A Film About Jack Sheldon

A Los Angeles man and wife, Doug McIntyre and Penny Peyser, last night premiered Trying To Get Good, a film about the trumpeter, singer and outrageous humorist Jack Sheldon. They and others know that Sheldon is one of the most gifted musicians alive. They hope that the film will help bring him general recognition that he has deserved since the early 1950s. From Gary Goldstein's story in yesterday's Los Angeles Times: The couple spent more than five of their nearly six wedded years cobbling … [Read more...]

Another Great Day

In emulation of Art Kane's photograph Harlem 1958, widely known as A Great Day in Harlem, Great Day photographs have been made in cities all across the United States. Here, by permission of the Art Kane Archive, is the original. © Art Kane Archive Not all of the copycat shots involve jazz. Baseball and hip-hop have also got into the act. The latest jazz entry is Indianapolis, which has produced major musicians including J.J. Johnson, Freddie Hubbard, Slide Hampton, David Baker, Joe Hunt, … [Read more...]

Another Great Day

A Great Day in Harlem http://www.artsjournal.com/rifftides/2006/03/a_great_day_in_harlem_longer_a.html www.artkane.com In emulation of Art Kane's photograph Harlem 1958, widely known as A Great Day in Harlem, Great Day photographs have been made in cities all across the United States. Here, by permission of the Art Kane Archives, is the original. © Art Kane Archive Not all of the copycat shoots involved jazz. Baseball and hip-hop have also got into the act. The latest jazz entry is Indianapolis, … [Read more...]

On The Youth Front

The other night at The Seasons, I heard four nineteen-year-olds and was impressed. One of them, the alto saxophonist Logan Strosahl, has been intriguing me for a couple of years. The others, who comprise The Uptown Trio, were new to me except for the bassist, Jeff Picker, whom I had previously heard with Strosahl. All are beneficiaries of extensive high school jazz education and winners of prizes for excellence, all freshmen at prominent institutions of learning. Strosahl, from … [Read more...]

A Visit To The Black Hawk

 From 1949 to 1963, the Black Hawk was San Francisco's premier jazz club. It presented a cross section of the world's best musicians. Like legions of other fans, I spent some of the most rewarding listening hours of my life being inspired in the Black Hawk's uninspiring surroundings and have written about it frequently. Here are the opening paragraphs of the notes for volume 5 of Shelly Manne and His Men At The Blackhawk. During my years of labor at KGO-TV in San Francisco, I never passed … [Read more...]

Good Old Billy Taylor

Early in his career, pianist Billy Taylor made a difference in jazz by developing an individual approach to the use of chords. His concept fit well with that of the beboppers who in the second half of the 1940s were a new and powerful force in the music. Some swing musicians with open ears and open minds--notably Ben Webster--were also intrigued by Taylor's full-bodied harmonic notions. Taylor arrived in New York in 1942, fresh out of college, a devotee of Art Tatum. In 1944, he went to work … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: The Piano

I think one of the best things you can do, no matter what you play, is to take up piano. Music is based on chord changes and harmonies, and you can get 'em more out of an instrument like piano, where you can hear all the notes at once. --Zoot Sims To me, the piano in itself is an orchestra. --Cecil Taylor I believe in using the entire piano as a single instrument capable of expressing every possible musical idea. --Oscar Peterson  When you look at the keyboard, all the notes are there … [Read more...]

Johnny Griffin Is 80

Tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin recently entered his eighty-first year, still living and playing at full--or nearly full--speed. Martin Gayford today observed Griffin's longevity and vigor in a piece in the British newspaper the Telegraph. Here's an excerpt:   He was described by Richard Cook in his Jazz Encyclopaedia as "the fastest tenorman of them all". He has slowed down a little, but not that much. "I got so excited when I played and I still do," he has said. "I want to eat up the … [Read more...]

Pops With Kaye And Sinatra

George Moore, who runs Dave Brubeck's office, sent this message:   If you are suffering from bruised or broken ribs, PLEASE WAIT TO OPEN THIS LINK.   Then, rummaging around on the internet, I found this companion piece of video. Now, no matter what kind of day you were having, you'll have a better one. … [Read more...]

Industrial Jazz

I'm not sure why it took me so long to find out about the Industrial Jazz Group, but life is full of unintentionally delayed gratification. I'm also not sure why it took me so long to come across Amedei chocolate, Norma Winstone, the writing of James Salter or the psychic rewards of gardening. In any case, Andrew Durkin--the Industrial Jazz Group's leader, pianist and composer-- intrigued me with an e-mail message asking if I would be willing to hear a CD by his band. So that the disc would … [Read more...]

Bob Florence

Bob Florence was best known for his big band arranging, as his Grammy award, thirteen Grammy nominations and two Emmys attest. He died last Thursday at home in Thousand Oaks, California, five days short of his 76th birthday. Florence was also a superb pianist and favorite accompanist of singers. In recent years, in a pan-generational surprise, he hit it off with the adventurous young trumpeter Ingrid Jensen. Florence and Jensen discovered an affinity in a jazz festival after-hours session … [Read more...]


Rifftides reader John Altman writes from London:   Got an email from the British Film Academy (BAFTA) offering AN EVENING OF CHARLIE PARKER. At last, I thought, the elusive video from Canadian TV with Brew Moore and Paul Bley I've been hearing about for years. Opened the email and it was publicising AN EVENING OF CHARITY POKER! Oh well, guess I need new glasses after all!! Proves that the eye sees exactly what it wants to see.   Many of the same letters. So … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Up Jumped Spring, Part Two

It doesn't take much to make me miss New York City. Bill Cunningham of The New York Times is particularly good at it. The other day, I gave you a hint of what spring is like where I am now. Cunningham's latest photo essay takes us to a special part of New York. Thanks to Rifftides reader Mack Parkhill for calling it to our attention. … [Read more...]

