CDs: Recent Listening

Joel Miller, Tantramar (ArtistShare). The Canadian saxophonist and composer, summoning up scenes from his New Brunswick boyhood, pulls off the neat trick of creating pleasant sketches that have depth. The swagger of Miller's tenor sax soloing and the complexity of the intertwining sextet lines he wrote make "Syriana" one of many highlights, the clever writing and allusion to Miles Davis in "Anonymity" another. The CD includes atmospheric vocal touches by Miller and Amelia MacMahon and an … [Read more...]

Dennis Irwin Needs Help

Dennis Irwin, the stalwart bassist of The Vanguard Orchestra and hundreds of recordings, has cancer and no medical insurance. Irwin is fifty-six years old. Friends and admirers are organizing a series of benefits for him, beginning next Sunday following the Super Bowl. It will begin at 10 pm at the Lower Manhattan jazz club called Smalls, 10th Street and Seventh Avenue, just down the street from the Village Vanguard. Musicians are encouraged to sit in. For information, go to this page at the … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Jazz Poetry

The Rifftides discussion earlier this month about jazz and poetry brought this response from Angela J. Elliott in England. Jazz poetry is not dead and it doesn't smell funny either. Well, at least it seems that way in the USA. There appears to still be an interest in it beyond the hip hop and rap idiom. Over here in Blighty I play to jazz audiences who seem to think that the spoken word at a jazz venue means you can't sing. Only at a literary bash can you expect an honest and fair reception. I … [Read more...]

The Bruno Letters, Part 1

A favorite story about Al Cohn: A friend who hadn't seen him for a long time ran into Cohn on the street in New York and said, "Hey, Al, where are you living these days?" "Oh," Al said, "I'm living in the past." I've been having a couple of Al Cohn days. As executor of the estate of Jack Brownlow, last week I was going through things in his house. I came across two thick three-ring binders labeled "Letters" and was surprised to discover that Bruno had saved every letter I wrote him over several … [Read more...]

More About Oscar Peterson

More than a month following his death, tributes to Oscar Peterson continue to materialize. The writer Rick Seifert, who blogs from Portland, Oregon, adds to them with his memories of Peterson. This one is from Seifert's youth in the midwest. I'd venture into Chicago on nasty winter nights to listen to "The Trio," as it was aptly called. No other jazz trio rivaled it. The Windy City venue was the up-scale London House along Michigan Avenue. As the snow gusted and swirled off the lake, pianist … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Ben Webster

In Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of its Makers, I wrote this about the tenor saxophonist Ben Webster: In the beginning his playing was modeled closely on the dramatic, sweeping, even grandiose, style of (Coleman) Hawkins. But over time, Webster pared away embellishments and rococo elements, while maintaining warmth and a big tone, and created a style that with force and clarity appeals directly to the emotions. Or, as the critic Martin Williams put it, Webster became a great … [Read more...]

Other Places: Keith Jarrett And Friends

Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette have stayed together as the Standards Trio for a quarter of a century. How? Why? Associated Press writer Charles J. Gans wondered, and spoke with the three. Here's a little of what Jarrett told him: If you meet the perfect other two people for your needs in a musical jazz situation, why would you force yourself to go around the corner and find two other people to play with? Gans discloses the surprising information that except for one date when … [Read more...]

Other Places: Desmond And Hall Examined

Marc Myers is devoting three days of his excellent Jazz Wax blog to a discussion of the Paul Desmond Quartet with Jim Hall. I have the honor of being his guest discusser. We talk about the RCA Victor recordings and the earlier Warner Bros album of the Desmond quartet. This is a link to the first installment. I was surprised in searching the internet to see that although the individual RCA albums and single-CD compilations are generally available, the box set of the complete recordings is … [Read more...]

Other Places: Teachout On Armstrong

Terry Teachout is making progress on his biography of Louis Armstrong. He just wrote a chapter in three days Take it from a writer; that's blazing progress. He gives a sample on his blog. Among other things, it deals with Armstrong's life on the road and with Henry "Red" Allen, recently a Rifftides subject. To read the excerpt on TT's About Last Night, go here. I am looking forward to that book. … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Compatible Quotes

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. --Martin Luther King, Jr. … [Read more...]

The George Cables Benefit

One year ago, the pianist George Cables gave his listeners a moment of music so vivid that I was moved to write of it, ...he created that rarest of musical experiences, a concert performance that remains in the mind, whole and alive. You may go here to read about that concert. Cables' playing that night was extraordinary, but it was plain to everyone in the audience that he was unwell--drastically underweight, moving to the piano with difficulty. On dialysis for years, he had undergone it that … [Read more...]

Jim Ferguson And Mundell Lowe

Even if I am fighting my way out of a thicket of deadlines, as I am at the moment, when a Jim Ferguson CD arrives, I stop what I'm doing and listen to it. Fortunately for the viability of the exchequer, that doesn't happen often. The most recent Ferguson album came the day before yesterday. The previous one arrived seven years ago. The new CD is Mundell Lowe & Jim Ferguson, Haunted Heart (Lily's Dad's Music). The record company, if that's not too grand a term, is Ferguson's. He is Lily's dad. … [Read more...]

Pete Candoli

Pete Candoli was an iron man in an iron-man calling. He played lead trumpet in the big bands of Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, Stan Kenton, Les Brown, Count Basie, Freddy Slack, Tex Beneke, Jerry Gray, Charlie Barnet and Woody Herman...among others. He became famous as Superman With A Horn in Woody Herman's First Herd of 1945 and '46. Later, he co-led a group with his younger brother Conte. He was a mainstay in the recording studios and on the sound stages of Hollywood. News of Pete Candoli's death … [Read more...]

