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JazzTimes 10: Intoxicating Tracks About Alcohol

Songs to choose when breaking out the booze

  1. Ray Charles and Betty Carter: “Cocktails for Two” (Ray Charles and Betty Carter, ABC, 1961)


A cheat? Perhaps—“Cocktails for Two” isn’t really about alcohol. Still, the idea of cocktails as a social lubricant is no small part of this song (however delicate); the protagonists’ “plan,” after all, began with them. There’s also a certain musical association in this performance with the warm, friendly sensation of an aperitif that’s consumed in just the right atmosphere. In this case, the atmosphere is the subtle, exquisite piano line from Brother Ray and the gauze of Marty Paich’s orchestra and choir. Charles sings in an unusually high, soft register that is in its own way disorienting. Come the bridge, Carter’s head is reeling, and her careful pause between “intoxicating” and “kisses” surely isn’t accidental.

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Listen to a Spotify playlist featuring most of the songs in this JazzTimes 10:

Originally Published

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.