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Gift of music to family can bridge generations if chosen with TLC

(East Brunswick, N.J.) Home News Tribune

It's a special gesture, the giving of music on the holidays.

People of all generations like music. However, it's not always easy to give music.

You have to really know the person you're giving music to - and that's kind of what makes it special. We interviewed a smattering of people, famous and unknown, about their musical gift choices for the holidays.

Anthony Smeragliuolo, 17, of Woodbridge, N.J., knows what kind of music his sister and his father like.

"My sister's into popular music nowadays, so I'll get her Justin Timberlake — not that I'm into it," Anthony says. "My father likes Bon Jovi, so I'll get him their CD."

If you're shopping for a mom or a dad, you probably know want they prefer.

"I'm thinking of getting my mom the Chieftains' new box set," says Chris O'Brien, 26, of New Brunswick, N.J. "She loves Irish music."

On the other end, parents usually don't know what their kids want when it comes to music. Sure, you could get your toddler the latest Barney or Sesame Street compilation - that's easy. And there are always HITCLIPS portable music players for the elementary-school set. But what about the older kids?

"If I get him a rap CD, how do I know it's the right one?" says Brenda Brown, 40, of Franklin Township, N.J., about buying music for her 20-year-old son.

A good solution might be to buy a gift certificate, says Jasmine Justice, 31, of Brooklyn, N.Y.

"It's kind of lame, but I give gift certificates," Justice says. "What happens if I buy a CD and they already have it? If you give a gift certificate, you might be turning them on to new music."

If you're shopping for a trendy music fan, it's a good bet to get something new and current, says upcoming Miami hip-hop star Smitty, who recorded a song for the new Alicia Keys album and has written hits for B2K, Dr. Dre and Nelly and P. Diddy.

"Definitely have to get that Alicia Keys ("The Diary of Alicia Keys'), definitely, because I'm on it," jokes Smitty, 22. "Second, have to get Jay-Z, 'The Black Album.' I worked with a couple of those producers over there and they were telling me how it was an amazing feat."

Or, an imported CD can score points with a music fan that's in the know.

"Anything from England is a nice gesture," says Andrea D'Alessandro, 19, of Colonia, N.J.

"They're usually harder to find."

New albums by Elvis Costello, "North," and indie garage-rockers The Strokes, "Room On Fire," are two records that D'Alessandro will probably give as presents. Especially if she can find the import versions, which are usually a song or two different than their domestic counterparts.

"It takes a little care and thought to find the import versions," D'Alessandro says. "It means a lot more than just going to Best Buy."

Of course, if you're a talented musician and you have the recording equipment, you can make your own Christmas record to give as a gift. That's what Jim Babjak, guitarist of the Smithereens, did in 2001.

Each CD was signed and autographed. Christmas is a big deal in the Babjak's home.

"I'm always looking for cool soundtracks," says Babjak, 45. "I even like the one for the Schwarzenegger movie, ėJingle All the Way.' Sometimes you get really surprised.

"I once found a Christmas CD that had a James Brown song called something like 'Santa Come Back to the Ghetto' (actual title: 'Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto'). "It was really good and I had never heard it before."

The Smithereens version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is included on more than 20 Christmas compilations.

In a classical mood, Chris Pedersen, 65, of Fords, N.J., suggests "The Joy of Christmas," featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the New York Philharmonic, which was conducted by Leonard Bernstein. "Joy" was originally released in the 1960s and reissued in 1997, but it's a little hard to find on CD, Pedersen says.

"I love Christmas music of all types," Pedersen says. "The 'Nat King Cole Christmas' (album) is a wonderful album. If I know somebody didn't have that one, I would give them that."

Music legend Herbie Hancock had a couple of thoughts about a jazzy holiday.

"'Kind of Blue,' Miles Davis, but most people have that," chuckles Hancock. "Wayne Shorter made an excellent record, his latest record, 'Alegria.'

"Kind of Blue," Hancock, 63, says, is "beautiful and it's timeless and yet it kind of has a simplicity that kind of underlies everything. That makes it palatable to almost anyone's taste."

Those kinds of records are indeed rare but, adds Bryan Bruden of Spotswood, N.J., "you don't give a CD to everyone.

"They have to be a music lover and it has to be something that's great and blows their mind."