Compatible Quotes: Halloween

'Tis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world. -- William Shakespeare   One need not be a chamber to be haunted;One need not be a house;The brain has corridors surpassingMaterial place.   -- Emily Dickinson   There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin. -- Linus Van Pelt … [Read more...]

Generations Of Tough Guys

Here's a paragraph from the chapter titled "A Common Language" in my book Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of its Makers: Like every art form, jazz has a fund of devices unique to it and universally employed by those who play it. Among the resources of the jazz tradition available to the player creating an improvised performance are rhythmic patterns, harmonic structures, material quoted from a variety of sources, and "head arrangements" evolved over time without being written. … [Read more...]

Correspondence: A Grammy Plea

Not all of the campaigning this month is political. It is not unusual at this time of year to receive from recording musicians suggestions that they be nominated for awards from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. As part of his quest to win a Grammy nomination, the British film composer, band leader and saxophonist John Altman sent the following message: I'm really disappointed. My new CD, The Jazz Soul Of Paris Hilton, has not been nominated for a Grammy. The followup to my … [Read more...]

New Doug’s Picks

The new Picks in the center column concern three pianists, two alto saxophonists, one photographer and a rare Rifftides classical recommendation. … [Read more...]

CD: Roger Kellaway

 Roger Kellaway, Live at the Jazz Standard (IPO). For the pianist's stand at the New York club, he continues his drumerless ways of recent years but, as usual, has plenty of rhythm. He is abetted by guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Jay Leonhart. Vibraharpist Stefon Harris is also aboard, fitting into Kellway's conception of a group modeled on the Nat Cole Trio. Cellist Borislav Strulev makes a moving contribution to Kellaway's "All My Life." The exuberant blowing is on familiar pieces, … [Read more...]

CD: Grace Kelly, Lee Konitz

Grace Kelly, Lee Konitz, GracefulLee (Pazz). Alto saxophonists, one fifteen, the other eighty, on the same wavelength, enjoying one another's company. As I wrote near the time this was being recorded, Ms.Kelly is a phenomenon -- not a precociously talented child, but a complete improvising musician. With Konitz, one of the great individualists in jazz, she is a peer. On the tracks featuring her in duo with drummer Matt Wilson, guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Rufus Reid, she is resourceful … [Read more...]

CD: András Schiff

András Schiff, Ludwig van Beethoven: The Piano Sonatas, Vol. VII and Vol. VIII (ECM). With these CDs, the pianist completes his recording of the cycle of thirty-two Beethoven onatas written from 1795 to 1822. How Schiff's approach to the sonatas compares with the  Beethoven visions of Arthur Schnabel, Sviatoslav Richter, Richard Goode and the many other great pianists who have recorded them is a matter of the knowledge, taste, temperament and ears of the listener. To these ears, he sees into the … [Read more...]

DVD: Bill Evans

Bill Evans, Live '64-'75 (Jazz Icons). We see and hear the most influential jazz pianist after Bud Powell with four versions of his trio in concerts or television appearances in Scandinavia and France. In a slightly disjointed encounter, Lee Konitz is the guest on one tune. Otherwise, Evans is deep in conversation with his sidemen: bassists Eddie Gomez, Chuck Israels and Neils-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: and drummers Larry Bunker, Alan Dawson, Marty Morell and the seldom seen Eliot Zigmund. Much of … [Read more...]

Book: William Claxton

William Claxton, Photographic Memory (Powerhouse). This generous volume has the great photographer's pictures of a few jazz people, including shots of Chet Baker that helped make both of them famous. But here we have full-range Claxton; portraits of personalities as varied in time and occupation as Igor Stravinsky in 1956, Benicio Del Toro in 2001, Ursula Andress in 1962, Spike Lee in 1989 and Vladimir Nabokov in 1961. This survey of Claxton's work, much of it previously unpublished, … [Read more...]

Levinson On Harry James

Although still in his late teens, James was already six-foot-one and weighed 150 pounds. He had a thin waist, no hips, and long skinny legs. To go along with his slinky frame, he had a large, oval-shaped head, a long nose and prominent ears, dark wavy hair, and a pencil-thin moustache. Perhaps his most provocative feature, however, was his deep-set baby-blue eyes--the bluest blue eyes this side of his future band vocalist, Frank Sinatra. He had a high-pitched voice that occasionally squeaked, … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Harry James

This very thin guy with swept back hair...climbed on the stage. He'd sung only eight bars of "Night and Day" when I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rising.--on first hearing the unknown young singer Frank Sinatra I was the only member in the band to be silly enough to put some of those drunken ideas into practice. Amazing what alcohol does for you eh? The only problem with having a great year is it makes you wonder whether you can reasonably expect next year to be the same or whether it … [Read more...]


I wrote that I was looking forward to again hearing Tierney Sutton sing "What'll I Do?" when her next CD comes out. Rifftides reader Ted Lowry, ever alert, points out that I don't have to wait. The song is on her Dancing In The Dark album. I regret the error. Thanks, Ted. … [Read more...]