Women In Jazz Festival, Second Night

Correspondent John Birchard patrols the jazz precincts of the US capital city for Rifftides. 13th Annual Women In Jazz Festival Kennedy Center, Washington, DC Second Night May 16, 2008 Review by John Birchard Pianist Helen Sung, who won last year's Kennedy Center Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz competition, led off the Friday night event. Heading a quartet that included saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist Richie Goods and drummer Donald Edwards, Sung presented a package of three … [Read more...]

Women In Jazz Festival

Rifftides Washington, DC correspondent John Birchard is attending one of the city's major music festivals. Here is his report on the first night. 13th ANNUAL THE KENNEDY CENTER MARY LOU WILLIAMS WOMEN IN JAZZ FESTIVAL May 15, 2008 Review by John Birchard They tried to find a longer name for the festival. The above is the best they could come up with. But that's the Kennedy Center... big, bulky and institutional. Still, once you get inside that huge marble box, some nice things take place, … [Read more...]

Up Jumped Spring

I took a break from writing this morning and went for a ride with my friend Bianchi Vigorelli (pictured). Here in the lee of the Cascades, it was the first truly hot day of the year. Melted snow is rushing off the mountains, filling the rivers to the tops of their banks, running them fast and muddy, carrying along the occasional downed tree and drowned animal. The Yakima and the Naches are not at official flood stage, but they're getting close. If I lived in one of the low-lying areas nearby, … [Read more...]

Compelling Profile Of A Compulsive

After David Remnick took command as editor of The New Yorker in 1998, he curtailed the late Whitney Balliett's contributions to the magazine, relegated him to writing about celebrities like Barbra Streisand and eventually dropped the pre-eminent jazz writer altogether. Characteristically, Balliett kept quiet about the slight, but he was hurt and humiliated. In their fury, some of his devoted readers unsubscribed and never forgave Remnick. The editor himself is a gifted writer. The Balliettomanes … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes

(Chet) was so sweet when he played, so mysterious. Somehow he was able to express the question mark of life with so few notes. In Italy, we're more sentimental, and we felt that very much. --Enrico Pieranunzi Well, if I could play like Wynton (Marsalis), I wouldn't play like Wynton --Chet Baker … [Read more...]

Chet Baker: Twenty Years

Chet Baker's life of beauty and pain ended twenty years ago tonight on an Amsterdam sidewalk. He may have killed himself. That is unlikely, in my opinion. He may have fallen from his hotel window. He may have been thrown or pushed. Either way, as hard as Baker was on nearly everyone else in his life, he was even harder on himself. Far from the first gifted artist to burn himself out, Chet did it rather slowly compared with Charlie Parker, Bix Beiderbecke, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe. It is a … [Read more...]

On Writing: Compatible Quotes

If I had the speed and fluidity of, say, Terry Teachout, I might have finished a spate of non-Rifftides writing assignments sooner--and a book or two on the side. As it is, there's a good chance that I'll return to blogging this very week.   Learn to write well, or not to write at all.--John Dryden, Essay on Satire Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire … [Read more...]

Whatever Happened To Michal Baranski?

Nine years ago, the clarinetist, improvisational whistler and musical educator Brad Terry hosted in the United States three young musicians he had worked with in Poland. I mean young. Mateusz Kolakowski, the pianist, was thirteen. In this picture from that period, we see him with Terry. Bassist Michal Baranski and drummer Tomek Torres were fifteen. Terry toured the country with them in his old Dodge van, overnighting in RV parks and driveways and playing whenever they could, sometimes in paying … [Read more...]

Sherman’s Forced March

One of the pleasures of my trips to New York has been to drop in to the Waldorf-Astoria during the cocktail hour to hear Daryl Sherman. She has perfect taste in songs, seems to know every good one ever written, plays the piano with a repertoire of satisfying and often surprising chord changes, and sings like an angel. I mentioned the experience in this post early in the life of Rifftides. Well, the rule of all good things has caught up with Daryl and those who became addicted to her at the … [Read more...]

Kenny Barron In Concert

While the staff at Rifftides world headquarters labors over outside writing obligations, Washington, DC correspondent John Birchard fills the gap with his impressions of a concert by a major pianist and his new trio. KENNY BARRON TRIO AT THE KENNEDY CENTER May 3, 2008 Review by John Birchard Any lingering suspicion that jazz is a purely American art form could have been wiped away last night (May 3), as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, presented the Kenny Barron … [Read more...]

The Getaway

Mrs. Rifftides and I spent her birthday far from the madding crowd--and from blogging. We arrived at the Sleeping Lady Mountain Retreat just after a hundred or so conferees had checked out. The sixty-seven enchanted acres on Icicle Creek in the foothills of the Cascades were almost exclusively ours for a day and night. Winter--several feet of it--was still evident on the peaks above us, but down below we had spring and no obligations. We wandered the paths, played horseshoes (badly), climbed … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes

Silence is a source of great strength.--Lao Tzu One of the greatest sounds of them all - and to me it is a sound - is utter, complete silence.--Andre Kostelanetz Choose silence of all virtues, for by it you hear other men's imperfections, and conceal your own. --George Bernard Shaw … [Read more...]