Other Places: Detroit & Philly Basses

The Detroit Jazz Festival is playing this Labor Day Weekend. One reason the four-day event is subtitled "A Love Supreme: The Detroit-Philly Connection" is the powerful legacy of bassists from those cities. In a sidebar piece leading up to the festival, Mark Stryker of The Detroit Free Press writes about their importance. If it weren't for Detroit and Philadelphia, the history of modern jazz would be a lot shorter and a lot less hip. These two meccas are so similar in substance, style and the … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Bix Beiderbecke

One of the things I like about jazz, kid, is I don't know what's going to happen next. Do you? -- Bix Beiderbecke Finally Beiderbecke took out a silver cornet. He put it to his lips and blew a phrase. The sound came out like a girl saying 'yes'. -- Eddie Condon ...and all of a sudden Bix stood up and took a solo and I'm telling you those pretty notes went all through me.-- Louis Armstrong … [Read more...]

Diversion: Marimba Queens Meet Insane Bassist

Rifftides reader David Peterkofsky inquired about modern-day jazz marimba players. In the course of searching, I ran across a 1940s soundie with marimbists galore. This has little to do with jazz, but it's an opportunity to see a bass player who makes Chubby Jackson seem catatonic.    As for Mr. Peterkofsky's question, Bobby Hutcherson, Stefon Harris, Dave Samuels, Cal Tjader, Mike Mainieri, Emil Richards and Gary Burton have all used marimba as well as vibes. If readers have leads to other … [Read more...]

CDs: Michael Weiss, Ryan Kisor

Michael Weiss, Soul Journey (Sintra). Michael Weiss has been a pianist to follow since his impressive 1986 debut recording, Presenting Michael Weiss. As his career rolled out in work with Art Farmer, Johnny Griffin, Lou Donaldson, Tom Harrell and other major leaguers, Weiss's talent as a composer became increasingly apparent. His writing received high-profile recognition when he won the 2000 BMI/Monk Institute Composers Competition grand prize for "El Camino." That is one of the pieces in … [Read more...]

Johnny Griffin Memorial Tribute

Readers in and around New York City may be interested in this announcement sent by Michael Weiss. CELEBRATING JOHNNY GRIFFIN: A TRIBUTE IN WORDS AND MUSIC Reminiscences from fellow musicians, family and friends. Johnny Griffin's compositions performed by Johnny's longtime rhythm section (Michael Weiss, John Webber and Kenny Washington) with Eric Alexander. Additional performances by Jimmy Heath, Cedar Walton, Ray Drummond and Ben Riley. SEPTEMBER 14, 2008, 7 p.m. St. Peter's Church 619 … [Read more...]

Bix Beiderbecke: Overrated?

The recent Rifftides item about the continuing medical needs of Bix Beiderbecke biographer Richard M. Sudhalter brought interesting comments about both men. You can read it and the comments here. The piece stimulated a correspondence with Paul Paolicelli, blog reader, fellow survivor of the news business and former lead trumpet player. Leaving out parts concerning unproved and unprovable allegations about Beiderbecke's personal life, here are key parts of the exchange, which expanded with a … [Read more...]

Speaking Of Armstrong…

...Fellow artsjournal.com blogger Terry Teachout has the kind of news every author welcomes. To share it, go here...and be sure to watch the celebratory video of Terry's subject in glorious action. Congratulations, TT. I know how good it feels. … [Read more...]

Other Places: John Coltrane, Bud Shank

John Coltrane In the August 21 Wall Street Journal, Nat Hentoff tells of a New York second grade teacher, Christine Pasarella, who uses John Coltrane as a classroom role model in her work of drawing out the intelligence of her students. He reports Mrs. Pasarella saying that when she played Coltrane's recordings... "...the children were drawn to the range of feelings in the songs as I gave them the backgrounds of the compositions. "'Alabama,' for example, was about Martin Luther King and … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Perez, Brookmeyer, Lundgren, Gardner

Rifftides World Headquarters has welcome summer visitors and resounds with telecasts of Olympics events. Nonetheless, the staff makes time for listening. We don't award medals, but here are brief impressions of four recent CDs that placed high with the judges. Danilo Perez, Across The Crystal Sea (EmArcy). Inevitably, this collaboration of the pianist with Claus Ogerman recalls Bill Evans With Symphony Orchestra (1965), which Ogerman also arranged. More than half of the themes come from … [Read more...]

