Crow on Skis

Quick, before it's over, let's wish the stalwart bassist and jazz anecdotist Bill Crow a happy birthday, his 78th. After he saw the lingual postings below, Bill wrote to say: And a happy Saturnalia to all! Then he followed up on the recent Rifftides ski postings (here) and (here) to reminisce about his own ski adventures as a struggling youth. I empathize with your efforts on the ski slope. I grew up in Kirkland, WA, where there was rarely any snow, and on trips up to the Cascades I had to … [Read more...]

С Новым Годом To All

A Rifftides reader named Hatta writes from Russia about the multi-lingual Christmas greeting posted early today: Well, you should wish that for Russian readers too :-) We don't generally celebrate Christmas on December, 24, -- in Russia it is celebrated on January, 7, so you could wish us a Happy New Year for now (in Russian that's "С Новым Годом") :-) Merry Christmas! И к всему доброй ночи (And to all a good night). Greetings in all languages will be happily accepted and posted during the … [Read more...]

The Al Vuona Interview Redivivus

A most satisfying encounter in the flurry of interviews at mid-year about Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond was with Al Vuona of WICN-FM in Worcester, Massachusetts. The station has revived the program as part of its series The Public Eye. It is archived here and available for listening on demand. Vuona is a good listener and a shrewd questioner. We had a fine time. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “listen.” … [Read more...]


If you develop an ear for sounds that are musical it is like developing an ego. You begin to refuse sounds that are not musical and that way cut yourself off from a good deal of experience —John Cage … [Read more...]

Other Matters:Downpour And Elk

Well, the ski trip was sogged out. When we were five minutes from the lodge at White Pass, the skies opened. If it had been a few degrees colder, we'd have had a glorious snowfall. At 36 degrees, we got what my old Oklahoma chum Charlie Manwarring called a toad stabber. We looked up at the runs and saw downhill skiers resigning from the mountain in droves. Snowboarding and cross-country would have been possible but not enjoyable. We wheeled around and headed back down Highway 410. Still it was … [Read more...]

The Power Of Music

Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful—Plato Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state, and ought to be prohibited . . . when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them—Aristotle … [Read more...]

Comment: Katrina’s Long Aftermath

As time passes and events accumulate, Katrina’s devastation of a region and disruption of lives fade into the background of the collective consciousness. But, as Russ Layne’s recent comment here reminded us, recovery is a down a long road. Trombonist Jeff Albert responds. I am a New Orleans area musician. I was fortunate in that I still have a home and my family are all safe. On behalf of all of the musicians down here, I'd like to thank people like Russ Layne who have gone out of their way to … [Read more...]

If At First—

The person poised awkwardly in this picture is not me, but might as well be, except for one thing—he or, possibly, she is upright. The other day I spent hours on a mountain in the Cascades, falling over. It was my first lesson in cross-country skiing. That may be my instructor, Carla, watching, trying to keep a straight face. I was in condition. I’ve been working out on a Nordic Track for years. How hard could it be? Hah. But by the end of the day, I was falling less often, no more than every … [Read more...]

Comment: The Red Cross

Rifftides reader Russ Layne writes from Chester, New York. Wow, Just read the piece on Paul Desmond and the Red Cross. The first live jazz group I ever saw, a bar mitzvah present from my mother at age 13, was The Dave Brubeck Quintet at Fordham University (splitting the bill with Jackie Mason). Anyway, as founder and executive director of … [Read more...]


In April, my publisher, Malcolm Harris, and I were in Manhattan throwing a party at Elaine’s restaurant to announce the publication of my biography of Paul Desmond. Dave and Iola Brubeck were co-hosts. There was a gratifying turnout of Paul’s friends and colleagues, and of well-wishers, musicians and assorted literati. I was disappointed that Terry Teachout couldn’t be there. He was in Washington at a meeting of the National Endowment for the Arts. Later in the week, Terry, Malcolm, I and … [Read more...]

Heading For The Hills

This morning, we're going into the Cascade mountains for cross-country skiing. It has the makings of a long day, so further blogging is unlikely. Managing a laptop on the trails is so awkward, not to mention the difficulty of finding a wireless signal or a tree with a phone jack in a national forest at 4,500 feet. … [Read more...]

The Incoming Tide

One of the most satisfying aspects of Rifftides during this first year has been hearing from you. It is gratifying that so many good listeners and fine musicians are on board. Today's postings all come from readers. … [Read more...]

Comment: Webster And Tatum

From Kent, UK, near London, Rifftides reader Don Emanuel writes about this Ben Webster posting. It included mention of four Webster CDs. Thanks for keeping the memory of Ben Webster alive. I know it's all a matter of taste and personal preferences, but how could you miss out the album he made with Tatum, in (I think) 1956 in your recommended Webster albums. I've got dozens of his albums and although Tatum appears to solo under Ben's solos, which you would think would make the recording a … [Read more...]

