Weekend Extra: Compared To What

les-mccann-eddie-harris

Pianist Les McCann and saxophonist Eddie Harris played the Gene McDaniels song “Compared to What” at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1969. Bret Primack, The Jazz Video Guy, recently put video of the performance on his Facebook page. It’s too good, too undated, not to share. Roberta Flack had minor success with the song on her first album, but McCann and Harris made it a hit when this version was a part of their Swiss Movement album. McDaniels conceived the song as a protest against inequality in … [Read more...]

Blossoms Are Early. Braff & Hyman Are On Time

Apple Blossoms 2015

From today’s cycling expedition through the hills of apple country, there is evidence that prospects seem good for a bountiful crop next fall. If a late snowstorm in the Cascade Mountains melts enough water into the high reservoirs that provide irrigation for the orchards in the valleys below, growers—and those of us who love Honey Crisps, Fujis, McIntoshes, Pink Ladies and Winesaps (to name a handful of hundreds of varieties)— should be happy come September. If you prefer … [Read more...]

Just Because: Dave Frishberg And Friends

In this 2012 video from the archives of veteran broadcaster Lynn Darroch's radio program Bright Moments!, pianist Dave Frishberg and two of the Pacific Northwest's fine tenor saxophonists play Al Cohn's "Mr. George." This harkens back to the days when Frishberg was a member of the Al Cohn-Zoot Sims quintet, a frequent attraction at New York's Half Note Cafe. Camera mobility was limited in the KMHD-FM studio, but the Al Cohn spirit was not. Dave Frishberg, piano; Lee Wuthenow and David Evans, … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Jack Teagarden

Think Well of Me

Jack Teagarden, Think Well of Me (Verve) Rifftides reader David Chilver, son of the guitarist Pete Chilver (1924-2008), writes from the UK that he recently found among his father's belongings a Jack Teagarden CD minus cover or liner notes. He listened to it, liked it and went online to see what he could learn about the album. What he found was my 1999 JazzTimes review. Mr. Chilver’s enthusiastic discussion of the recording encouraged me to listen to it for the first time in too long, and then … [Read more...]

When McRae Met Clarke-Boland

McRae-Clarke-Boland BB

Following the April 8 Rifftides post about Carol Sloane and Carmen McRae, Bill Kirchner sent us a link to a German television program featuring McRae in 1968 with the formidable Clarke-Boland Big Band. Co-led by drummer Kenny Clarke and pianist-arranger-composer Francy Boland, the band was a collection of prominent European and American musicians. It thrived for more than a decade in the 1960s and 1970s. It was notable for, among other things, having two drummers. The members: Benny Bailey, … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Ray Charles

Ray Charles singing

To me, music is entertainment - what else can it be? In fact, it's the only language I know of that's universal. What is a soul? It's like electricity - we don't really know what it is, but it's a force that can light a room. My version of 'Georgia' became the state song of Georgia. That was a big thing for me, man. It really touched me. Here is a state that used to lynch people like me suddenly declaring my version of a song as its state song. That is touching. … [Read more...]

Just Because: Ray Charles

Ray Charles performs a song written for the motion picture Ballad In Blue—Directed by Paul Henreid, the last of the actor's efforts as a film director. Playing himself, Charles comes to the rescue of a hard-luck family plagued by drinking problems. Their son is blind. Charles wants to pay for recovery of the boy's eyesight. The family worries about what could happen if the effort goes amiss. Charles's musical numbers, including "Light Out of Darkness," are definite highlights of this … [Read more...]

Billie Holiday At 100

Billie Holiday

Yesterday was Billie Holiday’s 100th birthday. Rarely has the centenary of a jazz artist received as much notice. There have been tributes galore, special television and radio reports and long articles in major publications. This Rifftides remembrance of Holiday is confined to a short period of her early career in which she extended with a big band what she started with small groups in the 1930s Holiday sang with Count Basie’s band for a year, but her contract with a different company from … [Read more...]

Other Places: Sloane On McRae

Carmen McCrae 2

On her blog, Carol Sloane (pictured above) observes the birthday of Carmen McRae (1920-1994), the woman she calls her, “girl friend, confidant and Sister Singer Superior.” The two singers had a long, rare, honest, sometimes tempestuous friendship that lasted until Carmen’s death. For Ms. Sloane, the friendship continues. Her remembrance incorporates video of McRae in concert in 1988. Tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan is the guest artist with Carmen and her trio. To read Sloaney’s tribute and … [Read more...]

