A. Panda’s Christmas Lounge

Standard

Back in 2011, I decided to make my 3rd Christmas playlist. This one was inspired by the music I enjoy listening to in A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge. This is a mix of classic and contemporary lounge crooners, jazzy numbers, surf and Tiki tunes, and some straight-up Christmas classics. Throw in some cool SHAG art and a cup of egg nog and you’re ready to enjoy the holidays in Mid-Century Modern style!

I also decided to turn this into a podcast, which you can check out here: apandatikipod.podbean.com

Here’s the back of the CD case with the track listing.

a-pandas-christmas-lounge-cd

You can also listen to the playlist on my web radio:

Advertisements

Panda’s Tasty Jambalaya

Standard

It’s that magical time of year, that month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when work seems to slow down and family life heats up, what with big gatherings involving food, fellowship and fun, culminating on December 25th with some jolly old elf in a red suit traveling the world delivering gifts, and the denouement on New Years Day with the traditional meal of pork and sauerkraut for good luck in the coming year. Naturally, at this time of year, I’m thinking about Jambalaya.

Wait, what? How did that happen? I’m sitting around the week of Thanksgiving, planning my trip to Wegmans to buy the food we need for our feast, when it hits me: I need to whip up a big pot of Jambalaya for Wednesday night. But why?

Maybe it was the thought of all of that turkey in my near future? Don’t get me wrong, I love me some turkey, but after a few days of eating nothing but turkey, a guy gets a little tired of it, you know? We even cook a back-up turkey on Wednesday, so we’ll have plenty of leftovers after we send people home with their fair share on Thanksgiving night. Since we were feeding 16 people at our house this year, the possibility of having no leftovers from our 22-lb. bird was real. Hence the 19-lb. back-up.

roast-turkey-640-old-dm

Maybe it was the Cajun Sausage Cornbread stuffing I had to make the night before? I’ve made this stuffing for years, from a terrific recipe in one of chef Paul Prudhomme’s cookbooks, and I stuff the bird with it on Thanksgiving morning before it goes in the oven. The combination of Andouille sausage, cornbread, veggies, complex seasonings and Crystal hot sauce makes for a mean stuffing! Sadly, we never have enough of it, as everybody seems to like it.

0688028470_b

That’s where the Jambalaya comes in. It was a tasty diversion prior to the turkey onslaught, an inspiration for (and from) the Cajun stuffing, and a much-needed respite from the steady diet of leftover turkey. You see, a big pot of Jambalaya leaves a lot of leftovers too!

So, what does all this talk of Jambalaya have to do with Tiki? Well, on the surface…nothing. However, I did discuss the connection between my passions for Cajun and Tiki in my blog post, Aloha Spirit: New Orleans, which I published almost a year ago. As I re-read that post, it dawned on me that a couple of things I wrote about last year have (and soon might) come to pass.

First, my friend Jeff “Beachbum” Berry did finally open his first Tiki bar in New Orleans, Latitude 29. More than just a Tiki bar, Latitude 29 is a full-service restaurant and bar in the Bienville House hotel, right in the French Quarter. By all accounts, it’s doing really well, and I can’t wait to visit it and see for myself. In the meantime, I’m planning an interview with Bum for my next podcast, which will be very soon. Stay tuned!

Latitude_29_7312.0.0

Second, I’m hoping to make it to Mardi Gras in NOLA this coming February, which is only a couple of months away. This is another item on my bucket list well within my reach. Visiting Latitude 29 is just the excuse I needed to make this happen sooner rather than later! I’ve already booked a room at the Bienville House; now I just need to convince my wife Jess to come with me. It’s been over ten years since we last visited N’awlins, so we’re due.