Jazz & Film Animation: A Brief, Sketchy History

Film animation married to jazz improvisation goes back to the 1930s and the advent of sound films. This collaboration of the cartoon figure Betty Boop and the real Louis Armstrong is one of the most famous early examples. Social sensitivity was not a consideration. In 1949, the art advanced--or at least changed--dramatically when two Canadians, painter Norman McLaren and pianist Oscar Peterson, got together. They made Begone Dull Care, in which McLaren painted and otherwise altered the surface … [Read more...]

Other Places: Paul Bley Speaks

Last month,  Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, named pianist Paul Bley a member of the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honor. The official announcement cited him for "his contributions as a pioneering figure in avant-garde and free jazz, and for his influence on younger jazz pianists."   Bley was at the center of changes in jazz in the late l950s. The Canadian pianist has continued for half a century as an instigator of transformation. At the same time, he has … [Read more...]

Your New Recommendations

The Rifftides staff is pleased to announce that the new Doug's Picks are on display in the center column. Your comments are invited and treasured...and usually posted.   … [Read more...]

CD: Miles From India

Miles From India (Times Square). Producer Bob Belden wound up a monumental series of Miles Davis reissue box sets for Sony/Columbia, then he and fellow arranger Louiz Banks turned to interpreting the trumpeter's immense output of recordings after 1959. This two-CD set considers the intersection of Indian music with Davis's adventures in scales and modes from Kind of Blue forward. Belden laid down the initial tracks in India, later adding soloists in New York. Among the players are sidemen from … [Read more...]

CD: Norma Winstone

Norma Winstone, Distances  (ECM). The British singer places the purity of her voice, intonation and phrasing in the spare setting of Glauco Venier's piano and Klaus Gesing's soprano sax. Winstone's songs include that rarity, a successful vocal version of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," and pieces by Cole Porter, Eric Satie, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Peter Gabriel. She uses her artistic range to bring disparate compositional styles into a collection not unlike a suite. Winstone comes close to … [Read more...]

CD: Johnny Griffin & Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis

Johnny Griffin & Lockjaw Davis, Live in Copenhagen (Storyville). The hard-charging tenor saxophonists worked in tandem for twenty-six years. This 1984 club date at the Montmarte club two years before Davis's death is typical of the unremitting swing and visceral excitement of their live appearances. The rhythm section is pianist Harry Pickens, bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Kenny Washington, in his mid-twenties and formidable. Griffin's blues "Call It Whatcha Wanna" is a highlight in a set … [Read more...]

DVD: Joe Zawinul

Joe Zawinul: A Musical Portrait  (ArtHaus Musik). This well crafted documentary offers generous helpings of Zawinul's music while outlining his life and philosophy. Zawinul's luxurious existence in Malibu during his final years ("I have everything I want in life") contrasts with a visit to his boyhood home in Vienna and his account of surviving an Allied bombing in 1944. The sequences featuring the last edition of The Zawinul Syndicate illustrate his charisma and power as a … [Read more...]

Book: Wildly Irish

Dick Wimmer, The Wildly Irish Sextet (Soft Skull Press). Following the elemental Seamus Boyne (Irish Wine: The Trilogy) into the genius painter's old age, Wimmer cuts his creation no senior citizen slack. Boyne is wilder, more famous and more self-centered than ever. Still, he manages to maintain his loved ones' and the reader's affection as he rampages through New York, Westchester, Long Island and much of Ireland. You wouldn't want him as a house guest, but he's a great drinking buddy. … [Read more...]

