Jackson Locked In

One of the things I like about Joe Locke’s new CD, Rev-elation, is that Bob Cranshaw plays acoustic bass on it. Sonny Rollins, for reasons unclear to me, prefers the electric instrument over what I irritate some of my bassist acquaintances by calling the real bass. Cranshaw uses the electric bass when he works with Rollins. He is one of the few players who comes close to persuading me that I’m hearing the real thing when he’s playing electric. Nonetheless, as well as he works that deception … [Read more...]

Heading South

Friday, I leave for Los Angeles to take part in one of Ken Poston’s Los Angeles Jazz Institute extravaganzas, which are packed with music, films about music, discussions of music and a good deal of laughter. This one is called Jazz West Coast 3: Legends of the West. It gets underway this morning and runs four days. Go here for a schedule and registration information. The festival, party—or whatever it is—will bring together major figures of Southern California jazz, including Bud Shank, Herb … [Read more...]

Broadcast Gypsies

Ted O’Reilly, the Toronto broadcaster, answered my flippant question in yesterday’s posting: “Why won’t these broadcast people stay put?” Station owners—all have risen from the sales department, or got their money the old-fashioned way, inheritance—won't let them. An ever-deepening lowest common denominator, combined with a desire for an ever-raising bottom line drives owners to “greater efficiency”, meaning “put in computers serviced by pre-digested content providers”. Greater Efficiency has … [Read more...]

Fred’s Still Ahead, Part One

Responding to the Rifftides posting about the humor of the late bassist Freddie Schreiber, Alan Broadbent relayed a few names that Schreiber invented. Alan was a collaborator with and friend of the wonderful singer Irene Kraal. She is also, regrettably, among the departed. When she was working with Shelly Manne’s band at the Manne Hole in Los Angeles, Freddie would drop in during breaks and run his latest masterpieces past the band. Somewhere, there is a long list of them. Here are a few that … [Read more...]

Fred’s Still Ahead, Part Two

Cal Tjader, Schreiber's boss, was a major fan of his bass playing and of his word play. The drummer and radio host Dick McGarvin sent this recollection. One of the people fond of quoting Freddie Schreiber's classic lines was Cal himself. And it was from him that I first heard them. I met Cal in 1965 when I was working at KVI in Seattle and he would appear at The Penthouse. He'd come off the stand, sit down at my table and say, "So, what did you think of my angular probing lines? How about … [Read more...]

At Last, New Picks

In the right-hand column, under Doug's Picks, you will find our latest recommendations for your listening, viewing and reading pleasure. Enjoy. Your eating pleasure is another matter. We're a little behind in that area, but thinking; always thinking, searching and testing. … [Read more...]

Towering Achievement

Just back from Monterey by way of Seattle, I am ready to crash for—oh, I don’t know, two or three days—but first, I must second what DevraDoWrite posted about the Tower Records staff who made our book signings an agreeable experience at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Here's a little of what Devra wrote about the treatment she and her husband John Levy received for their signing of Men, Women and Girl Singers. We didn’t know these great folks before a week or two ago, and we never asked for any … [Read more...]

Way Stop: Seattle

Making my way home from Monterey, I’m in Seattle for meetings. The city is at its best in the late September sun. People downtown walk around with smiles on their faces, not thinking about the rainy season to come. Many of the hundreds of coffee places have tables on the sidewalk, and the tables are full of sippers watching street life. North of downtown, runners and walkers are six deep on the path around Green Lake. They form one of the world’s great urban parades in a setting like a … [Read more...]

Comment: Desmond and Bird

In Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, I included a long letter from 1949 in which Paul told his father, in precise language, why he did not want to be another Charlie Parker imitator. Two excerpts: The question of to bop or not to bop has been a gnawing one ever since I began working at the Band Box on Monday nites with Howard Keith. Ever since then, I‘ve been in, out, above, beneath, and on the fringes of bop as it is played in San Francisco. And although my playing has … [Read more...]


I've been away. It's been days since I checked into what my ArtsJournal.com colleagues are writing about. Martha Bayles is the movie person, but she's also perceptive on my former calling. I'm probably the one who ought to be writing about the performance of television (and cable) news in the Katrina disaster aftermath. I don't think I could have assessed one embarassing aspect of it more effectively than Martha did in this recent piece. … [Read more...]


It was good weather for jazz in Monterey over the weekend, and the Monterey Jazz Festival was a good place for an author. Leroid David and Pete Leon, honchos at the Tower Records booth on the old fairgrounds, said that the signing session for Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, was the most successful book signing in all the years that Tower has hosted events at Monterey. A record number of folks lined up to buy the book and have me inscribe it. Many thanks to all of the old … [Read more...]

Monterey, Brubeck, Desmond, Stravinsky

I am off to California and a book signing at the Monterey Jazz Festival Saturday afternoon from 3 to 6 pm at the Tower Records booth. See you there, I hope. What book? Glad you asked. It's Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, still available after all these months. Desmond and Dave Brubeck were frequent performers with Brubeck's quartet at Monterey. Dave is not there this year, but I'm looking forward to hearing Sonny Rollins and John Handy, among others. if there is a spare … [Read more...]


