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Coffee Talk: Java-Inspired Jazz

Linda Richman

"I'm a little verklempt! Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic: John Coltrane was neither made of coal or a train. Discuss." NBC hide caption

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Coffee can lift the spirits, bring people together and serve as a crutch when you just need to sit around and marinate in your own thoughts. Jazz is an excellent foil to coffee, so it's no wonder that so many jazz musicians have been inspired by the brew. Stir up some java and jazz for a perfectly balanced blend with these five caffeinated tunes.

Coffee Talk: Java-Inspired Jazz

Cover for Black Coffee
Black Coffee
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Black Coffee

  • from Black Coffee
  • by Peggy Lee

This smoky Peggy Lee tune invokes the image of a tired diner waitress: "I'm feelin' mighty lonesome / Haven't slept a wink / I walk the floor from 9 to 4 / and in between I drink black coffee." Pull up a chair, listen and leave a generous tip.

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Song
Black Coffee
Album
Black Coffee
Artist
Peggy Lee
Label
Verve

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Ladies of Jazz
You're the Cream in My Coffee
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You're the Cream in My Coffee

  • from Ladies of Jazz: Mary Lou Williams & Barbara Carroll [Bonus Tracks]
  • by Barbara Carroll

After that first cup of morning coffee, do you move through your day with the ease of coffee-commercial actors? You know -- the ones who inhale a bit of coffee steam, take a sip of the brew, look toward the sky and suddenly have the vim and vigor to take on the world? If you need an extra kick, try listening to an instrumental version of Mary Lou Williams' take on "You're the Cream in My Coffee," the light, jaunty jazz standard, along with your drink. It ought to brighten your mood considerably.

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Song
Ladies of Jazz: Mary Lou Williams & Barbara Carroll [Bonus Tracks]
Album
Ladies of Jazz: Mary Lou Williams & Barbara Carroll [Bonus Tracks]
Artist
Barbara Carroll
Label
Koch Jazz
Released
1951

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Cover for Strange Place for Snow
When God Created the Coffeebreak
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When God Created the Coffeebreak

  • from Strange Place for Snow
  • by E.S.T.

Some call coffee an "elixir of the gods." E.S.T. must have found the coffee break heaven-sent, as well. This caffeine-fueled piano-trio romp has a complex energy to it that feels driven, spirited and clean. Though the piano is strong and fast, the equally fleet drums and bass (which at times is bowed for a beautiful effect) round out the sound. No added sugar or cream necessary.

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Song
Strange Place for Snow
Album
Strange Place for Snow
Artist
E.S.T.
Label
Sony
Released
2008

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Crossroads
Carpe Coffee
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Carpe Coffee

  • from Crossroads
  • by Peter Sommer/Rich Perry

"Carpe Coffee" pairs up the hearty tenor saxophones of Peter Sommer and Rich Perry backed by a solid, unobtrusive piano trio for a full-bodied sound. This isn't a "tenor titan"-style sax battle, like those popular in the 1950s. The back-and-forth here is a bit more cerebral, but still straight-ahead. The melody could easily be hummed throughout the day to add a bounce to your step.

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Song
Crossroads
Album
Crossroads
Artist
Peter Sommer/Rich Perry
Label
Capri
Released
2008

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It's a Wonderful World
Black Coffee Blues
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Black Coffee Blues

  • from It's a Wonderful World
  • by Allan Harris

There's nothing quite like waking up to a lover handing you some coffee with a smile. Allan Harris sings, "It don't take a lot of money to put a smile on my baby's face / But you got to grind her coffee at a slow and easy pace." Hmmm. That might be a different kind of coffee.

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Song
It's a Wonderful World
Album
It's a Wonderful World
Artist
Allan Harris
Label
Mons
Released
1995

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