Peter Levinson, 1934-2008

Peter Levinson, the publicist with a parallel career as a biographer of music and show business figures, died yesterday in a fall in his house in Malibu, California. He was seventy-four. Levinson had been suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, which robbed him of his voice but did not leave him incommunicado. Through the use of a computer capable of converting his typing to speech, he was able to keep working. He had finished a biography of Fred Astaire, which is to be published next spring. He … [Read more...]

The Seasons Fall Festival: Second Report

Wednesday, October 15: Having seen Ernestine Anderson falter and appear confused in a performance a few years ago, I was concerned about this festival appearance. She was now a couple of weeks short of her eightieth birthday. She had just been through a crisis in which she came close to being evicted from her house. Looking frail, she made her way slowly and uncertainly on stage, sat on a chair, took a while to get ready, and gave one of the great concerts of her life. By the end of the first … [Read more...]

The Seasons Fall Festival: First Report

The Seasons Fall Festival ended on Saturday night -- nine days of concerts interspersed with music education for young people. Visiting world-class artists conducted clinics and workshops for more than 1,200 school children from grade school through college. Subtitled "Side-by-Side," the festival brought together jazz, classical and Latin music in The Seasons Performance Hall and the Capitol Theatre in Yakima, Washington. Here are a few brief impressions. Friday, October 10: Eric Alexander … [Read more...]

Cedar Walton Live In Laurel

Rifftides Washington, DC, correspondent John Birchard journeyed out of the district last weekend to hear pianist Cedar Walton and his trio. Here is John's review. Smack in the middle of the mainstream - that's where you'll find Cedar Walton, still creative at the age of 74. The pianist brought his current trio to the Montpelier Arts Center in suburban Laurel, Maryland, on Friday, October 18, for an evening of warmly-received performances. On his way up, Walton worked with a literal who's who … [Read more...]

Other Places: More About Nica

In The New York Times, Barry Singer has an update to the story of the remarkable Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, friend and supporter of major musicians including Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. The Baroness is seen here with Monk in a well-known photograph. She died twenty years ago. Singer writes: A Rothschild heiress, she offered her home to countless jazzmen as a place to work and even live, while quietly paying their bills when they couldn't find work. She chauffeured them to gigs … [Read more...]

Dave McKenna RIP

That grim parade that Bill Crow mentioned a couple of postings ago shows no sign of running out of marchers. The latest major jazz artist to go is Dave McKenna. The pianist died this morning at the age of 78. His family posted the announcement on his web site, which includes a good biography. YouTube has a slew of videos of McKenna playing. This medley of two of his favorite tunes, "Nobody Else But Me" and "I'm Old Fashioned," is a good one to start with.   … [Read more...]

Clax Speaks, Hefti Swings

William Claxton, the master photographer who died a week ago, was a great raconteur. A sample of that side of his personality is available on the internet. In 1988, Terri Gross interviewed Claxton on her National Public Radio program Fresh Air. He discussed his experiences photographing, among others, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. To hear the conversation, go here and click on "Listen Now." As a bonus, listen to Felix Contreras's short biography of arranger and … [Read more...]

Neal Hefti Is Gone

The last thing I want is for Rifftides to become a death watch. Nonetheless, as James Moody says his grandmother once told him, "Folks is dyin' what ain't never died before." Or, to use Bill Crow's words in the subject line of a message today about the arranger, composer and former trumpet player Neal Nefti, "The parade continues." Hefti died at home in the Toluca Lake community of Los Angeles on Saturday, the same day and a few miles from his contemporary William Claxton, the master … [Read more...]

Correspondence: On William Claxton

William Claxton's cover shots appeared on ten CDs produced in Los Angeles by Dick Bank. The photographer's last project for Bank was the cover photograph for the 2006 Andy Martin-Jan Lundgren album How About You? (Fresh Sound).  Bank sent this note following Claxton's death last weekend. I had the idea for the cover to be a trombone (for Andy Martin) resting on top of the piano (for Jan Lundgren). It necessitated Clax getting up on a tall ladder to shoot it. I asked if itwouldn't be safer if … [Read more...]

Other Places: The Guardian’s John Fordham

For more thirty years, John Fordham has been favoring the British public with his finely-honed critiques and observations about jazz. Most of his work has appeared in the newspaper The Guardian, but he is also the author of an entertaining and informative history of jazz. Fordham is a full-range listener with good ears and a writer with an open mind, as interesting on The Bad Plus as he is on Humphrey Lyttleton.  In a flow of 881 words, Fordham's most recent column manages … [Read more...]

William Claxton, 1927-2008

Word has just come in that William Claxton died on Saturday in Los Angeles of congestive heart failure. He was one day short of his eighty-first birthday. With his pictures of Chet Baker in the early 1950s, Claxton established himself as a brilliant photographer of jazz musicians and went on to a career as one of the most admired camera artists in the world. He did incomparable work not only in jazz, but also with a varied array of personalities including Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Igor … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: McCoy Tyner

McCoy Tyner, Guitars (Half-Note). This is one of the most engaging Tyner collaboration projects since he teamed with the late tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker to record Infinity in 1995 and with Wayne Shorter the following year in the session that produced Extensions. For this release, the pianist set up in a studio with stalwart rhythm companions, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jack DeJohnette. He brought in four guitarists -- John Scofield, Bill Frisell, Derek Trucks, Mark Ribot -- and Bela … [Read more...]