A knowlegeable reader has caught me in an error in yesterday's Bill Evans posting. It was John O'Hara, not Robert Benchley, who said of George Gershwin's death, "I don't have to believe it if I don't want to." I have heard the quotation attributed to Benchley so often that I didn't doublecheck it. Let that be a lesson to me. One of the good things about blogging, as opposed to print publishing, is that after the horse has escaped you can get him back into the barn. With a few keystrokes, I am … [Read more...]

Bill Evans: Always On Sunday

Bill Evans died twenty five years ago today. To borrow what John O'Hara said when he heard of George Gershwin’s death, I don’t have to believe if I don’t want to. His music is here through dozens of recordings, but his presence goes beyond aural artifacts. Evans is part of jazz today because he is woven into the concept of nearly every pianist who followed him, and of many who were established when he became an important player in the second half of the 1950s. Indeed, his influence extends … [Read more...]

Justice Douglas And The Trolleys

The town in which I spend most of my time—Yakima, Washington—has several physical attributes that help make it a good place. It has air that cannot be seen, sunshine nearly every day, seasons, mountain views and hundreds of vineyards that produce world-class wines. It has apples, cherries, pears, peaches, plums and apricots in such profusion that the city used to bear the municipal nickname, Fruit Bowl Of The Nation. Several years ago, before we moved here, the slogan was dropped, for reasons … [Read more...]

Two Religions

Tom Stites, a former editor at The Chicago Tribune and The Kansas City Star, also edited the fine magazine Jazz, which published from 1976 to 1981. Jazz featured some of the best writers on the subject, including Dan Morgenstern, Ira Gitler, Tom Piazza, Bob Blumenthal, Leonard Feather, Sy Johnson, Peter Keepnews and Stites himself. The magazine’s approach was serious but not pompous. It avoided the fanzine excesses and shallowness of too much jazz journalism, and it got beneath the surface of … [Read more...]

Freddie Schreiber

Freddie Schreiber was making a mark in Cal Tjader’s quintet when he died, far too young, in the 1960s. I remember him in Seattle in the mid-1950s as an aspiring bassist and an extremely witty man. He struggled to master the instrument, not with notable success. Later, within a period of two or three months, his hard work kicked in and he became a superb player. Tjader told me that he was thrilled to have Freddie on the band. Schreiber's best recording with Tjader was Saturday Night/Sunday Night … [Read more...]


Rifftides reader Eric Bruskin reacts to yesterday’s quote from Bertrand Russell: Was this before or after Yeats put it much more memorably: The best lack all conviction while the worst Are full of passionate intensity ... That is not the only memorable line in William Butler Yeats’s The Second Coming (1921). I wonder whether any poem has had greater effect on observers of the chaos of the Twentieth Century and the early years of this one. It inspired, among other writings, the title of Joan … [Read more...]

Teachout on Armstrong

My ArtsJournal confrere Terry Teachout is writing a biography of Louis Armstrong. If you have read his big biography of H.L. Mencken and his small one of George Balanchine, you know that Terry is a superb chronicler of lives. He is also a skilled musician who understands from the standpoint of musical technique as well as from a cultural perspective why Armstrong was a truly great man. Those qualities of literary and musical accomplishment have coexisted in only one previous Armstrong … [Read more...]


As we all should know by now, there are many Katrina relief scammers attempting to profit from human kindness at the expense of the storm’s victims. Caution is in order before you give to any organization or person about whose credibility and honesty you are not certain. I knew and trusted Allan and Sandra Jaffe, who founded Preservation Hall. They were a selfless couple. Their son Ben, who runs the hall today, was a boy when I left New Orleans, but everything I have learned in checking out … [Read more...]


The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. —Bertrand Russell … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Chronicling Desmond

In today’s San Francisco Chronicle, Jesse Hamlin has an article about Paul Desmond. In it, I am happy to report, he is kind to Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond and mentions that I will be signing copies of the book a week from today at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Hamlin sought out San Francisco musicians who worked with Desmond in his pre-Dave Brubeck Quartet days of the 1940s, and spices his piece with their recollections. Here are two of them: Guitarist Eddie Duran hired … [Read more...]

Aid For New Orleans Musicians

The Jazz Refugee Project in Phoeniz, Arizona, is offering relocation aid for musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The project, set up by the drummer R. R. Phaneuf (aka DrSnazzy), makes this offer: Once you are part of the Jazz Refugee Project, we will help connect you with shelter, food, clothing, and an excellent support network. We will be coordinating benefit concerts across the Phoenix area to help all Jazz Refugee Project participants. Funds from these concerts, along with support from … [Read more...]


Dick McGarvin writes from Los Angeles: Your blog about watching the silent television images of the New Orleans disaster while listening to Miles' recording of "Basin Street Blues" was quite moving. And, having played that recording many times, I could hear it without even taking the album off the shelf. … [Read more...]


Richard Tabnik writes: heard the 'new' bird and diz? amazing...if that had come out 60 years ago, the entire concept of saxophone would be different whew! From the August 8 Rifftides posting: Throughout, Gillespie’s control, range, harmonic ingenuity, melodic inventiveness and time—above all, his time—are breathtaking. In these performances, he and Parker give profound meaning to Dizzy’s frequently-quoted description of Bird as, “the other half of my heartbeat.” To read the whole entry, go here. … [Read more...]