Funky Blues: A Charlie Parker Story, Sort Of

I wrote this piece before Katrina sent New Orleans into agony. I almost held it back until the city revives. But that is likely to be years. Because I believe in the indomitable spirit of a place that is a part of my heartbeat and because WDSU's news department is doing the kind of great work it always did in times of crisis, I offer this little recollection of the Crescent City in better times. For a few years in the 1960s, when broadcasting companies still operated both radio and television … [Read more...]

The New Sonny Rollins CD

The new Sonny Rollins CD is out, the one I raved about after I heard the advance a couple of months ago. Rollins is amazing on the title track and "Where or When." Stephen Scott's piano solos, dazzling and capricious, run Sonny a close second. Trombonist Clifton Anderson has a good night, and Bob Cranshaw demonstrates that a great player can give electric bass lines the definition, clarity, and swing of the acoustic instrument. The album is Without A Song: The 9/11 Concert. Rollins plays with … [Read more...]

…With But A Single Thought

The man who created these all-too-human ballets led a life outwardly uneventful, at least by the standards of the best-seller list. He fled the Soviet Union in 1924, settling first in Europe and then in New York City, where he started a dance school and a series of ballet companies. For the rest of his days, he made and rehearsed dances. That was all there was to it, he claimed. Asked on one occasion by a journalist to sum up his life, he replied, "It's all in the programs." —All In The Dances: … [Read more...]

TT And The Blogosphere

As noted here earlier, to his credit Teachout temporarily refitted his Arts Journal About Last Night into a blog clearinghouse on Hurricane Katrina. In the process, he discovered something about this capacious and puzzling new medium. As Hurricane Katrina finally slowed down and Monday lurched to a close, I stopped updating “Live from Katrina” and started thinking about the implications of what I'd been doing for the past two days. On the one hand, nothing could have been less typical of “About … [Read more...]


From a Rifftides reader: Thanks for the postings and links on New Orleans. Teachout's site led me to great info. I'm from New Orleans and most of my family still lives there. Naturally I lost contact during the storm and the WDSU site had the early video and allowed me to see the area where they live. Fortunately most of my relatives evacuated. What a disaster! Thanks again for your concern. … [Read more...]

Morning After

The worst of Katrina has passed New Orleans. Now, flooding is the big concern. With dozens of news organizations and hundreds of bloggers covering the storm and the city's agony, there is little point in my attempting to add much from this distance. Monitoring tells me that my alma mater, WDSU-TV, is doing a good job of continuing updates, as is The Times-Picayune. Here's a recent entry from WDSU's web log: 11:52 a.m.: Evacuees Huddle In Hallways At Chalmette H.S. People who took shelter in … [Read more...]

New Orleans

With Katrina veering only slightly east, moving fast and staring New Orleans in the face, I'm worried about my friends there. We spent eight years in that amazing city and went through many hurricanes. We were there in 1969 for Camille, the one that's being compared with tonight's monster storm. I covered Camille. WDSU-TV was the only station in town with auxiliary power through most of it. I was on the air for something like thirty-six straight hours broadcasting to those who had electricity, … [Read more...]

The Audience and David Liebman

David Liebman, the perpetually searching saxophonist, has been playing festivals all over the world. He emphasizes that he is not complaining, but he is disturbed by the reaction of people attending those high-priced events. If anything concerning the question of communication is at all relevant, it is for me about the degree of successful interaction between band members. Doing this to the best of our abilities is the mechanism for demonstrating our respect for the audience. Miles used to say … [Read more...]

Barron At Bradley’s

Nearly three years ago, I reviewed in Jazz Times a CD that pianist Kenny Barron recorded with bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Ben Riley at Bradley's, the lamented Greenwich Village club. Barron takes "Solar" at a fast clip that does nothing to suppress his development of original melodic ideas or inventiveness in voicings. There's not a cliche to be heard. Drummond aces another solo, Riley and Barron exchange eights and the three go into a long tag ending that culminates in a densely harmonic … [Read more...]

Charles McPherson On Charles McPherson And Others

Mark Stryker's column in today's Detroit Free Press is about the alto saxophonist Charles McPherson. Here's some of what McPherson told Stryker about his school days, when he studied with the pianist Barry Harris, another Detroiter: One day I came home from school and I had my report card, and he asked to see it. I was a C student; I didn't try for anything more than that. He saw the C's and he said, 'You're quite average, aren't you?' I said, 'Well, I'm passing.' He said, 'You can't be average … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: NPR’s Basic Library

Here is the critic A.B. Spellman on Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking Change Of The Century album. A large part of the credit I believe must be given to the rhythm section. Because in Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins you have two Hall of Fame musicians. And this rhythm section again was working with a different kind of sense of accents. You had a strong melodic lead in the bass of Charlie Haden, because without a piano, the bass then has more responsibility for sort of leading the group. The … [Read more...]


Alec Wilder on Irving Berlin's "Puttin' On The Ritz." Berlin keeps you totally off-balance until the fifth bar, where he sensibly lands on a whole note tied to a half note and then whips you with the title phrase in eighth notes. The release, again sensibly, he leaves for the most part unrhythmic. The structure is straight A-A-B-A. It's a marvelous song. Wilder: American Popular Song (Oxford) … [Read more...]