Listening Tip: Mays, Stamm And The WDR In Cologne

Bill&MarvinDuoPhoto

Pianist Bill Mays and trumpeter-flugelhornist Marvin Stamm are just back from a European tour. One of their trip’s highlights was a March 20 concert in Cologne, Germany, with the formidable WDR Big Band. The theme was New York State Of Mind, with compositions by Mays, Stamm, George Gershwin, Billy Joel and Duke Ellington, among others. The pair’s exhaustive preparation for the concert included Mays arranging Thelonious Monk’s “52nd Street Theme” with complexity, irony and wit that I can imagine … [Read more...]

Gerry Mulligan At Brecon

Mullligan Head Shot

Gerry Mulligan would have been 88 years old today. Until a year or so before his death in 1996, Mulligan was playing and writing at the top of his game. To remember him, let’s listen to one of the classic compositions played by his quartet at the Brecon, Wales, Jazz Festival in 1991. Here’s Mulligan’s “Walking Shoes” with Bill Mays, piano; Dean Johnson, bass and Dave Ratajczak, drums. For an entire Mulligan concert a year earlier at the Bern, Switzerland, Jazz Festival, with Bill Charlap … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Rudresh Mahanthappa

Mahanthappa Bird Calls

Rudresh Mahanthappa, Bird Calls (ACT) Listeners steeped in the music of Charlie Parker may be able to detect clues to the inspirations for Mahanthappa’s new compositions in this stimulating collection. If doing so adds to their enjoyment and appreciation of the album, so much the better. But in approaching the collection as a blindfold test, literalists may miss the point. Alto saxophonist Mahanthappa has taken Parker, his primary muse, as the point of departure for compositions and playing … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Brasileiras

Elaine Elias Cover

The bossa nova phenomenon infused jazz and popular music with fresh ways of thinking about rhythm and about story telling through music. It arrived when rock and roll was firmly established, the Beatles were beginning to dominate music on the radio and hardly a week passed without another boy band taking its place in the pop firmament. Brazilian music was a distinct contrast and, to many, a relief. Fortunately, it has remained a small but rewarding strain in popular music and a vital part of … [Read more...]

Humph

Presley Monk cover

I suppose it figures that on April Fools' Day, something like this would be making the rounds of web pranksters. You may have difficulty finding it in your corner record store or online—unlike this early Monk gem from his Complete Blue Note Recordings. Thelonious Monk, piano; Idrees Sulieman, trumpet; Danny Quebec West, alto saxophone; Billy Smith, tenor saxophone; Gene Ramey, bass; Art Blakey, drums. October 15, 1947. Yes, "Humph" is based on "I Got Rhythm." … [Read more...]

Jazz Appreciation Month 2015

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April 2015 is the twelfth observance of National Jazz Appreciation Month. Founded at the Smithsonian Institution in 2002 by the jazz scholar, Duke Ellington biographer and musician John Edward Haase, the celebration is intended, in the words of Quincy Jones, to “…recognize that our indigenous music — jazz — is the heart and soul of all popular music, and that we cannot afford to let its legacy slip into obscurity." Jones’s quote is on this page of the National Endowment for the Humanities … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Thad Jones Revisited

Thad Jones by Wolff

The master trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader Thad Jones would be 92 if he had lived to celebrate his birthday yesterday. He died in 1986. Fortunately for us, Jones practiced his profession in an age of ubiquitous recording. There is a living museum of CDs, LPs and videos of the work he did in many contexts, including the magnificent band that Jones and Mel Lewis co-led for nearly 15 years. His "Central Park North" rarely failed to stoke the fires that burned in the hearts and souls of … [Read more...]

“Played Twice” Played Twice

Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)Jazz pianist, photo: 1968

When Stan Kenton was asked where jazz was going next, he said, “Tomorrow night we’ll be in Detroit.” It is in the nature of creative music that the question cannot be answered. Still, it would be less than human for someone who takes jazz—or any important music—seriously, not to speculate. It is impossible to know whether the present generation of musicians in their teens and twenties includes people who will advance the evolution of jazz into an important new phase. There are … [Read more...]

