Monday Recommendation: Logan Strosahl

Logan Strosahl

Logan Strosahl, Up Go We (Sunnyside) The unconventional structure of the title of Strosahl’s album smacks of post-Elizabethan England. Currents running through the music also evoke that time and place. The composer and saxophonist is a devotee of the orderly composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695) and of disorderly free improvisation. Both elements are apparent. “M.M. Ground,” concerned with post-Coltrane harmonic content, has a wild Strosahl alto saxophone solo leavened with Earl Bostic throat … [Read more...]

Remembering Kenny Drew

Kenny Drew

Had he lived, pianist Kenny Drew would have celebrated his 87th birthday today. Drew first recorded with trumpeter Howard McGhee in 1950, when he was 22. He went on to play and record with many of the leading artists in jazz, including Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Buddy DeFranco, Dinah Washington, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Zoot Sims, Johnny Griffin and Buddy Rich. Drew settled in Paris in 1961 and moved to Copenhagen three years later, where he became a featured artist at … [Read more...]

Slim Gaillard (Oroony)

The story in yesterday’s Rifftides post about Jaki Byard quoted drummer Alan Dawson’s excursion into phrases originated by the late Slim Gaillard. It could be argued that Gaillard was the hippest and most influential of all the hipsters of the 1940s and 1950s. He remained active well into his and the century’s seventh decade. He was an accomplished pianist and guitarist, but the public knew Gaillard best for vocal performances incorporating quirky language that had something in common with … [Read more...]

Jaki Byard And Musique du bois

Jaki Byard 1:17:74

A Rifftides reader, composer Michael Robinson, responded to the Monday recommendation of the Jaki Byard Project’s Inch by Inch (see the July 24 post) with a reflection on a Byard performance in a classic Phil Woods album. Mr. Robinson wrote: One of the greatest jazz albums of all time is Musique du bois by Phil Woods, due in no small part to the appearance of Jaki Byard on piano, in addition to Alan Dawson on drums and Richard Davis on bass. Byard’s intrinsic contribution pertains both to … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: The Jaki Byard Project

Jaki Byard Project

The Jaki Byard Project, Inch By Inch, Yard Byard (GM Recordings) An album in tribute to a prodigious pianist—without a pianist; it must have seemed a good idea when flutist Jamie Baum conceived it. And it was. Ms. Baum, drummer George Schuller and guitarist Jerome Harris studied with Byard at the New England Conservatory. He died in 1999. Byard's compositions and the inspiration of his genius as an arranger influenced their musical development. They recruited bassist Ugonna Okegwo and … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: The MJQ And “Django”

Django Reinhardt

One of the Modern Jazz Quartet’s signature pieces was “Django,” John Lewis’s homage to Django Reinhardt (1910-1953). Reinhardt’s guitar playing reflected his upbringing in Gypsy communities in France and in Belgium, where he was born, and he became one of the most influential guitarists of his generation. Lewis captured much of the essence of Reinhardt’s music in a tune that became a modern jazz standard recorded not only by the MJQ but also by dozens of musicians including Ray Brown, Herbie … [Read more...]

CT, Zoot And Friends In New Orleans, 1969

N.O. Jazz Festival '69

As mentioned in Rifftides from time to time, many who attended or played in the original New Orleans Jazz Festival remember it as an example of what a jazz festival can be. The 1968 and 1969 editions of JazzFest were intimate compared with what later became the Jazz And Heritage Festival, a massive Crescent City party in which jazz is often more evident in the name than in the music. Six of the people who made the ’69 festival memorable were its house band and its producer. The band was … [Read more...]

Guest Review. Jan Lundgren: A Retrospective

Lundgren retrospective

Full disclosure: I wrote a section of the liner notes for a new compilation album by pianist Jan Lundgren. To assure critical objectivity, the senior Rifftides staff asked the veteran Swedish music journalist Jan Olsson to review the CD. Mr. Olsson's review appears on the Swedish website DIG. We thank him and DIG for permission to post his work, and for his translation into English. Jan Lundgren: A Retrospective (Fresh Sound) Besides some CDs and LPs produced in Sweden and Japan, our … [Read more...]

