Happiness is….

… finding a real tree for free on Christmas eve just because you asked.

I’ve got no qualms about fake trees and we have a nice one. But a real tree is nice and Sue and Lisa missed the smell. It seems that fate provided us one.

It’s also nice to have a mini van in which things like Christmas trees can be put in on short notice.

Have a … odd … Christmas.

Occasionally you find diamonds in unexpected places. And then sometimes things are just so far off the wall you have no idea what to do with them. This is a mix of both. Unexpected musical gems and musical car-wrecks that you can’t look away from.

And even more Christmas Music!

Two more dollops of musical Christmas cookies here. First off another liberal dose of great jazz versions:

It’s interesting just how much heavier and louder the Setzer group plays the Nutcracker compared to the earlier Dorsey recording I posted. It’s really rocking. (Now if the recording engineer hadn’t mixed it to be so flipping guitar-heavy it might sound really good.)

I try to avoid vocals in the jazz versions of tune, mostly because it usually pushes against the mellow-upbeat feel I want out of the playlist. However, Inga here just knocks the socks off the live crowd with her scat chorus, so I think it gets to go in.

The next musical batch are what I consider key classics. A larger amount of what we consider Christmas music was recorded just before and mostly right after world-war two. By that point recording quality had kicked up enough and all the great vocalists out of the big band tradition went out and laid down great recordings that our parents and grandparents snapped up for their children.

I know there is a lot of subjective nostalgia here, but every year our ears get assaulted with current pop artists trying to re-record various Christmas tunes and they are usually awful. I don’t think I’m alone in this opinion. Here’s a recent graph jam post:

Here are a few of what I feel are classic recordings:

The decision on what is the classic “Rudolph” one is probably the hardest. Ella Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby recorded a version post-war that includes some of the famous rude responses back at the lyrics of the tune that children are still adding too. But this version was the first. It was Autry’s biggest hit. (Who remembers that Montgomery Wards’ 1939 Christmas gimmick, a red-nosed reindeer, was introduced by a singing cowboy, anyway?) His version is respectful and not trite. His voice is just solid on for me, and the instrumental interlude with the muted trombone is just Christmas.

Julie Andrews version of Silent Night just always seems the purest to me. I’m not sure why. It doesn’t hurt to hear Mary Poppin’s sing Christmas Tunes to you, does it?

Doris Day’s version of “Here Comes Santa Claus” is the classic in my list because its the only recording I can find that has ALL the versus. Apparently a verse that is respectful to both Santa Claus and religious goodness and that tells us Santa doesn’t make class distinctions just isn’t allowed anymore. The verse is: “Here comes Santa Claus. Here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus lane. He doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor for he loves you just the same. Santa knows that we’re God’s children. That makes everything right. Fill your hearts with a Christmas cheer because Santa Claus comes tonight.”

And finally, “We Need A Little Christmas.” Which we do. I’ve heard several new takes of this tune even if it doesn’t get much airplay. Lansbury was in some dozen Broadway shows and is considered to have been the definitive role of Mame, from which this tune comes. If you have trouble wrapping your mind around the “Murder, She Wrote” singing on Broadway, I probably shouldn’t point out that in this production she was starring alongside Bea Arthur.

Anyway… at least one more post coming before Xmas.

Online ordering is FAIL this year.

So, out of several online retailers I have ordered packages from, it seems a lot were not prepared for this years Christmas rush.

I have ordered various items from 7 retailers. One item is a timed delivery due tomorrow, so I don’t know it’s status. Of the remaining six, HALF of them will not be delivered even remotely on time.

One retailer turned out to be a fraud problem and I’ve disputed my payment with them. One retailer happily accepted payment with no notice the items are on 2-month back order. And the final retailer is a small specialty outfit that got over-swamped and will probably deliver a week or two after Christmas.

None of these guys ever notified of any delays or problems in any way. I had to dig through customer service to get the story.

Amazon.com (both as primary and with secondary sellers), Think Geek, and Artie McPhee all had it very plain in their ordering process of when shipping would arrive. They have all met or exceeded their estimates.

UPS and Fedex have both been great for shipping packages back home as well. They have handled all the time schedules without error for me.