With A Little Help…

Rifftides Readers sometimes send useful tips. Here are three: Pianist Emil Viklický called our attention to this YouTube clip of him and two other Czech musicians sitting in with Dizzy Gillespie's band in a 1990 concert. In a moment of geographic confusion, Diz introduces them as our "Yugoslav brothers." The other Czechs are saxophonist Jiri Stivin, who plays a startling solo on pennywhistle, and trumpeter Juraj Bartos. Paquito D'Rivera is also aboard, on clarinet and alto. The bassist is John … [Read more...]

Jan Lundgren And Jessica Williams In Concert

It was a piano weekend in apple, wine and snow country in the shadow of the Cascade mountains. Two of the premier jazz pianists of the twenty-first century played here. Fresh from Los Angeles, Jan Lundgren had just recorded for Fresh Sound Records a trio CD of the music of Ralph Rainger. Bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe LaBarbera, who were on the record session, did not make the trip north. The Swedish pianist had one rehearsal Saturday afternoon with Seattle bassist Jon Hamar and Don … [Read more...]

Full Court Press Won For English

Through our Washington, DC, correspondent John Birchard, Rifftides has updated you from time to time on the fight against the Bush administration's attempt to dismantle or downgrade the English language broadcasts of the Voice Of America. Birchard reports that there has been, if not an all-out victory, significant progress. Concerning the battle to keep the English language news division at VOA alive: we won! A two-year battle with our own management ended when Bush signed a budget bill that … [Read more...]

Jazz And The Poet Laureate

In the 1950s and early sixties, there was a vogue for combining jazz and poetry. It wasn't new. Poets as far back as Langston Hughes in the 1920s read their work in collaboration with jazz musicians, usually in the privacy of homes, rarely in public. Thirty years later the idea sprang up again in beatnik pads in San Francisco and New York's East Village, then spread to coffee houses, night clubs, recordings and on at least one occasion, a Los Angeles concert hall. For David Amram's recollection … [Read more...]

Speaking Of Poets…Pete Winslow

As far as I know, Pete Winslow never recorded his poetry, with or without a jazz group, but I played once while he read. Pete and I were in journalism school together at the University of Washington. He edited the campus humor magazine and sometimes wrote poetry for it under the pseudonym Eleanor H. Browning. He was a tall, skinny guy with short hair and horn-rimmed glasses. He often seemed to be smiling, even when he wasn't. This badly reproduced picture from the yearbook will give you an idea … [Read more...]

Roy DuNann Update

Here is part of a Rifftides piece from last March: When I listen to the two-track analog stereo recordings Roy DuNann made for the Contemporary label shortly after the perfection of stereo in the 1950s, I curse the boneheads who, because they could, introduced multi-track, multi-microphone recording. Digital capability then came along with 587-channel mixing boards and made post production a sci-fi adventure that compounded all of the engineering wizards' sins. Red Mitchell was right; simple … [Read more...]

CD: Paoli Mejias

Paoli Mejias, Transcend (PMCD). A gifted 37-year-old percussionist, Mejias has been an admired figure in Latin music for years. Now, like some of his colleagues on this stimulating CD, he is breaking through to a wider audience. Miguel Zenón is on a couple of tracks, another talented young alto saxophonist, Jaleel Shaw, on others. Zenón's rhythm section--Luis Perdomo, Hans Glawischnig and Antonio Sánchez--give strong support, but the fiery Mejias is clearly in charge. … [Read more...]

CD: Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra, A Voice In Time (1939-1952) [Legacy]. The four CDs in this elegant black box begin with "All Or Nothing At All" and end with "I'm A Fool To Want You." They encompass a large percentage of what Sinatra recorded for Columbia and RCA Victor, first as the boy wonder of band singers, finally as a mature solo performer setting standards of musicianship and taste that singers will be trying to meet for decades longer than you or I will be around to listen. … [Read more...]

DVD: Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan Live In '58 & '64 (Jazz Icons). In the earliest of these European concerts, the divine Sarah is girlish and shy. By 1964, she had more confidence on stage and occasionally slid into grand vocal mannerisms. In all cases, she was magnificent, one of the most spectacularly gifted vocalists in history. For a complete Rifftides review of this essential DVD, go here. … [Read more...]

CD: Andras Schiff

András Schiff, Ludwig Van Beethoven, The Piano Sonatas, Vol. V (ECM). This leg of Schiff's journey through the 32 Sonatas finds him in Beethoven's middle period. Of the four included here, those given names as well as opus numbers are the most famous; "The Tempest," "The Hunt" and "Waldstein." The brilliant Austrian plays them with grace, passion and his celebrated touch and dynamic sense. But I find myself going back to the earliest of the set, number 16 in G-Major, for the unexpected treasure … [Read more...]

Book: Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin, All What Jazz (FSG). Perhaps I was too harsh when I called the late British poet and jazz critic a troglodyte. It must be admitted, however, that he found it difficult to say anything favorable about modern jazz without backing into the compliment. "I never liked bop," Larkin wrote. It seemed to me a nervous and hostile music, at odds with the generous spirit of its predecessors. But it had its masters. One of these was Clifford Brown..." Still, even his most wrong-headed … [Read more...]

New Picks

If you go to the right-hand column and scroll down to Doug's Picks, you will find five new recommendations. To browse back through more than a year-and-a-half of recommendations, click on "More Picks" at the end of the current batch. … [Read more...]

Red Allen’s Birthday

Rifftides reader Jim Denham sent a message reminding us that today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Henry Red Allen. Allen was the New Orleans veteran whom in the 1960s the iconoclastic young trumpeter Don Ellis famously called "the most avant garde trumpet player in New York." Ellis is quoted further in a tribute Mr. Denham posted on a web site with the intriguing name of Shiraz Socialist. Mr. Denham's piece is well written, historically accurate and worth reading. It incorporates … [Read more...]