Nelson playing in Bush’s band, The Cherokee Cowboy. Despite the tragic lyrics, this tune still has an upbeat vibe to it and would be great for a relaxed float down the river with friends and family, perhaps with a cold beer or whiskey-based drink in your hand!

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Whenever You Come Around

Maybe you’ve been eyeing up some tandem kayaks and want to take your sweetheart on a memorable date in the river or on the lake. Well, this new, jazzed-up version of Vince Gill’s 1994 hit, featured on the 2021 album, Cryin’ In My Whiskey, will provide the perfect romantic backdrop. Hold your lover’s hand, soak up those rays and absorb the simple and direct message of this lovely song. I get weak in the knees and I lose my breath…

If you’re looking for more country songs to listen to while you go down the river, Cryin’ In My Whiskey is available on all major music platforms and in our store today. 

What fruits and vegetables are harvested in September?

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a record number of Americans planting a vegetable garden for the first time. I guess the idea was, if you’re stuck at home and trying to avoid public places, like grocery stores, why not just grow your own food? There’s also nothing more peaceful, energizing, and therapeutic than planting a seed in the dirt, and waiting for new life to take root and literally emerge from the soil. 

So, now, after all your patience and hard work, comes the fun part: harvest time. There are so many delicious fruits and veggies in season for September, you’ll be smiling and singing as you stroll through your garden, or the local farmer’s market, picking out produce for a scrumptious meal with family and friends. And since no meal is truly complete without the perfect ambience, we put together this playlist of songs to match some of our favorite seasonal September produce!   

Carrots – Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise by Abbey Lincoln

With their slightly sweet flavor and rich levels of vitamin A, carrots are a well-loved and versatile root vegetable that can be used in a variety of fan-favorite dishes, like chicken noodle soup, ginger-carrot cake, and Shepherd’s Pie. Similarly, Abbey Lincoln, a singer-songwriter from Chicago with a career spanning from the late 50s to the early 2000s, also has an extremely versatile voice that excels in not only mainstream jazz but also in more alternative, avant-garde music. 

Broccoli – Sister Sadie by Horace Silver

The thick stalks and round green florets of broccoli have a grassy, mildly bitter, and earthy flavor, reminiscent of the hard bop music of Horace Silver, who was hailed by the New York Times as the master of earthy jazz. During the 1950s, when the soft sounds of cool jazz were soaring the airwaves, Silver came out with tunes that brought jazz back to its basics, with a focus on simple rhythms, blues, and gospel. 

So, why not go back to the basics this September with a tasty broccoli dish like garlic parmesan roasted broccoli or a broccoli bacon salad. 

Blueberries – Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue by Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico

Contrary to what you may think, blueberries pack a punch—yes, they’re small, juicy, and sweet, but they do also have a bit of a sour, acidic bite to them, especially if they’re not completely ripe. In the same way, this new, jazzed-up rendition of Crystal Gayle’s 1977 slow, crooning tune has a surprising kick at the end that you won’t want to miss.  

Plums – Duke and Billy by Lorca Hart Trio

These juicy and tart stone fruits can be eaten fresh, made into jam, fermented into wine, or even added to desserts and salads. They’re full of vitamin C, which is great for your eyes, and they can have red, purple, green, yellow, or orange skin. The most common color, and probably the most memorable, however, is the deep purple hue of the plum, which reminds me of Lorca Hart Trio’s new song “Duke and Billy.” This tune represents a pleasant conversation between Duke Ellington and Bill Stahan and signifies the rich and royal color purple. 

If you’re looking for more jazz tunes to hum along to while you harvest September produce and cook up some farm fresh meals, check out our albums Cryin’ in My Whiskey and Colors of Jazz, which are both available in our store and on all major music platforms.  

Why is Labor Day celebrated?

We all love that day off from school or work, that long weekend to go to the lake house, have a barbeque and visit with relatives, but let’s face it, most of us don’t really know why Labor Day is celebrated, or the history behind the holiday.

Labor Day, which is celebrated on the first Monday in September, honors and recognizes the American labor movement and the role of laborers in the development and achievements of the country. The holiday originated in the late 1800s, after the Industrial Revolution, when trade unions were growing steadily. Unionists thought that there should be a day to recognize labor, so the first parade was organized in New York City, and it became an official holiday in 1894.

You may be wondering, what kind of music did people listen to back then, in the late 19th century? Well, we’ve compiled a short list of historical tunes that are sure to impress your friends and family at your Labor Day celebration!

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad – 1894

With its lyrics about rising early in the morn to go work on the railroad, this American folk song embodies the spirit and history of Labor Day. Railroading was a career that many young men took up at around age 18 to 20. They began as shop laborers with the possibility of being promoted to the positions of skilled mechanic, brakeman, freight conductor and passenger conductor. And not only did the explosion of railways create jobs, but it also transformed many sectors of the U.S. economy, such as manufacturing, agriculture, and finance. 

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – 1872

This African American spiritual song was originally composed in 1865 by Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman, who had probably been inspired by the sight of the Red River, where he worked alongside. The river may have reminded him of the Jordan River and the Prophet Elijah, which are referenced in the song.

A minister at the Choctaw boarding school heard Willis singing the song, so he transcribed the lyrics and melodies, and sent it to the Jubilee Singers of the historically black Fisk University in Nashville, who popularized the song in the early 1900s.

While Strolling Through the Park One Day – 1884

Originally written and published by vaudeville performer Ed Haley, this tune has been featured in many films and was sung by Judy Garland. Interestingly enough, a few bars were also sung by the NASA astronauts when they landed on the moon with the Apollo 17 mission. I was strolling on the moon one day…” 

Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue – Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico

The oldies are neat and everything, but after the novelty wears off, they’re probably not the type of music you want to listen to for hours on end. After the collective ride down American memory lane, maybe it’s time to change the playlist up and play something a bit more modern, like this 2020 jazz rendition of Crystal Gayle’s country hit!

