Essential Albums for Dinner Parties

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Every party needs music, and you may think that an elegant dinner party calls for classical music in the background—but jazz, that synthesis of European, African, and New World traditions, is America's classical music.

It's America's finest musical achievement. Of course, not every jazz record is suitable for a party atmosphere, which doesn't call for music that's frenetic, atonal, or distracting. With that in mind, consider dropping the needle on these essential albums for dinner parties.

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Many thought pressed vinyl albums had been pushed aside for the hipper, clearer sounding CD's, then the digital playlist. For those with real cool vinyl never left the scene and is experiencing a resurgence popping up in the homes of younger musical connoisseurs who are experiencing quality sound and real cool.

Miles Ahead, Miles Davis, 1957

Never content to stick to one genre, Miles Davis collaborated with arranger Gil Evans to pioneer an early foray into symphonic jazz. On this album, Davis deploys the flugelhorn, a cousin of the trumpet with a warmer and darker timbre. Along with the accompanying nineteen-piece ensemble, this gives the album a characteristic smoothness and chicness that fit any fine dinner party.

Georgia and The Vintage Youth - A Jazzy, Big Band, Sound is Crossing the Pond

Time Out, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1959

Most music has four beats to a measure. Sometimes it has three. With the renowned "Take Five," Dave Brubeck asks: Why not five? On "Blue Rondo à la Turk": Why not nine? And on "Strange Meadowlark": Why have any measures at all? The genius of Time Out is that these diversions into mathematical abstraction never distract—they'll so wonderfully score a party that guests won't be keeping count at all.

Kind of Blue, Miles Davis, 1959

The man from Alton, Illinois, makes his second appearance on the list with his groundbreaking exploration of modal jazz. Cerebral but not ostentatious, this expansive alternative to the rapid-fire chord changes of bebop allows the soloists to focus on space and melody, and the result is music that settles into the aural landscape with true artistry.

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Idle Moments, Grant Green, 1963

One doesn't need rock-and-roll heroics to shine on electric guitar with the amp turned to 11. Guitarist Grant Green towered above his peers with a smooth, round tone and a sense of restraint that made every note mean the world. With vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, a legend in his own right, playing alongside him, Green laid down a legendary session that still brings unmatched sophistication to any room. Cool jazz was never this cool again.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, 1965

A lot goes into planning the perfect Christmas party: one needs the right meal, the right cocktails, and the right table settings. And as all of that is happening, some of the best Christmas music should be playing, too.

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There's no shortage of classic Christmas recordings, but the Vince Guaraldi Trio's soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas is one that will strike a chord in any listener's heart. From the upbeat waltz of "Skating" to the bittersweet "Christmas Time Is Here," these tunes are instantly recognizable, but the simple piano-bass-drums instrumentation keeps the music comfortably in the background, making it an essential album for dinner parties throughout the holiday season.

Whatever the occasion music is a key ingredient that makes every party special, whether digitally or on vinyl.

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