Freshly Picked

Kindly notice that the right-hand column is populated with new entries in the Doug's Picks category. Enjoy. Postings today will be light, possibly nonexistent. Travel and too much time away have overtaken me. Other duties call. I could use a nap. Or two. … [Read more...]

Bill Evans

Bill Evans would be seventy-six years old today. He died on September 15, 1980 at the age of 51. To borrow what Jim Hall said about Paul Desmond, Bill would have been a great old man. That is an easy conclusion; he was a great young man. Here is a little of what I wrote about him in the notes for the 1997 boxed CD set, The Secret Sessions. The evolution of jazz music as a distinct form of creative expression is contained in only eight decades of the 20th century. The maturing of the art of jazz … [Read more...]

Shirley Horn

By way of his invaluable blog, Terry Teachout has news of the indispensable Shirley Horn. It is not good. Shirley needs cheering up. Please go here for details. … [Read more...]

Curley, not Curly

The Encyclopedia of Jazz, The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz and Ira Gitler's books on bebop spell the name of a famous Charlie Parker-Dizzy Gillespie bassist as Curly Russell. But Jack Tracy informs me that when he was editor of Down Beat, Russell told him that he preferred Curley (his given name was Dillon). Accordingly, I am adding the "e" in the Rifftides posting about the CD called Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945. This is really just an excuse to again … [Read more...]

Glimpsing the Future

Saturday night, following my lecture as jazz scholar-in-residence, I attended the final concert by the students of the Brubeck Institute’s 2005 Summer Colony. The Institute staff invited prominent jazz musicians to select the seventeen colonists by compact disc audition from among the best teenaged jazz musicians in the United States and some from outside this country. Sixteen-year-old alto saxophonist Ben van Gelder came from the Amsterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands. Playing with haunting … [Read more...]

Bookstore Bebop

Well, the book signing at Barnes and Noble in Stockton went fine. We moved a few copies of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond and I signed a batch of shelf copies on which Kathleen Anderson, the store’s lively, intelligent events manager, slapped “Autographed Copy” stickers. “These will go fast,” she promised. Before the signing and as it happened, a combo of talented summer colonists from the Brubeck Institute played. A fifteen-year-old alto saxophonist from Bakersfield, … [Read more...]

Flowing at Yoshi’s

Here in hot Stockton, California (more than a month of daytime temperatures in the nineties or higher, with no relief), the young musicians of the Brubeck Institute’s Summer Colony are learning to be better improvisers. I’ll hear some of them for the first time this afternoon when one of their combos plays at my book signing. The faculty members, who include Ingrid Jensen, Hal Crook and Bart Marantz, tell me that this is a notably gifted bunch of teenagers. This year’s Yoshi’s distinguished … [Read more...]

Joe Williams: And Furthermore…

Devra Hall, aka DevraDoWrite, was Joe Williams’s publicist and close friend. She responded to yesterday’s post. The Joe and Ben story is a great one, and Joel Dorn's account is quite accurate, but I would quibble with one phrase. Joel writes, "But blizzard or not, enough people showed up so that Joe had to perform." For Joe it was never a matter of having to perform; the imperative came from his own desire. If there had been but one person in the house, Joe would have wanted to do his show. If … [Read more...]

Off To See The Colonists

I have had one day at home and in the office following my adventures—Marine and otherwise—on the east coast. This morning, I am flying to Stockton, California. Stockton is the site of the University of the Pacific, home of the Brubeck Institute. I’ll speak at the institute’s Summer Colony for promising young jazz musicians and do two book signings, one at the institute. There will also be a 1 p.m. signing Saturday, August 15, at the Stockton Barnes and Noble store, 4950 Pacific Ave # 319. If … [Read more...]

Joe and Ben In The Blizzard

You may have heard about the new (yes, new) Joe Williams CD. There has been a lot of talk about it. No wonder. In the winter of 1964, Williams had an engagement with a magnificent rhythm section at Pio's a club in Providence, Rhode Island. The weather was so bad that Williams, pianist Junior Mance, bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Mickey Roker were afraid that no one would come. A few isteners did, despite the storm. So did someone else. In the liner notes for Havin'A Good Time, producer Joel … [Read more...]

On Weems Creek, Revisited

A Rifftides reader responds to the posting about Annapolis. Weems Creek: I lived in Annapolis from 1969-1986, with a brief 2-year return to NYC in the late 70s (Memo to self: Thomas Wolfe was right). Managed a record store some of those years on West Street, and still have many friends there, including my oldest continuous friend, who is a tutor at St. John's College; it may have been a sleepy and somewhat shabby town in 1970 compared to today, but I prefer it to Bobo Heaven--when did … [Read more...]

Stars And Stripes Addendum

Regarding my rave review of the Marine Corps Band the other night, if you haven't heard Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" for a while and don't have it in your collection, here is a free refresher course. It's a Real Player download of the entire three-and-a-half minute piece by an unidentified band. They take it a trifle fast, but it has a great piccolo solo and an exhuberant out-chorus...if that's the term. What does this have to do with jazz? Nothing. Please see the About Rifftides … [Read more...]