If you’re looking for more jazzy country tunes to play at your Labor Day party, our new album Cryin’ In My Whiskey is available in our store and on all major music platforms now. And if you’d like to book one of our wonderful musicians for your event, please contact us today. 

What are some camping essentials?

Whether you plan on glamping in a pod, or camping in a pop-up tent, bubble tent, Coleman tent, yurt, or RV, there are some things that you just must absolutely pack. Essential camping gear includes some obvious stuff like sleeping bags, sleeping pads, folding chairs, a cooler, and sunscreen, but also don’t forget the less obvious things, like a headlamp, flashlight or lantern and extra batteries. No one wants to be wandering in the dark in the dead of night looking for the bathroom! Also, what about a hammock, clothesline, and a tarp to block your tent from the sun and rain? 

In addition to all these essentials, make sure to bring firewood, newspaper and a lighter because nothing beats telling stories and singing songs around the campfire. Oh, and that reminds me, music is also essential! Charge up that portable, water-resistant speaker because you’ll definitely want to be blasting these tunes while you’re roasting marshmallows, drinking beer and counting stars in the summer sky! 

Tim McGraw – Where The Green Grass Grows

Just like Tim McGraw sings in his 1998 hit, living in the city can be draining—there’s concrete growin’ in the city park, six lanes, taillights and you don’t know who your neighbors are. It’s nice to get a break from the hustle and bustle and go camping—take a deep breath, point your rockin’ chairs towards the West and plant your dreams where the peaceful river flows. 

Nancy Sinatra – Sugar Town

An icon of the Swinging Sixties, Nancy Sinatra became popular for her punchy rock songs like “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” So, with its cute, easy sunshine feel, this 1967 release was a bit of a surprise. But little do many listeners know that “Sugar Town” is a double entendre about LSD. Young people in the sixties used to drop liquid LSD onto sugar cubes, so the simplistic lyrics, like, I just lay back and laugh at the sun pack more of a punch than you would’ve thought!

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Down On The Corner

You’ve probably heard this classic rock and roll song at bars, barbecues, and outdoor parties, but have you ever really listened to the lyrics? The 1969 hit tells the story of a fictional band called Willy and the Poor Boys, who play on street corners in hopes of cheering people up. They may be called the Poor Boys, but this group was rich in music—according to the tune they played the harp, Kalamazoo, washboard, and bass!

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – He Stopped Loving Her Today

At the end of the night, it’s nice to slow down and listen to something more melancholy while you gaze at the moon and contemplate life or a lost love. And this brand-new rendition of the famous 1979 George Jones song has a smooth, jazzy feel to it that’ll be a pleasant change from all the country tunes you’ve probably been listening to while camping. 

If you’re looking for more jazzy versions of classic country songs, check out our newest release, Cryin’ In My Whiskey, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms. And if you’d like to book one of our lovely musicians for your camping trip, contact us today! 

What songs should you play at your wedding reception?

Your Facebook feed is probably brimming with photos of brides glowing in white gowns, bridesmaids in pastels and grooms grinning in their tuxes at the end of the aisle. Yes, you know what that means—wedding season is in full swing! 

With all the “I dos,” bridal showers, wedding cakes, glittery jewelry, decorations, and receptions, you may find yourself thinking about your own wedding plans. Whether you’re engaged, awaiting or planning a proposal, in a committed relationship, or you just simply enjoy daydreaming about your own special day, it’s never too early to start thinking about what songs you might want to play at your wedding! Or maybe you’re serving as a maid-of-honor or best man sometime soon and you need to help the lucky couple make their playlist. Either way, we put together some classic wedding songs that are sure to put hearts in everyone’s eyes.  

Earth, Wind & Fire – September

This song is great for the bridal party to make their grand entrance or to help open the dance floor because everyone instantly recognizes it. Once they hear those first notes on the keyboard and that famous line—Do you remember, 21st night of September?—your guests will be pulling each other onto the dancefloor as fast as they can! Who knows, maybe your crabby, old uncle will even surprise you all with some groovy, disco moves! 

Elvis Presley – Can’t Help Falling in Love

It’s always difficult choosing a song for the newlyweds first dance. Maybe you have that one, specific tune that played on the radio during your first date, or that one song that you both love belting at the top of your lungs in the car. Or maybe, you’re not a very musically inclined couple and you’re drawing a blank. Well, you can’t go wrong with this 1961 Elvis ballad, the melody of which is actually based on a popular French song composed in 1784—who knew? 

Frank Sinatra – The Way You Look Tonight

This 1964 classic is perfect to play for the mother-son or father-daughter dance, which usually happens sometime after the first dance. You know that the parents are cherishing and soaking up every single moment of their children’s big day and that some day when they’re awfully low, when the world is cold, they’ll be thinking of the way that their child looked on their wedding night.  

Ray LaMontagne – You Are the Best Thing

This upbeat folk single, released in 2008, is honestly one of my favorites and it’s very versatile—could be nice for a slow dance or a group bridal party dance. Ray LaMontagne’s gravelly voice, the sweet lyrics and guitar create such a beautiful love song. The way you move me, it’s crazy…

WJ3 All Stars – First Time I Saw Your Face

This lovely instrumental jazz song is excellent for a swaying slow dance, or even to have as a backdrop during the cake cutting festivities. The heartwarming melody will bring you and your guests on a romantic journey through the ages!

If you’re looking for more love songs, I’d check out the new album from the WJ3 All Stars, Lovers and Love Songs! It’s available in our store and on all major music platforms. And if you’d like to book one of our musicians for your wedding reception, please contact us today!