Tuesday, December 29, 2009

For New Year's Eve haters, tune in Toast of the Nation with me and swing in 2010

New Year’s Eve is my least favorite holiday. I can count on one hand, comfortably, all the successful New Year’s Eves in my life. I run out of fingers quickly counting all the boring, sub par, and downright dangerous New Year’s Eves in my life including at least one memorable trip to the emergency room at midnight.

So, I’ll spend this New Year’s Eve at home again. And I’ll spend it doing something I highly recommend to you, dear readers. I’ll be tuned into Toast of the Nation.

If you are a jazz lover, and you aren’t up for venturing out in the streets to support your local musicians, Toast of the Nation is for you. Like its predecessor, Jazz Coast to Coast, it begins on the East Coast and travels west, welcoming in the new year in all four time zones while broadcasting live performances in some of the finest jazz clubs in the nation.

And with the advent of Internet radio, you no longer have to hope and pray your local left side of the dial will pick up the broadcast. You can listen at WBGO or WBGH, or many other NPR radio stations streaming to the Web. The show will also be broadcast on Sirius XM.

And if you want a break from jazz during the evening and you've got Sirius XM you can also catch a live performance by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey. Southside Johnny is the Danny Edward's Old Smokie of R&B -- in other words, his music is just dripping with flavor. He's Springstein without celebrity. Wayne Cochran (and his CC Riders) without big hair.

This year kicks off at 7 p.m. Central from the Berklee Performance Center in Boston where Anat Cohen will wail on sax and clarinet. At 8:30 p.m. John Pizzarelli takes over from the Kennedy Center and at 10 p.m. the party moves to the Village Vanguard in New York for The Bad Plus and the first countdown of the evening.

Then the music moves west to Minneapolis to ring in the new year in Central time with Irwin Mayfield, and on to Mountain Time and Pacific Time with one of my favorite modern jazz outfits, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and their tribute of Cab Calloway, the Hide-Ho Man. VooDoo Daddy will count down the new year twice then play until 3 a.m., when the Anat Cohen set will be rebroadcast.

For some reason NPR likes to keep this great jazz party a secret. I searched the NPR Website two days looking for an article on the event and a lineup of players, to no avail. Google didn’t help either. All I could find were articles about last year’s show. I finally hit on the right descriptor and found an informative article with a good timetable.

So, if you’re like me and you just want to get through New Year’s Eve without landing on the DL or losing your license to drive, you’ll find Toast of the Nation a far better way to close out the year than watching the big ball drop on television and listening to a lot of lip-synced performances by groups you’d rather went into another line of work. A little pop corn, a nice couch to stretch out on and some good jazz is hard to beat on amateur night.


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