David Sedaris Creates a List of His 10 Favorite Jazz Tracks: Stream Them Online

Image by WBUR, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

You can’t read far into David Sedaris’ writ­ing with­out encoun­ter­ing his father Lou, a cur­mud­geon­ly, decades-and-decades-retired IBM engi­neer with a stiffly prac­ti­cal mind and a harsh word for every­body — espe­cial­ly his mis­fit son, ded­i­cat­ing his life as he has to the qua­si-occu­pa­tion of writ­ing while liv­ing in far-flung places like Paris and rur­al Eng­land. Even now, solid­ly into his nineties, Sedaris père keeps on pro­vid­ing the six­tysome­thing Sedaris fils with mate­r­i­al, all of it — once pol­ished up just right — a source of laugh­ter for the lat­ter’s many read­ers and lis­ten­ers. But Lou has also giv­en David some­thing else: a pas­sion for jazz.

“My father loves jazz and has an exten­sive col­lec­tion of records and reel-to-reel tapes he used to enjoy after return­ing home from work,” writes Sedaris in one essay. “He might have entered the house in a foul mood, but once he had his Dex­ter Gor­don and a vod­ka mar­ti­ni, the stress melt­ed away and every­thing was ‘Beau­ti­ful, baby, just beau­ti­ful.’ ” He then goes on to tell the sto­ry of how his father once attempt­ed to train young David and his sis­ters into a Brubeck-style fam­i­ly jazz com­bo — a hope­less dream from the start, but one that has since enter­tained his fans around the world. (Not that Sedaris has­n’t pro­vid­ed some of that enter­tain­ment by per­form­ing com­mer­cial jin­gles in the voice of Bil­lie Hol­i­day.)

Appear­ing on a guest DJ seg­ment on Los Ange­les pub­lic radio sta­tion KCRW, Sedaris told of how his father intro­duced him to jazz: “I remem­ber see­ing the movie Lady Sings the Blues, right, and think­ing Diana Ross did such a good job. And my Dad say­ing, ‘Oh boy, you’ve got a lot to learn,’ and then him play­ing Bil­lie Hol­i­day 78s for me… and then him tak­ing it back even fur­ther and sit­ting me down to lis­ten to Mabel Mer­cer. He real­ly did give me quite an edu­ca­tion and it’s the music that’s stuck with me.” As for the first jazz album he ever heard, he names in a recent Jaz­zTimes inter­view Charles Min­gus’ The Clown, the one “with a close-up of a clown’s face on the cov­er” that still, in his esti­ma­tion, “looks so mod­ern and it sounds so mod­ern.”

When Sedaris’ offi­cial Face­book page post­ed ten of his favorite songs, he came up with an all-jazz list includ­ing the work of Nina Simone, Anto­nio Car­los Jobim, John Coltrane, and oth­er lumi­nar­ies of the tra­di­tion. (He did not, of course, neglect Bil­lie Hol­i­day.) A fan turned it into a Spo­ti­fy playlist, which you’ll find embed­ded below (and if you don’t have Spo­ti­fy’s free soft­ware, you can down­load it here):

“I used to work in com­plete silence,” Sedaris tells Jaz­zTimes, but “about three or four years ago I start­ed lis­ten­ing to music [while I work], but not music with lyrics in it.” Much of the jazz he loves fits that descrip­tion, and he’s also, in com­bi­na­tion with the vari­ety of music-stream­ing ser­vices avail­able now, dis­cov­ered new jazz artists while writ­ing. Hav­ing put drink­ing and smok­ing com­plete­ly behind him — and hav­ing writ­ten about both of those expe­ri­ences — Sedaris retains jazz as one of the sub­stances that keeps him going. It cer­tain­ly seems to have worked for the man who brought the music into his life, whom Sedaris has imag­ined may yet out­live us all: “If any­thing hap­pens to me,” he says, “the one thing my father wants is my iPod.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

20 Free Essays & Sto­ries by David Sedaris: A Sam­pling of His Inim­itable Humor

Be His Guest: David Sedaris at Home in Rur­al West Sus­sex, Eng­land

David Sedaris Sings the Oscar May­er Theme Song in the Voice of Bil­lie Hol­i­day

Haru­ki Murakami’s Pas­sion for Jazz: Dis­cov­er the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

The Best Music to Write By: Give Us Your Rec­om­men­da­tions

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.