Comment: Being With Ben

Pianist Jack Reilly writes from New Jersey: One can tell it's Ben after one note out of his horn. I had the honor of touring Norway with him for three weeks in 1971. He was a quiet man before and during the gig. However, after hours he never shut up! It was always about his old boss, Duke. He taught me a great lesson about improvising. He said, "Tell your story in one chorus, man. Don't play chorus after chorus"! He was reluctant and afraid to return to the States because he said all of his … [Read more...]

Comment On Comments About Jake Hanna

Charlie and Sandi Shoemake write from Cambria, California, in response to these comments on Jake Hanna's riposte following the death of John Lennon: Whether your stance on Jake Hanna is that of being appalled like your super politically correct reader Jansen or understood as just a dark comedy aside (which has always been part of the jazz experience) like your reader Lang, one thing remains. That is that Jake Hanna is one of our countrys finest drummers and the possessor of a wit that has been … [Read more...]

Take Five With The Red Cross

The resignation this week of American Red Cross President Marsha Evans stirred up old complaints and doubts about the charity. The former Navy rear admiral was the fourth Red Cross head in six years to walk. The failure of the organization’s Louisiana and Mississippi chapters to get relief to the victims of hurricane Katrina again raised questions about the ability of any Red Cross president to administer effectively. With a huge board that appears incapable of organizing operations or of … [Read more...]

Comment: Wine, Oh Wine

Regarding the posting about Denny Zeitlin, Rifftides reader Dave Berk writes: It was the early seventies, and the Trident was the Sausalito stop for a date, good jazz and some marvelous petrale sole. Ah, but the view...... Well, the visit with Dr. Zeitlin evokes memories of tastings above the California Wine Merchant in the Marina, and listening to Chuck Wagner (the owner of Caymus) "pleading" for one to buy his cab for $100/box. Things are a bit different, now. Yup. Adjusted for inflation, the … [Read more...]

Comment: Ben Webster

Rifftides reader Peter Bergmann in Berlin responded to the posting about Ben Webster. Great Webster. Ben Webster is buried in Copenhagen, close to Kenny Drew with whom he frequently played at the Cafe Montmartre in the 6o's and early 70's. His legacy is alive in Copenhagen - and the rest of Europe. … [Read more...]

That Jake Hanna Story

Jack Tracy’s story about Jake Hanna’s reflexive quip the night he learned of John Lennon’s murder inspired an assortment of responses from readers of the Jazz West Coast listserve. Here is one exchange, courtesy of the JWC list: From: Jeff Jansen Subject: John Lennon Anecdote Is this what jazz people consider humor: celebrating the murder of one musician and wishing for the murders of three more? Oh, yeah I forgot the jazz credo: if it's not jazz, it's not music; and if you don't play … [Read more...]

Teachout Emergent

Many Rifftides habitues also visit Terry Teachout's About Last Night. Indeed, many of you first came here because Terry referred you. As you may know, TT has been in the hospital for several days. I just talked with everyone's favorite arts polymath as he was packing his bag to return home. He will be writing about his ordeal and his prospects when he resumes blogging. Let us hope that will be soon. In the meantime, his About Last Night co-conspirator, Our Girl In Chicago, is holding the fort. … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes

I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.—George Eliot Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness—Maya Angelou … [Read more...]

Comment: Oh Rare Ben Webster

Rifftides reader Bob Walsh writes: Almost every review of GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK has applauded the rich tenor saxophone work of Matt Catingub on the soundtrack. But no one has mentioned that the work owes much to Ben Webster...and that Matt is the son of Mavis Rivers. (I saw them together at the Monterey Jazz Festival in the early 70s.) Good points, especially the one about Ben Webster. I will dodge no opportunity to bring Webster to the attention of people who have not made his … [Read more...]

John Lennon RIP

The following message appeared today on the Jazz West Coast listserve. With all the ink flowing about this being 25 years since John Lennon bought the farm, I must tell you how I heard about it. I was at Dante's jazz club in the San Fernando Valley and the TV set above the bar was on and showing the Monday night football game. The band was on a break. Howard Cosell made his now-notable announcement that Lennon had been shot and killed. It was silent. Then Jake Hanna looked up at the screen from … [Read more...]

Radio Followup (& Florence Foster Jenkins)

John Schaefer, Drew McManus and I had a good time addressing the proposition: to applaud or not to applaud. It was on WNYC Radio's Soundcheck program. The discussion included calls from listeners with intelligent observations. If you missed it, you can listen to it by going to the Soundcheck page on WNYC's website. You'll be able to hear the whole hour or choose individual segments. Following our get-together, John brought on Judy Kaye and Donald Corren, stars of the Broadway play Souvenir, … [Read more...]