Cocktail Party Music

Cocktail party music is important part of setting the vibe or ambiance for your party. I am a big music fan and like to help select the tunes for the places that I work. I tend to like things on the jazzier, groovier side. Music provides a subconscious cue that this is going to be a good time. When the guest walk through your door and hear the tunes and start bobbing their heads, you know you are half way to having a great party.

Before the party, make sure your system is working properly. Take some time to compile a play list for the night. It can be distracting to change to music every 15 minutes. I like to make a play list that starts off mellow a picks up steam as the party gets more energized. Make sure your CDs are clean and have no scratches. This isn't so much a problem for the Ipod generation. Ipod's also make compiling a play list a snap. Here are some cocktail party music suggestions.

On The Latin Side

Pink Martini

I will start with these guys because they are a group from my home town of Portland, Oregon who have made good. This is a talented group of musicians who play with a lot of latin rhythms, but also branch out far and wide. This is a description from their website "Somewhere between a 1930s Cuban dance orchestra, a classical chamber music ensemble, a Brasilian marching street band and Japanese film noir is the 12-piece Pink Martini." They currently have two albums: Sympathique, and their newest Hang On Little Tomato. Both are worth a listen, sophisticated and fun at the same time making it perfect cocktail party music.

Cal Tjader

I am a big fan of this guy. He is a latin jazz vibraphonist who was a front runner in fusing latin rhythms with jazz in the 1960's. The Cal Tjader talkin' verve roots of acid jazz compilation is a good choice or else check out a best of album.

Antonio Carlos Jobim

Jobim is one of the founders of the music form Bossa Nova from Brazil. I never seem to grow tired of this music. When I listen to it I can literally feel a warm breeze on my face and hear waves lapping in the back ground. Check out the compilation on the Verve jazz masters series. Beautiful vocals by Astrud Gilberto and nice horn work by the great Stan Getz.

Bebel Gilberto

A young talent and daughter of Brazilian music royalty. Gorgeous vocals with great musical backing. Check out Tanto Tempo, her first album.

Gotan Project

Really hip stuff here. Gotan Project is a group of top Argentinean musicians living in Europe. Heavy tango influence in the music, but with a contemporary lounge vibe. La Revancha Del Tango is the album to start with.

Gilles Peterson

One of the top DJ's out of the U.K. Generally respected for bringing fresh sounds to the fore front. Much of his music is dance oriented, but he is also exploring music from different parts of the world. He has a Brazillian music compilation that is very solid.

The Afro-Latin Groove Sabroso

Perfect if you want to get a Latin groove going with your cocktail party music. 18 fun tracks that make it nearly impossible to keep your feet still. Energtic without over doing it. Tasty!

Kenny Burrell

One of the jazz guitar greats. Kenny Burrell was on the scene with the best of them. My favorite album is Midnight Blue. It is an all star line up. I like the conga popping in the back ground compliments of Ray Barretto.

Down Tempo But Groovin'

St. Germain

Their album Tourist is an absolute classic in my book. Smooth downtempo, with great beats. It's perfect cocktail party music if you want to get people moving.

Thievery Corporation

You just can't go wrong with these guys. They consistantly put out fantastic music. They incorporate a wide variety of world beats and rhythms from Jamaica to India. Somehow it always jams. I don't think that they have put out a bad album yet.


Go for their album Suzuki. It got over played when it came out in early 2000, but it still holds up nice. It is a down dempo goodie.


This hottie is a favorite of mine. She plays with a talented young band. Their music incorporates some electronica, latin jazz, and some soul. She has a beautiful voice. She has two solid albums out, but I think the second, More Shine, has a slight edge.

Federico Aubele

Another hot one here on the down tempo/Latin vibe. A young guy coming out of Argentina put this together. Sexy female vocals in front of tracks that really move. Gran Hotel Buenos Aires is his album title.

Paris Lounge

Hip compilation of electronic artists from Paris. It is a double disc CD. CD 1 being more on the chill side, CD 2 more up beat. A couple weak tracks, but all around it's enjoyable.

Feeling Jazzy

Jazz just seems like the ideal cocktail party music to me. If I could go back into time you could find me in some secret speakeasy. Where a frosty martini would be in my hand and a jazz band would be bubbling up on stage.

Anita O'Day

This gal is a blast, you can tell she is really having fun with the music. An expressive and pleasant voice. Some of the great muscians of the early 1900's are backing her.

Horace Silver

One of my favorite jazzmen. Fantastic piano work. Bluesy and soulful without ever losing the groove. Song For My Father is his ultimate track. Horace Silver: Jazz Profile is a solid representation of what he has to offer.

Eddie Harris

For some popping sax work get into Eddie Harris. I have Eddie Harris: Greater Than The Sum Of His Parts. Most of it is brilliant for cocktail party music; although there are a few songs that get a little "out there". He does some fantastic covers of songs like "When a Man Loves a Women", and "It Was a Very Good Year." Along with many of his own compositions.

Bill Evans

If you like to hear some nice ivory tickling, check out Bill Evans. Classy and cool piano work. His album, "Everybody Digs Bill Evans" says it all.

Ladies Of Jazz

Let's not forget the ladies of jazz when it comes to cocktail party music. Although there are too many to name here, you can just never go wrong with the likes of: Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone, or Casandra Wilson.

I always love getting turned on to new music. So if you have any recommendations of your own for cocktail party music or anything else, let me know on my Contact page.