Desmond’s Later Years Revisited

P. Desmond head shot

This week on his Night Lights on Indiana Public Media, David Brent Johnson is re-airing "After Brubeck: Paul Desmond 1968-1977." The one-hour broadcast covers what the alto saxophonist was up to in the years following the dissolution of the Dave Brubeck Quartet until his death in the spring of 1977. I was pleased that David asked me to appear with him to talk a bit about Paul and his music. The program includes tracks from a variety of Desmond albums, among them his live quartet dates with … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Music Of Gary McFarland


The Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble, Circulation: The Music of Gary McFarland (Planet Arts) Concerned that recognition of Gary McFarland’s achievement was fading, drummer Michael Benedict created the ensemble named for McFarland and recorded 11 of his compositions. The mystery of McFarland’s death at 38 in 1971 remains unsolved. His composing and arranging made him a welcome presence in jazz in the 1960s. With slight academic training and a large natural talent, he produced work of freshness … [Read more...]

Just Because: Hampton Hawes With Scott LaFaro

Scott LaFaro color

Before Scott LaFaro joined the Bill Evans Trio in late 1959, the young bassist’s second west coast stint included work with Chet Baker, Barney Kessel, Victor Feldman, Cal Tjader, Stan Getz and Hampton Hawes, among others. In California, LaFaro’s tone, time and adventurous ideas put him—along with Gary Peacock and Charlie Haden—in the vanguard of a new generation of bassists who took the instrument a step beyond functional time-keeping and harmonic guidance. With Evans, he would … [Read more...]

Weekend Listening Tip: Jazz Port Townsend All-Stars

Deardorf, Stafford, Wilson

Here’s something to work into your weekend listening schedule. Each year at the Centrum Port Townsend Jazz Festival on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula, Jim Wilke records concerts for broadcast on his Jazz Northwest. Next Sunday, he will air an all-star sextet of stars who taught this summer in the festival’s jazz workshops. This photo shows Chuck Deardorf, Terell Stafford and Steve Wilson. Here is Mr. Wilke’s announcement: The first in a series of radio shows from the 41st … [Read more...]

Tolstoy And Svensson


I hadn’t planned on posting more about the Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival, but it turns out that there is video of several artists, some of whose concerts I missed. Viktoria Tolstoy, one of Sweden’s best-known singers, teamed up with the veteran bassist Mattias Svensson for a concert in the courtyard of the Hos Morten Café. I was there and enjoyed it but did not previously write about it. If you are not familiar with Ms. Tolstoy and wonder about her last name, she is the … [Read more...]

Ystad 2015 Wrapup

Ystad horn man

Jet lag is fading. Before memories of the Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival do likewise, here are brief impressions of events that I have not yet mentioned. [New segments of this report were added on August 9] 364 nights a year, wearing his traditional uniform and playing a valveless horn as long as he is tall, Ystad’s municipal trumpeter (pictured right) assures the town that all is well. One night each summer, the honor goes to a musician on the festival’s roster of performers. This year, the … [Read more...]

Fourteen Festival Women


In its publicity, the Ystad Festival did not emphasize the large number of women on its roster of artists. Perhaps that was not an oversight but a sign that gender equality in jazz has advanced to a point where it doesn’t need to be underscored. In any case, Nils Landgren’s cast of women colleagues (see the previous post) was hardly an exception during the festival’s five days. Anne Marte Eggen’s We Float quartet is three-quarters female, and there were two bands, Worlds Around and Sofia … [Read more...]

The Ystad Festival, Part 5

Richard Bona

Here are impressions of more of the 38 musical events at the Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival. Richard Bona Bona brought his entertainer persona to the fore. Though he and his sidemen presented scattered moments of musical substance, the Cameroon native centered his concert on singing and comedy supported by his electric bass playing. Trumpeter Dave Hernandez had a couple of impressive muted solos, Ludwig Afonso was often dazzling on percussion, and Bona gave hints of his bass virtuosity.Bona's … [Read more...]

Lundgren Plays Johansson, With Strings

Jan Lundgren facing right

With a catch in his throat, Jan Lundgren told his capacity audience in the Ystad Theatre, “This is something I’ve been planning for 25 years.” Lundgren was paying tribute to pianist Jan Johansson, a major figure in the development of modern jazz in Sweden and one of the reasons Lundgren decided in his teens that jazz piano would be his career. Johansson died in a car accident in 1968 at the age of 37. His albums continue to be among Sweden’s most highly regarded recordings in any … [Read more...]

