Passings: Dave Carpenter, Ronnie Mathews

Last week, jazz lost two journeyman artists valued for their dependability, versatility and swing. On the west coast, bassist Dave Carpenter died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of forty-eight. Most recently, Carpenter had been in drummer Peter Erskine's trio, which also included pianist Alan Pasqua. A veteran of the Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson and Bill Holman big bands, he also worked with Bill Perkins, Jack Nimitz, Al Jarreau, Herb Geller, Bill Cunliffe, Jan Lundgren, … [Read more...]

Bruce Janu: Sinatra And Sudan

It sometimes takes Rifftides posts a while to catch up with their subjects. On August 22, 2006, I reported the results of research into the matter of a high school teacher who received a lot of attention in 1993 for using Frank Sinatra to punish miscreant students. Sinatra did not come to class to administer the discipline. Bruce Janu, the teacher, made the wayward kids listen to Sinatra recordings. Over the weekend, Mr. Janu, who teaches at John Hershey High School northwest of Chicago, … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Lee And Barbour

The Rifftides post three weeks ago with the video of Peggy Lee's and Frank Sinatra's "Nice Work if You Can Get It" brought so much comment that another Lee installment seems justified. Here she is with her husband Dave Barbour on guitar. The song is Lee's composition "Maňana," a huge hit in 1947. In the current DVD pick (center column), I mention Lee's devotion to Barbour. In this clip, there is more evidence of it, and of the kind of playing that made him one of the great jazz guitarists of his … [Read more...]

Tributes To Bob Florence

Friends and admirers of Bob Florence, including his Limited Edition band, gathered at the Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood on June 15 to pay tribute to the arranger, composer, leader and pianist.. Florence died exactly a month earlier at the age of seventy-five. In Florence's honor, the piano remained silent. A jazz fan and videographer, Mike Kaiser, captured the Limited Edition playing Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge in Florence's arrangement and posted it on the Daily Motion web site. The … [Read more...]

Ernestine Anderson’s Predicament

Around 1955 (I must have been in kindergarten), I went to a concert at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle and for the first time heard Ernestine Anderson. She sang with a big band. I was impressed with the quality of her voice, her phrasing, her time, the lack of gimmickry in her delivery and how she looked in her red gown. A year or so later, when she was in Sweden she recorded with Harry Arnold's band. The long-playing record that resulted, Hot Cargo, was one of the best vocal albums of … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes

Exactly how Anderson keeps her contralto so plush and supple ranks among the sweet imponderables of the art of jazz singing.... she remains an eloquent song interpreter with a broad array of expressive devices at her command. -- Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune, September, 2004 Anderson remains a wonderfully expressive vocalist, able to pierce the emotional core of a lyric with seemingly little effort. -- Mike Joyce, The Washington Post, May, 1999 … [Read more...]

Comparisons Are Not Necessarily Odorous

From time to time, Rifftides readers have suggested that in evaluations of music I should pay more attention to sound quality. Like many musicians and critics, although certainly not all, I concentrate more on the notes than the reproduction. Once when Paul Desmond and I were listening to an ancient LP, I apologized for the scratches. Desmond was no technophobe; he loved the electronic wonders of his time. If he were around now, he would have an iPhone or a Blackberry, an iPod or a Zune--maybe … [Read more...]


Let's all take the weekend off. We deserve it. See you next week, maybe as early as Monday. … [Read more...]

Is It Tatum Or…?

In the 1970s, Red Garland told me about the pianists who influenced him when he was learning. He mentioned Nat Cole, James P. Johnson, Luckey Roberts, Teddy Wilson and Bud Powell. Then he said, Tatum, of course was the master. He was Mr. Piano. The first time I heard a Tatum record--I think it was "Tiger Rag"--I thought it was at least three pianists. Garland was far from the only listener who was convinced that Art Tatum's 1933 recording of "Tiger Rag" was the work of more than one … [Read more...]

Reilly, Chopin And Strayhorn

Recently, I came across this quote: Jack Reilly's music is singular, almost private, and yet it reaches beyond his personal vision. This is music that speaks to the colllective spirit of all mankind - Bill Charlap That led to a search that turned up video of Reilly in a performance that melds Chopin and Strayhorn. His subtle key changes are central to the fun and fascination.             . … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Pianists

When you play music you discover a part of yourself that you never knew existed.--Bill Evans The purpose of art is not the momentary ejection of adrenaline, but rather the lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.--Glenn Gould Sometimes when I sit down to practice and there is no one else in the room, I have to stifle an impulse to ring for the elevator man and offer him money to come in and hear me--Arthur Rubenstein … [Read more...]

Listening Tip: Abene With Kirchner

Saxophonist, composer, arranger, band leader and educator Bill Kirchner is also a broadcaster. For several years, the Jazz From The Archives series has been airing on Sunday nights on WBGO-FM in Newark, New Jersey, just across the river from New York City. It is also heard on the worldwide web. Kirchner is one of several jazz experts who host the program in rotation. His next installment will feature a fellow musical polymath. Here's Kirchner's announcement. … [Read more...]