So there you have it. It seems I’m predisposed to thinking (and writing) about my love of all things Cajun at this time of year. I’ve always loved the idea of worlds colliding, and my converging passions for New Orleans and Tiki are neatly embodied by Beachbum Berry and his Latitude 29. Sprinkle in another bucket list conquest during Mardi Gras, and I’m set for the next few months. Mahalo ét tois!

french_quarter

Tiki Music: Lounge

Standard

Lounge music. The term evokes a range of images, from a cheesy singer playing piano in a hotel bar, to a glitzy big band vocalist belting out standards in Vegas. In any case, the singer is the star of the show, be it a lowly lounge lizard, a sultry siren, or one of the Rat Pack crooners fronting a big band.

The lounge music I’ve enjoyed over the years parallels the rise, fall, and rebirth of Tiki. Lounge really hit its stride in the Mid-Century era of the 1950s-60s, and enjoyed a revival in the 1990s, just like Tiki. This versatile musical genre is still going strong today, though it is evocative of a time long gone.

Here, then, are the lounge albums I’ve listened to since the 1980s. My enjoyment of most of this music predates my love of Tiki, so perhaps it was a precursor for me. Or, yet again, worlds colliding.

Sinatra

Frank Sinatra: Capital Collectors Series (1989). The Voice. Arguably the greatest vocalist ever, Frank Sinatra began his singing career in the 1930s with big bands during the Swing era. I believe he peaked during his Capitol Records years, 1953-60, which coincided with his rise as a movie actor. Sinatra set the table for all Lounge singers who followed him.

connickHarry Connick, Jr.: We Are In Love (1990). One of the young bucks who followed in Sinatra’s footsteps, Harry Connick, Jr. was a child prodigy from New Orleans who began performing at the age of 5. Like Sinatra, he parlayed his early success as a Lounge/Big Band vocalist in the 1990s into an acting career, both in movies and television.

louis-primaLouis Prima: Capital Collectors Series (1991). Louis Prima was a versatile musician of great longevity. He began his career with a New Orleans Jazz band in the 1920s, led a Swing combo in the 1930s, a Big Band in the 1940s, and a Vegas Lounge act in the 1950s. Prima perfected the Jump Blues Lounge style during his Capitol Records years, 1956-62. Anybody whose original music sounds just as good as future covers by Brian Setzer and David Lee Roth was ahead of his time. Louis Prima brought high energy to Lounge!

DeanMartin

Dean Martin: Seasons Greetings (1992). Who doesn’t love Christmas music? Lounge artists have made their fair share of holiday albums, and then some. Of all of the Rat Pack’s efforts, Dean Martin’s are my favorite. His smooth, comfortable voice was the perfect vehicle for conveying the warmth of Christmas music. Dino’s version of Baby It’s Cold Outside is one of my favorite holiday tunes ever.

FBennettLadiesTony Bennett: Here’s to the Ladies (1995). Speaking of smooth, here’s another cat that’s been singing forever. Tony Bennett started singing jazz songs in the 1950s, peaked in the 1960s, faded in the 1970s and 1980s, came back strong in the 1990s and is as popular as ever today (Is this pattern getting old yet?). Although he doesn’t have the greatest voice, Bennett’s style is so natural that it seems he was born to sing Lounge music.

zootsCherry Poppin’ Daddies: Zoot Suit Riot (1997). The Swing music revival of the late 1990s didn’t last very long, but its impact on Lounge music is undeniable. Cherry Poppin’ Daddies introduced a new generation of music lovers (like me) to the Jump Blues style made famous by Louis Prima 40 years earlier. Their music was full of energy and had a sense of humor more biting than Prima’s, which seems corny by comparison.

bigbadBig Bad Voodoo Daddy: Americana Deluxe (1998). This band did Cherry Poppin’ Daddies one better with their unforgettable soundtrack to the movie Swingers. Who hasn’t danced to their hit song Go Daddy-O? I know I start dancing whenever I hear it! Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has managed to maintain their popularity while the rest of the Swing revival hasn’t, as they continue to tour to this day.

