Cooking with jazz: From New Orleans to Stockton
Cooking and music are some of my biggest passions and a combination of both can only be pure unadulterated heaven.
Jazz sprung from black communities in the southern parts of the United States in the beginning of the 20th century. It is a sublime fusion of African, European and American sounds and reached mainstream popularity from the 1920s to the 1970s. Defining jazz is a difficult task, as it encompasses such a wide variety of musical styles and everyone has their own idea on what it is. A key element, however, which unites the various forms of jazz is the improvisation. This originated from black field workers with their spontaneous work songs, forming the early blues tradition which has influenced, and goes in hand in hand with jazz. It is this spontaneity which, most likely, makes cooking and jazz the perfect blend. I very rarely follow structured and rigid recipes when I cook; instead I choose to whip up meals with what little I have in my student kitchen.
Cooking with Etta James is a pastime I indulge in a couple of times a week. ‘All I could do was cry’ is no modern feminist chant, no hymn to the merits of being an independent, single woman and moving on. This one is more Adele than the Pussycat Dolls’ ‘I don’t need a man’ and Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I will survive’.
However, James’ words of heart break, of watching the love of her life wed another and feeling as if life as she knows it has ended, resonates with so many people across the globe. James, without the use of many words, has the uncanny ability to voice what each and every one of us has felt or might well feel at some point in our lives. She articulates our deepest despairs, our darkest moments, those emotions we all feel with regard to broken relationships and lost loves.
Released in 1960, ‘Georgia on my mind’ is a classic and a must-have track on every jazz enthusiast’s playlist. Charles takes on a wistful tone and the song is rife with nostalgia, but it is not clear for what: Georgia the place or Georgia a woman. Who could not be seduced by the soft moans of Charles’ famously deep husky voice?
I was introduced to Zaz through a French friend, and I’ve not looked back since. The artist incorporates jazz with chanson, soul and acoustic. ‘Je veux’ translates to ‘I want’ and in this catchy tune, she describes to the listener all the things she wants in a man: not Chanel and a room at the Ritz, not a charmer with good manners, but love, joy and good spirit.
Nina Simone was an American pianist, jazz singer and civil rights activist. ‘Feeling Good’ is my ultimate life motivator and my favourite Simone song. Didn’t manage to get much work done yesterday? No problem – today is a new day and a new beginning. I love blasting this out in the morning to encourage me get on with those ever-looming summative and dissertation deadlines.
Simone lures her audience into ‘I put a spell on you’ right from the beginning. Her voice is so strong that it is intimidating, so full of passion that it is almost as if it were us she has put a spell on.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, one of my new favourite bands, is a contemporary nine piece swing revival group from Southern California. ‘Mr. Pinstripe Suit’ is just bursting with relentless energy and makes me restless just listening to it. I can’t hear it without wanting to move, regardless of where I happen to be. The lyrics are acute enough for me to be able to picture a ridiculously handsome man in a pinstripe suit, strolling down the streets of New Orleans with a pretty girl hanging of his arm. And how can anyone not love a band with a name like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy?!