I’m guessing that some retailers were not ready for “online” to become a utility instead of a novelty. Having to scramble for last-minute missing gifts is not fun. Next year I am definitely padding another month for online orders.

PDQ at the SFO

Thinking back, this was actually the first symphony concert I have paid to attend. I’ve been to a few free concerts here and there, but mostly I have either played in, or been a member of stage crew on almost all of the orchestra concerts I’ve attended.

From that aspect, the concert of world class musicians was worth every penny.

On top of that the San Francisco Symphony Hall is a top-notch venue that is a joy to head music in. The seating is done beautifully for both line of sight and the acoustics are warm and solid. It’s a hall specifically designed for stage music performance and the lighting and acoustics account for that purpose. It’s refreshing to see and hear an orchestra that is staged for sound, as opposed to squeezed into some odd shell that has been assembled on a stage designed as a theater with large stage wings and overheads that suck away sound. There were little hints here and there that a lot of the hall was tunable with adjustable soft and hard surfaces for sound. I imagine that someone like wingywoof would engineer geek over it for quite a while.

But enough of those things. As nice as they all were, they were secondary.

Peter Schickele and his crew have been doing these lectures and concerts for more than 40 years now. And their timing and writing is simply impeccable. For what is essentially a musically literate one-horse joke, they’ve been able to spin a tapestry of absurdity that is a joy to watch.

And Schickele and his stage manager know how to handle and audience and react perfectly. The concert had a fair dollop of holiday content, as well as general PDQ Bach fare.

As part of the holiday portions, the concert opened with “Joy to the World, for out of work musicians” which was a collision of Christmas Tunes played by a a septet of musical instruments that don’t necessarily get a lot of work in the classical world: Eb Clarinet, English Horn, Piccolo, Baritone Saxophone, Contra Bassoon, and Gong.

The other Christmas section was the only set of pieces I’d heard before. They performed PDQ Bach’s trio of Christmas carols: “Throw the Yule Log on Uncle John,” “O Little Town of Hackensack,” and “Good King Kong Looked Out.”

There were several non-holiday pieces on the program, including selections from PDQ Bach’s mostly-lost opera, “The Civilian Barber.”

There was liberal usage of devious instruments including the double-pump flute, a klaxon, the proctophone, foghorn, the trombonus interruptus, firebell, the police trombone, a fire siren, balloons, basketballs, bottles, toy guns, etc.

It was a wonderful concert. The crowd was into it and I had a great time. After a curtain call we were treated to an encore. After that he got five more curtain calls. I’m glad I got to see this.

More Christmas music.

Just continuing on in the idea from an earlier post about finding good Christmas music and sharing.

Christmas Blues

Louis’ Christmas

A few bluesy cuts. And some tunes from Pops that you hardly ever hear. (I love “Cool Yule” with the Commanders backing him up.) Let me know what you think.

Company-wide meeting

Still have a job. Good. Our sales guys need to learn how to do a demo better. Not so good.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

A PDQ Bach Christmas.

It turns out that the San Francisco Symphony is sneaking in a Christmas concert of that musical accident known as P.D.Q. Bach.

And my honey snagged me some tickets for it as a Christmas present. She knows me too well.

I’ve always wanted to see Professor Peter Schickele at work. The concert program is “Joy to the World, Especially Out-of-Work Musicians,” a suite and selection from “The Civilian Barber,” “Eine Kleine Kiddiemusik,” “A Consort of Choral Christmas Carols,” and “Variations on an Unusually Simple-Minded Theme.”

It should be a good concert. Tickets are still available at the link above if you’re interested.

tick tock tick tock tick tock

After being in storage since I moved out here, avoiding a flood in a garage, and living through all the moisture and trouble in PA, my grandparent’s old Seth Thomas wall clock is happily ticking away in the library.

A small taste of Jazz

So lets start the ball rolling with a few toe-tapping kinda Christmas ones.

My list is still being thinned down a bit. And I’m on the fence on if I should split a purely instrumental one away from the ones polluted with singing.

These guys are candidates for inclusion. They’re mostly swing instrumentals. Let me know what you think is cool, eh?