ElvisCostelloBurtBacharachElvis Costello and Burt Bacharach: Painted from Memory (1998). This was a most unlikely collaboration. Burt Bacharach was the composer of many Easy Listening hits in the 1960s. Elvis Costello led the New Wave of Rock&Roll music in the early 1980s. Together, they created a collection of heartfelt, spellbinding music, the likes of which hadn’t been heard in years. A perfect Lounge album.

the-look-of-love-52afa6f68c454Diana Krall: The Look of Love (2001). Not to be outdone by her husband Elvis Costello, Diana Krall has made a name for herself as a Lounge singer. Her sexy voice (think Kathleen Turner), stunning good looks, and piano-playing ability add up to the total Lounge package – une chanteuse par excellence. I could listen to Diana Krall, or better yet watch her perform, all day long. 😉

Lost in Paradise
Martini Kings: Lost in Paradise (2010). Like Elvis Costello, Tony Marsico cut his chops in Rock&Roll bands, playing bass with many big stars (Bob Dylan, Roger Daltrey) and as the regular bass player for Matthew Sweet for 10 years. With his current band, Martini Kings, Marsico has carved out a cool niche playing upright bass in a classic Lounge combo. They are in great demand in the Modern Jazz circles of Southern California and beyond. My favorite Martini Kings tunes include female vocalist Kate Campbell, who gives the band a smooth, sexy sound with a retro feel. I hope to see them perform in-person some day.

The music in these albums could be the soundtrack to many a painting by SHAG. It’s no wonder I fell in love with his artwork, and apropos that I stumbled upon it while searching for cover art for my first mix CD, Panda’s Swinging Cocktail Hour, which included a heavy dose of this music. I guess it really is a case of worlds colliding for me that Lounge and Tiki are so intimately connected.

Panda’s Musical Productions

Standard

As I mentioned in a previous post (Whenceforth A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge?, Nov2013), the making of a mix disc was the trigger for my obsession with all things Tiki. My first CD, Panda’s Swinging Cocktail Lounge, was a tribute to music about drinking and introduced me to the artwork of SHAG. I’ve revisited both of these themes in many of my mix discs (I’m up to 27 now). But pandas do not live by Tiki alone.

I listen to a lot of lounge/exotica music these days. What a difference 10 years makes! As I look back over all of the mix discs I’ve made in those 10 years, 2 musical genres jump out as my favorites: Christmas and Surf.

196178_10200258967786002_1593025107_n
I have always loved Christmas music. Going back to my earliest recollections of old chestnuts like Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s classic Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy Christmas tunes. All year long. And the best part about this genre of music is that it spans all styles, from classical to pop, jazz to rock and roll, blues to country, and even lounge, Hawaiian and surf. Worlds colliding. Everybody plays Christmas songs, and I’ve got 5 mix CDs worth of them to show how diverse a group of musicians have gotten into the spirit!

4761_1165785233944_5351844_n

Surf music is another musical genre I’ve appreciated for a long time. This goes back to The Ventures cover of Hawaii Five-O, and although I never really got into The Beach Boys, I have come to love Dick Dale, The Surfaris, and the rest of the classic surf bands. I’ve also embraced a new generation of surf rockers, including Red Elvises, Los Straitjackets, and my current favorites, Bethlehem’s own Great White Caps! I’ve managed to crank out 4 surf mix CDs so far. Cowabunga, dudes!

2358_1081691931664_7810_n

Probably the most fun I’ve had making mix CDs has involved the compilations I’ve made chronicling important periods of my life so far. It started in 2005, with the creation of Panda’s Tribute: 1965, celebrating my 40th birthday. What a wonderful history lesson that was! Since then, I’ve also crafted tributes to the golden age of television (Panda’s Pop Quiz, 1960-75), the rise of post-disco artists (Panda’s Debutantes, 1977-79), the 1980s music video boom (Panda Wants His MTV), and the grunge rock of the early 1990s (Panda’s Rock & Roll Rebirth, 1990-95). Finally, throw in some tributes to my wife, kids, lost friends, and other genres like Blues, Classical, and Zydeco, and you get the gumbo that is my life of appreciating music.

If you want to see the cover art for all 27 of my music mix CDs, check out my Facebook photo album, Andy Panda’s Album Covers. Mahalo!

2358_1081280121369_1015_n