Guinga And Maria João In Ystad

Guinga, Maria-Joao

The international character of the Ystad Jazz Festival was enhanced—dramatically—in a concert by the Portuguese singer Maria João and the Brazilian guitarist Guinga. They performed in the venerable St. Mary’s Church on Ystad’s main square. João calls on folk music, avant-garde classical, Portuguese fado and other sources, but she is most often described as a jazz artist. Her background includes work with Joe Zawinul, Ralph Towner, Bobby McFerrin and Trilok Gurtu in addition to Guinga, … [Read more...]

Ystad Festival: Rad Trads. Linnea Hall.

Rad Trads Parade

The Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival is compact and tightly scheduled. In this ancient town on the Baltic shore at Sweden’s southern tip most of the concert sites are within easy walking distance of one another. Still, it would be possible to hear all of the festival’s music only at the price of sleeplessness and exhaustion. I offer you highlights of some of what I have heard and seen so far. More extensive impressions may come later. The festivities got underway with the irrepressible New York … [Read more...]

The Ystad Festival Is Underway

Per Helsas gard 73015

The Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival is into its third full day. The concerts are scheduled so tightly that this is my first chance to break away to post a report. The weather in southern Sweden has alternated between rain, overcast skies and sunshine. During a break in the clouds, the courtyard of the ancient Per Helsas Gård overflowed with festival patrons listening to the Norbotten Big Band and their guest Jan Allan. At 80, Allan continues as one of Sweden’s most honored jazz artists. The ease and … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Johnny Hodges


Thanks to Michael Cuscuna and Mosaic Records for the reminder that yesterday, Johnny Hodges (1906-1970) would have celebrated his 109th birthday. Hodges’ alto saxophone (and in his early career the soprano sax) were so closely associated with Duke Ellington’s orchestra, it is easy to assume that’s where he started. In fact, he left his native Boston in 1924 and worked regularly in New York with his mentor Sidney Bechet, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Lloyd Scott, Chick Webb and Luckey … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: JD Allen, Katie Thiroux

JD Allen Graffiti

JD Allen, Graffiti (Savant) Intrepid as ever in his power, cohesiveness and brevity of expression, tenor saxophonist JD Allen returns to the trio format that gives him all he needs as a soloist and a composer. Allen, bassist Greg August and drummer Rudy Royston are once again alone together in an album that has obstacle course tunes as well as simple ones, all composed by Allen. His “Indigo Blue (Blue Like)” is, indeed, like the blues, but because of its form it is not exactly the blues. It … [Read more...]

Ystad Sidebar: The Monastery…& More


Excitement about the impending trip to Sweden for the Ystad Jazz Festival grew a bit when the festival’s Itta Johnson sent Lucas Gohlen’s photographs of the monastery known as Gråbrödraklostret (Greyfriars Abbey). It is one of the oldest buildings in that ancient town. Its construction started in 1267. In the seven centuries since, it has been a Franciscan monastery, a poorhouse, a distillery, a granary, a candidate for demolition, a museum and one of southern Sweden’s most popular tourist … [Read more...]

Conover And The VOA: A Response

William Armstrong

Answering one word in my Wall Street Journal piece yesterday about Willis Conover, Matt Armstrong (pictured) posted on his blog a clarification of the effect of the Smith-Mundt Act. Mr. Armstrong is a member of the Broadcating Board of Governors, which oversees the U.S. Government's civilian international media, including the Voice of America. In the WSJ article, I wrote that the 1948 Smith-Mundt legislation forbids the Voice of America “from broadcasting within the U.S.” He defends my right to … [Read more...]

Losses: Rumsey, Alexander, Taylor

Howard Rumsey

Howard Rumsey, the 1940s Stan Kenton bassist who went on to become a key figure in southern California jazz, died on July 15. He was 97. Although he continued to play the bass, Rumsey became famous as the entrepreneur who led the band at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach south of Los Angeles. The club was at the center of a 1950s west coast jazz movement that gained audiences around the world. Over more than a decade, some of the music’s best-known players were members of Rumsey’s Lighthouse … [Read more...]