DevraDoWrite is peeved about website inadequacies and excesses and doesn't mind saying so. As an example: Ineffective site search tool – If you do any kind of research, search tools are invaluable. I believe that sites with a lot of content, be they static or ever changing and growing blogs, should provide a search tool specific to that site. On this blog, for example, you can search for Luther Henderson and see a listing of only those posts in which his name appears. Amen to that and all of … [Read more...]

Brubeck at 84

Dave Brubeck, touring at eight-four as if he were twenty-four, is in California—momentarily. Saturday night at eight, he will play in Sacramento at the Radisson Hotel Grove Amphitheater with his quartet (Bobby Militello, alto saxophone; Michael Moore, bass; Randy Jones, drums). A few weeks ago at Carnegie Hall, during the JVC Jazz Festival Newport, Brubeck began noodling one of his introductions designed to mystify his sidemen. It is one thing for a pianist to play an obscure introduction to a … [Read more...]

As for Joe Gilman…

...he has an undergraduate degree in piano and jazz studies from Indiana University, a masters from the Eastman school and a doctorate in education from Sarasota University. There is more on his background here. Gilman, with six CDs under his belt, is a teacher who can do. His albums date back to 1987. One from 1992 has drummer Bob Hurst and Jeff "Tain" Watts as sidemen and the brilliant tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson as guest soloist. In the course of his teaching, Gilman has become an expert … [Read more...]


The Rifftides staff is always glad to hear from you. We direct your attention to the e-mail address in the right-hand column. And we promise that there will soon appear new items in Doug's Picks. … [Read more...]


Today I made a round-trip drive of six hours for an hour-and-a-half meeting that could have been completed in thirty minutes or a twenty-minute conference call. While motoring, I auditioned several CDs that I promised to listen to, only one of which was rewarding. As a result, my blogspiration index is lower than my blood sugar and the level of fuel in my gas tank. That’s low. A good night’s sleep and relief of the temporary hypoglycemia should send me back into action. In other words, there … [Read more...]

Plumming with Schubert

A couple of weeks ago, the Italian plum tree in our little orchard broke off at the base of its trunk and fell over, loaded with hundreds of perfect purple plums. Before the hired man chopped it up and hauled it away to a useful end in someone's fireplace, I harvested the tree's final crop and stashed it in bushel baskets. This evening, I pulled a chair up to the dissecting table in the garden shed, switched on the radio and set to work cutting the plums, removing the pits and putting the halves … [Read more...]


One of my favorite quotations about writing could apply just as well to jazz soloing. No writer ever truly succeeds. The disparity between the work conceived and the work completed is always too great and the writer merely achieves an acceptable level of failure. --Phillip Caputo … [Read more...]

A Benny Carter Story

The Los Angeles drummer and leader Dick McGarvin responded to Benny and Miles with this communique: When Lights Are Low Priced In the early 1990s, I decided I wanted to do WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW with my group. However, all my music books had the one with the Miles Davis bridge. And I didn't have a recording of the correct version so I could take it down off the record. Then I remembered - Benny lives in LA. Why not go to the source? I got out my Local 47 directory and called the … [Read more...]

Benny and Miles

Some time ago, Eric Felten wrote in response to this item about Benny Carter. It's about time that I posted his note and commented on it. Just listening to his playing is a complete post-doctoral course in the power of melodicism in improvisation. Personally, I'm devoted to the session with Ben Webster and Frank Rosolino. When I first heard it I was giddy with the shock that anything so wonderful as a meeting of Ben, Frank and Benny existed. It still leaves me shaking my head. You correctly … [Read more...]

Ave Lucky Thompson

Years before his death at the end of July, disillusionment, indigence, homelessness and mental illness stilled Lucky Thompson’s tenor saxophone. His life began to unravel in the sixties. In the early seventies, he played little, then stopped. Kind strangers who admired his music saw after him in his last years. I never knew Mr. Thompson, never saw him in live performance, but his work reached me from the first time I heard it on Charlie Parker’s 1946 Dial recordings. On “Moose The Mooche,” … [Read more...]


Jim Brown writes from Chicago: I concur that Lucky Strikes and Tricotism are primo Lucky Thompson, and probably his best, but don't forget his very important contributions to Cuban Fire, Johnny Richards fine mid-50's work for the Kenton band. Richards had been around for quite a while by then, but this was his first major work. It may be the one for which he is best remembered, and with good reason. I also like his writing for Adventures in Time. … [Read more...]


Thanks for reminding me about the Phil Woods DVD, and Phil's Quincy Jones CD. I've just ordered both... I noticed them first a few weeks back when I ordered the Bill Holman Live release. BTW, 'Rifftides' has become a daily reference for me. Thanks! Ted O'Reilly Ted O'Reilly is a distinguished Toronto broadcaster and producer. … [Read more...]


Just read your review of Blanchard's set at Yoshi's. I saw the band's last set at Jazz Alley on the 7th. I'm still sorting out my own reaction to the music that evening. Certainly an entertaining show, and really a treat to see Aaron Parks continued growth. Cheers, Bruce Moore Bruce Moore is a photographer in Seattle. You can see some of his images of the Blanchard Band here. … [Read more...]


My recommendation of Bud Guthrie’s Field Guide to Writing Fiction (right column, under Books) did not arise out of whim. Unless you use your computer strictly for, say, logartihmic calculations, you are writing. Now that anyone on the web can decide to be a journalist, editor and publisher, writing with clarity and simplicity is more important than ever. (Don’t do as I do, do as I say.) That responsbility came to mind again today as I was reading Jay Rosen, a professor, gadfly and multiblogger … [Read more...]