On The Radio

This afternoon during my Annapolis sojourn, I recorded an hour with John Tegler for his Capitol Conversations show. If you stay up late Friday night, you can hear it on Baltimore's WCBM, 680 AM. The air time is Saturday morning, August 13, at 12:05 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time...five minutes after midnight (9:05 PDT). John is a former Air Force jet pilot, Elliott Lawrence and Woody Herman drummer, band leader, concert producer and veteran radio interviewer. He has an inquiring mind and a finely … [Read more...]

Signing At Hard Bean

This afternoon I will be signing copies of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond at Hard Bean Coffee and Book Sellers in Annapolis. The signing will follow the taping of a 2 PM interview with John Tegler for his Capitol Conversations radio program. Both things will happen at Hard Bean, 36 Market Space, on the downtown Annapolis waterfront. If you're in the area, please come by and say hello. … [Read more...]

An Amazing Discovery

Most people alive are too young to have heard Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker when they were establishing bebop. Most, indeed, were not born. Observers have attempted to describe the excitement of hearing Gillespie and Parker together for the first time, but words cannot convey the abstract wonders of great music. Now, thanks to an astounding new CD, it is possible to hear the fountainheads of bop as World War Two was ending - when they were virtually unknown, when to all but a tiny minority … [Read more...]

On Weems Creek

As I write this, I'm having difficulty keeping my eyes off the scene out the window to the left of my friend's computer. I am spending a few days with a cherished colleague from my TV news days. He and his wife live on Weems Creek, a tributary of the Severn River in Annapolis, Maryland. Every house along this broad creek has a dock, and every dock has at least one boat. I see a place with a sailboat, a speed boat and two kayaks. The houses, the boats behind and the vehicles in front bespeak … [Read more...]


Our reuniting Marines spent yesterday cruising the Potomac, visiting the Korean War, Viet Nam, World War Two and Franklin Delano Roosevelt monuments, then the Washington Navy Yard for a long lunch. One of our 150 guys failed to make it back to the bus following the monuments tour, causing a good deal of concern. "You know, Barry didn't look so good," somebody said. "We'd better check the hospitals." We did. No Barry. A few hours later, Barry showed up at the Marine Barracks at 8th and I, where … [Read more...]

Other Matters

More than a hundred men who were commissioned Marine Corps second lieutenants together a long time ago are gathered at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. We visited the Officer Candidate School on the banks of the Potomac where we spent twelve weeks convincing the Corps that we were good enough to be officers, wondering how we had conquered the fearsome obstacle course, survived the twenty-two-mile hikes with eighty-five-pound field packs, studied late, slept little, and came out of it in … [Read more...]

The Perennial Freshmen

When the Four Freshmen were winning 1950s Down Beat polls as the top vocal group and their recordings were ubiquitous on radios and juke boxes, I was more impressed by their contemporaries, the Hi-Los. The Hi-Los’ mix of voices was richer and more varied, their arrangements more harmonically daring, and the group always sounded as if they were enjoying themselves. I found much of the original Four Freshmens’ work lugubrious. Well, the Hi-Los are no more, but thank heaven for recordings. I have … [Read more...]

Benny Carter

Rifftides reader Martin Fritter writes, I've just discovered Benny Carter's alto playing, which seems of absolutely the highest caliber. Could you recommend some basic discs? With pleasure. This is the best assignment I’ve had in weeks. I envy anyone’s hearing Carter for the first time. He’s one of the great joys of jazz listening—and there is so much of him in so many of his aspects; saxophonist, clarinetist, trumpeter, arranger, composer, leader. There are hundreds of Carter recordings. Even … [Read more...]

Taking Issue

Jim Brown writes about a couple of points with which he takes issue in a recent Rifftides piece, Harmony And History. First, I take great pleasure in sitting in a Starbucks or other small restaurant and hearing QUALITY music in the background (or even the foreground). It appears that Starbucks did a lot to make this practice widespread, and I applaud it. In fact, many of the restaurants that my wife and I patronize for the food have adopted quality jazz as their background. A few years ago, I … [Read more...]

Semper Fi

I am working tonight in an airport hotel. Tomorrow morning, I shall clamber aboard an airplane and head for Quantico, Virginia, and a reunion with a bunch of guys who took their commissions away from the Marine Corps a long time ago. Most of us haven’t seen each other since. Someone told me that our first reunion event is a twenty-mile forced march with eighty-five-pound field packs followed by hors d'oeuvres and white wine. I think it was a joke—the white wine part. While I’m in the … [Read more...]

Port Townsend

I made a one-day trip to the Centrum Port Townsend (Washington) jazz festival over the weekend for a book signing and to hear as much music as I could take in. Copies of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond moved quite nicely, thank you. The music I heard was in the four-hour Saturday afternoon concert in Fort Warden State Park's McCurdy Pavilion (no, it's not named for Roy McCurdy). The opener was bassist Christian McBride's quartet with saxophonist Ron Blake, drummer Terrion … [Read more...]