Correspondence: About LaRosa

Rifftides reader and keen-eared critic Larry Kart writes about the June 15 item below:  Lovely singing by both, but LaRosa will be news to some of us. As it happens, I'm old enough (b. 1942) to vaguely remember him from his Arthur Godfrey days, have heard since then that he was excellent on standards (when I heard him on Godfrey I probably was too young to know what a standard was; besides I couldn't stand AG), and that he had grown as an interpreter over the years. I'd say, in addition to … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: More Good Singing

The Frank Sinatra-Peggy Lee video generated a batch of interesting comments and a lead to a clip featuring Lee and Julius LaRosa, a singer we don't hear much about these days...but should. Points of interest: LaRosa at ease riding on Nelson Riddle's arrangement of a little-known song, and Lee, unaccompanied, swinging the first six notes from a dead stop as she heads into the chorus in "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." We don't get to hear Nat Cole sing or … [Read more...]

How I Conquered Space

Anyone with a large compact disc collection will understand the difficult choice I faced: get rid of several hundred CDs (at least), build a wing on the house to accommodate the collection or find a way to make the existing shelves hold more. The point of desperation was approaching, fast. Then a friend casually mentioned that he had found the solution to his own CD space problem. The answer was vinyl sleeves sold by a company called Jazz Loft. I told him that my concern was not being able to … [Read more...]

Recent Listening, In Brief

James Carter, Present Tense (Emarcy). When he burst onto the jazz scene from Detroit in the early '90s, Carter's virtuosity on an arsenal of woodwinds sometimes overrode content in his music. After a three-year recording hiatus, he reappears with no loss of dazzle and with the benefits of self-editing. Carter mixes original compositions and classics. Highlights: the rhythmic intensity of his flute work on Dodo Marmarosa's "Dodo's Bounce," his reflective gospel coda to a speedy baritone … [Read more...]


Mark Stryker of The Detroit Free Press sent the following comment about the current DVD in Doug's Picks: In honor of your DVD - Sinatra and Peggy Lee. "Ooh." Among all the other good things in this clip: Sinatra's chops. How about that effortless low F at 1:54. Ooh.   … [Read more...]

CD: Jovino Santos Neto

Jovino Santos Neto, Alma do Nordeste (Adventure Music). Based for some years in Seattle, the pianist, flutist and composer returns to his native Brazil and collaborates with eleven of his countrymen. The music is based in the baiãos, forrós, xotes and other rich forms of Northeastern Brazil. It is intensely rhythmic, melodic and full of adventure. Indigenous percussion and stringed instruments meld beautifully with Santos Neto's jazz concepts. Once you've heard Toninho Ferragutti's playing in … [Read more...]

CD: Ed Reed

Ed Reed, The Song Is You (Blue Shorts). His career was derailed by a troubled life, but as he approaches his eightieth year, Reed's second CD confirms that he is a singer who serves the song. Not a great vocal technician, he specializes in phrasing and interpretation that penetrate to the heart and meaning of lyrics. Among thirteen well-chosen songs, the title tune and "Lucky To Be Me" are essential performances. The small band led by Peck Allmond includes Russell George, once a superb bassist, … [Read more...]

CD: Brubeck Brothers

Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Classified (Koch). The band headed by bassist/trombonist Chris and drummer Dan Brubeck is in top form on seven new quartet compositions, an impressive chamber suite and a stirring ensemble version of their father's "Blue Rondo a la Turk." Guitarist Mike DeMicco, pianist Chuck Lamb and the brothers have become one of the tightest ensembles in jazz without losing their sense of surprise, even abandon. When they combine with the Imani Winds for Chris Brubeck's … [Read more...]

DVD: Peggy Lee

Fever, The Music of Peggy Lee (Capitol). This quasi-documentary sketches Peggy Lee's life and career. Its greatest contribution is the use of performance clips, interviews and informal films to create a portrait of a gifted artist whose human warmth matched her talent. She was terrific even in a shampoo commercial. Her first husband, the guitarist Dave Barbour, remained her great love even beyond their divorce. The bonus clip of Lee singing "I Only Have Eyes for You" to Barbour as he accompanies … [Read more...]

Book: Glenn Gould

Katie Hafner, A Romance on Three Legs (Bloomsbury). The story of Glenn Gould's search for the perfect piano allows us to know the great pianist--and great eccentric--a little better. The book is a superb piece of reporting, its subtext a meditation on the compelling nature of music and its ability to inspire obsession. … [Read more...]

News From Romania

Every once in a while, news appears to remind us of the extent to which jazz has become an international art form and field of study. For example: The third annual Romanian Jazz Education Summit will begin July 5, and last until July 10, 2008. All jazz music educators and most Romanian jazz students will attend. As always, the purpose of this summit is to provide intensive/detailed instruction of American jazz education techniques for Romanian educators and students through the assistance of … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Strayhorn and Finegan

Rifftides reader Ian Bradley writes: I have been meaning to write for a while to say how much I enjoy reading Rifftides. I was prompted to write following your two most recent posts on Bill Finegan and Billy Strayhorn. Whilst Glenn Miller's music is often denigrated in jazz circles - criticised for something it never set out to be - I always thought there was lot in there to listen for. I was fascinated to read - in David Hajdu's Strayhorn biography, I think - that Billy Strayhorn had … [Read more...]

A Billy Strayhorn Show

Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington's creative alter-ego, continues to connect with old audiences and find new ones. His music is for everyone, but it is no surprise that Strayhorn's story and songs move the gay community, in which he has become a symbol and icon. The Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles paid tribute to Strayhorn last year near the fortieth anniversary of his death on May 31, 1967. Video of that ninety-minute production is now streaming in full on the internet. … [Read more...]