Herb Geller, Activist

At eighty, Herb Geller is playing alto saxophone even better than when he was a key jazz figure in the 1950s and '60s. He is performing not with the gravity of Brahmsian old age but with full vigor. Nor has he lost the force of his convictions, witness this political song for which he wrote words and music. In the interest of fairness, the Rifftides staff searched long and hard on the internet for John McCain campaign music to balance Geller's Obama production. It seems that no jazz artist … [Read more...]

Bix And Dick

A British company is releasing a two-CD package tracing Bix Beiderbecke's influence on musicians of his era. Proceeds from sale of the set will be devoted to medical care of Dick Sudhalter, a musical descendant of Beiderbecke and his greatest biographer. Sudhalter is in bad health with MSA (muscular system atrophy) and getting worse. He needs help. From the Jass Masters news release: The CD set contains a number of tracks that are being re-issued for the first time since their original release … [Read more...]

Other Places: A Newport Report

It is now called the JVC Jazz Festival, but it still takes place in Newport, Rhode Island. If the festival no longer has the jazz purity of its beginnings in the 1950s, at least it has survived. It continues to include major jazz artists among the tangential pop figures who attract the big crowds that pay the bills. In today's Boston Globe, Steve Greenlee summarizes the two days of Newport and evaluates the highlights as if he were scoring Olympic events. Gold medal: Sonny Rollins. The … [Read more...]

Rollins On Rollins

In an interview a few days before the Newport performance, Rollins told Rick Massimo of the Providence Journal why he has kept bassist Bob Cranshaw in his band for more than four decades... ...because he maintained the fixed portion of it, and that would allow me to extemporize freely and the song would still be maintained. It was a contrast; if he had the fixed part, then I could go into all of my wild dreams. ...and why he rarely works with pianists. At the risk of alienating my … [Read more...]

Correspondence: About Wellstood

The Frishberg, Sullivan, Wellstood item in the next exhibit brought quick responses from two men who knew Wellstood well. The first was Ted O'Reilly, the Toronto broadcaster who produced a few Wellstood recordings. Wellstood was one of the brightest men I ever met, never mind how great a pianist he was. And great he was, and not afraid to play the way he did: as a stride/swing player in the bop era, and do it so well! (I've thought of him as the Ruby Braff of the piano...) I think I made more … [Read more...]

Frishberg, Wellstood and Sullivan

Dick Wellstood has been on my mind. Maybe it's because I heard Dave Frishberg play the piano the other night at The Seasons. Frishberg was in concert singing his inimitable songs and accompanying himself, but he opened up plenty of space for piano solos. Before he became famous for performing his songs, Frishberg worked with Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Ben Webster, Jack Sheldon and Carmen McRae, among other demanding leaders. He was, and is, a versatile and idiosyncratic pianist who wraps several jazz … [Read more...]

Recent Listening, New and Old

New: Torben Waldorff, Afterburn (ArtistShare). The Danish guitarist accomodates his early rock leanings to absorption with expansive jazz of the kind that thrives in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and is spreading around the world. Waldorff, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin and pianist-organist Sam Yahel are leaders among the articulate standard bearers of the movement. They play off one another with fiery inventiveness and with grace that allows the music to breathe. Bassist Matt Clohesy and … [Read more...]

Other Places: Bill Holman At Length

In his JazzWax, Marc Myers has a fascinating four-part interview with Bill Holman. I'm no enthusiast of transcribed verbatim interviews, but Myers's introductions, questions and production values make the format work, and in the great arranger he has a subject whose articulateness and wit carry the reader along. Two excerpts: I used to think that writing a jazz arrangement was like stream of consciousness, the same as a jazz solo. You just started playing and built on what you just played. … [Read more...]

Michael Weiss Remembers Johnny Griffin

Weiss & Griffin 1

Long before he won the Thelonious Monk Institute Composers Competition in 2000, Michael Weiss established himself as a pianist. Fresh out of Dallas in his early twenties, he was soon working with Jon Hendricks, Junior Cook, Charles McPherson and Lou Donaldson, among others. He went on to play with Art Farmer, George Coleman, Frank Wess, Slide Hampton, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Following his Village Vanguard debut as a leader in 2006, The New York Times noted that Weiss was "a confident … [Read more...]