Spike Wilner On Playing For Listeners

SpikeWilner_04-02-12

Spike Wilner is a pianist who operates two jazz clubs in New York City with his partners Mitch Borden and Lee Kostrinsky. Smalls and Mezzrow are within a short walk of one another in Greenwich Village. They present familiar artists like Lew Tabackin, Frank Lacy, Pete Malinverni, Johnny O’Neal and Wilner himself, as well as those emerging in the jazz community—trumpeter Phillip Harper, pianist Ehud Asherie and singer Marianne Solivan among them. Of Small’s, The New Yorker wrote, This … [Read more...]

News: A Jan Lundgren Compilation

Lundgren, hand up

Blogging has been slow recently, or some days nonexistent, because I am deep into the writing of notes for a compilation of recordings by pianist Jan Lundgren. The project is less demanding than the annotation for his recent album All By Myself, but is nonetheless consuming most of my attention. The tracks will come from albums produced by Dick Bank for the Fresh Sound label and include highlights of Lundgren's productive career over the past 25 years. They feature Jan in trio settings and as a … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Duke’s Bread…Homemade

Duke's River Whole Wheat Bread

In 1990, Concord Records put together a collection of recipes provided by jazz artists, writers and other folks associated with the music. The project came up when I was in the thick of my bread-making phase. There were weeks when I experimented with two or three new kinds of bread. The variety that got the biggest response around the house was popular enough that it received a name. The name is explained below. Here is the recipe. Duke’s River Whole Wheat Bread 1 package yeast 1/8 tsp … [Read more...]

May The Leprechauns Be Near You

St. Patrick's Day Hat 2015

St. Patrick’s Day arrives bringing a reminder of a record that never was. In the 1960s Paul Desmond and guitarist Jim Hall, frequent collaborators in those days, came up with an idea for an album of Irish music. In their planning—and possibly—drinking session, they decided on some of the tunes they would record, “The Tralee Song,” “Lovely Hoolihan” and “Fitzhugh or No One” among them. That, regrettably, is as far as the project went. Ben Webster to the rescue. Although the Irish … [Read more...]

A Listening Tip, And A Request Fulfilled

Anat Cohen, SRJO

Jim Wilke keeps producing broadcasts on his Jazz Northwest that are hard to resist, so it’s hard to resist alerting you to them. Here’s his announcement about tomorrow’s program. The poll-winning, critically acclaimed international clarinet star Anat Cohen played two concerts with The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra in February. The concerts, billed as "A World Viewof Jazz" were among the highlights of the 20th anniversary season of the SRJO, co-directed by Clarence Acox andMichael … [Read more...]

Strosahl, Sanders And Monk: Nutty—Twice

Logan Strosahl, alto sax

The Rifftides staff now and then checks in on alto saxophonist Logan Strosahl and pianist Nick Sanders, intrepid young musicians based in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, where so many rising jazz artists are headquartered. Sanders, a New Orleans native, leads his trio in a new album produced by the veteran pianist Fred Hersch. Strosahl’s debut album is planned for midyear. A recent installment of Strosahl’s and Sanders’ occasional series of … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker Head Shot

Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art. You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail. Any musician who says he is playing better either on tea, the needle, or when he is juiced, is a plain, straight liar. … [Read more...]

Charlie Parker, 8/29/20 – 3/12/55

Charlie Parker 3 12 15

Charlie Parker died 60 years ago today. But, as John O'Hara said when he heard that George Gershwin was gone—I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to. Neither do you. Charlie Parker, alto saxophone; Miles Davis, trumpet; Duke Jordan, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. New York, 1947 Thank you for Charlie Parker. … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: The Surprising Tom Varner

Varner Nine Surprises

Tom Varner, Nine Surprises (Tom Varner Music) In writing for his nine-piece ensemble, Tom Varner layers and interleaves parts for the seven horns so that his textures of harmony and rhythm often create the illusion of a larger band. His skill as a composer and arranger equals his virtuosity as one of the few first-rate French horn improvisers in jazz history. “Seattle Blues,” the sixth movement in this 15-part suite, is a prime example of his achievement in both areas. In the decade since he … [Read more...]