Two truths about Christmas shopping for jazz and classical music fans: (1) There’s nothing they would rather receive under the tree than compact discs, and (2) they are so picky about what they listen to that it’s often more agreeable to move on to the tie store than risk buying the wrong CD.
So with the persnickety music lover on your list in mind, we present the following guide to help you find the gift that will win you praise. In the spirit of the season, we offer no guarantees.
Three premium box sets guaranteed to get any serious jazz fan salivating:
“The Complete Blue Note/UA/ Roulette Recordings of Thad Jones” (Mosaic, $48, mail-order only, (203) 327-7111).
Charles Mingus, “The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1956-1961: Passions of a Man” (Rhino, $74.98).
John Coltrane, “John Coltrane - Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings” (Impulse, $54.98).
For misguided listeners who still think Wynton Marsalis is the most inventive trumpeter in contemporary jazz: Dave Douglas, “Stargazer” (Arabesque).
For the naysayers who quit listening to Marsalis years ago and really ought to know what this gifted musician is up to: “Blood On The Fields” (Sony).
For anyone interested in the most poetic album of 1997: Brad Mehldau, “The Art of the Trio” (Warner Bros.).
For anyone who thinks the baritone saxophone can’t be an instrument of romance and that jazz albums with strings don’t swing: Gary Smulyan: “Gary Smulyan with Strings” (Criss Cross).
For anyone interested in the finest big band composer in jazz: Jim McNeely and the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, “Soundbites” (Dragon), and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, “Lickety Split: The Music of Jim McNeely” (New World).
For unreconstructed beboppers interested in hearing two of the most vital records of saxophonist Sonny Stitt (1924-82) on one CD: “Endgame Brilliance” (32 Jazz).
For those we love even though they still think Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker went off the deep end in 1945: “The Commodore Story,” featuring Eddie Condon, Pee Wee Russell, Wild Bill Davison and Billie Holiday (GRP).
For the left-of-the-mainstream fan who knows soprano sax veteran Steve Lacy stands for intelligence, adventure, wit and consistency: Steve Lacy, “Bye-Ya” (Free Lance).
For fans of contemporary American music looking for the most significant box set of the year: Steve Reich, “Works: 1965-1995” (Nonesuch, $100).
For opera buffs needing proof of how sharp a conductor the late Sir Georg Solti remained in his 80s: “Marriage of Figaro,” Solti, Fleming, Terfel (London).
For listeners looking for the best recent CD of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and conductor Neeme Jarvi: Schmidt, “Symphony No. 4” (Chandos).
For new music fans convinced nobody can say anything in the standard repertory that hasn’t been said before: Mozart, “Piano Concerts Nos. 18 and 20,” Richard Goode (Nonesuch).
For listeners who want a peek into the future via a composer so gifted and so young (26) that it boggles the mind: Thomas Ades, “Life Story,” etc. (EMI Classics).
For listeners looking for an introduction to perhaps the world’s most compelling living composer: Gyorgy Ligeti, “String Quartets and Duets, G.L. Edition, Vol. 1.” Arditti String Quartet (Sony).
For conservative listeners who think nobody writes accessible - not to mention beautiful - music anymore: Danielpour, Kirchner, Rouse, “Premieres: Cello Concertos,” Yo-Yo Ma (Sony).
For any fool who thinks mezzo Cecilia Bartoli is overrated: “An Italian Songbook” (London).
For chamber music aficionados looking for colorful and expertly crafted contemporary pieces: “Music of Carter, Davies & Druckman,” The New York New Music Ensemble (GM).