Cocktail music? Is it really that necessary? Well, if you want your party to swing, the answer is “yes, absolutely!” The art of cocktail music is as critical to the success of a party or reception as the skills of the mixologists who are mixing the cocktails. The musical mix at cocktail hour must provide the right balance to achieve the desired results: Exuberant without being too bombastic; chill without feeling sleepy; and familiar enough to provide a sense of community, yet with enough challenging song selections that it doesn’t sound dumbed down or predictable. Although more subtle, the music played at cocktail hour is every bit as critical to the success of your event as the dance music which follows. Your guests are, afterall, shmoozing and socializing while immersed in the musical environment, so cocktail music is your first chance to cast a spell, laying down the vibe for the dance music which comes later.
When it comes to the current crop of excellent cocktail musicians, they don’t come any better than Joey Altruda, an LA-based bassist/bandleader/composer who I first became aware of by his inclusion on the “Swingers” soundtrack in 1996. Having previously played bass for the legendary LA punk/jazz/rockabilly outfit Tupelo Chain Sex, Joey went full-on lounge lizard in the 90’s, releasing some of the best modern lounge music to grace these ears in quite some time. His first album, “Cocktails With Joey” (1995), was recorded at the height of the bachelor pad lounge music revival of the mid-’90s, and should be appealing to anyone who ever swilled a cosmopolitan. Joey plays bass and guitar and is joined by a variety of flexible Los Angeles musicians including Red Young on piano and organ, saxophonist Doug Webb, flutist Artie Webb, and a few Latin percussionists, with guest tenor soloist Plas Johnson popping up on three songs. Ambitious and brimming with swinging confidence, “Cocktails with Joey” tackles such heavyweights as Mancini, Baxter and Gleason (yes, Jackie Gleason!), as well as numerous original compositions and succeeds on all counts. “Cocktails With Joey” is an essential lounge record that no serious music aficionado should be without. Best track: Remembering Jobim
In 2002, Joey and “The Cocktail Crew”, as they were now calling themselves, recorded “Kingston Cocktails”, a soulful, jamaican flavored full-length that, while not reaching the former album’s heights of swanky grandeur, shows Joey expanding his horizons to include ska, soul, and latin rhythms.
As if all this this weren’t enough variety, in 2009 Joey went country, releasing a western swing single, “Fang Bang Stomp b/w “Country Cousins” that proved once and for all that no single genre could hold this prodigious musical talent. From lounge lizard to hayseed, martinis to mint juleps, Joey Altruda’s music never fails to deliver the perfect swinging groove for folks who expect nothing but the best music for the perfect cocktail hour.