The Film Music Of Ralph Rainger

The release of a new CD, The Film Music Of Ralph Rainger, is the occasion for my piece in today's Wall Street Journal. Coupled with an article about the contemporary motion picture composer A.B. Rahman, it is headlined, Another Who Has Been Unjustly Forgotten and begins:  For years, Jack Benny opened his CBS radio and television broadcasts with "Love in Bloom." The comedian's violin butchery of his theme song became a running coast-to-coast Sunday night gag. As a result, the piece became … [Read more...]

Meet Ralph Rainger

Rainger was a very good pianist. In 1933, Paramount featured him playing his music in a promotional short subject that included cameo appearances by Bing Crosby and Maurice Chevalier. It ends with superimposed shots of Rainger improvising separate parts simultaneously on three pianos. Sound familiar? Of course, but it was three decades before Bill Evans recorded Conversations With Myself. I wanted to put the film directly into Rifftides, but embedding the clip is forbidden. To see it, click … [Read more...]

Freddie Hubbard Is Gone

Freddie Hubbard died this morning in the Sherman Oaks district of Los Angeles. He was hospitalized there since he had a heart attack on November 26. Hubbard was 70. From the trumpeter's first recording with the Montgomery Brothers in 1958, it was evident that reports coming out of Indianapolis were true: the city had produced a remarkable trumpet player, one who might equal another twenty-year-old, Lee Morgan. After his arrival in New York, Hubbard quickly proved the point. The two were the … [Read more...]

Progress (+ -) Report

My PC-to-iMac conversion project is coming along nicely. I should have the new computer figured out any year now. It will be nice if that year turns out to be 2009.  … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Computers

User, n. The word computer professionals use when they mean "idiot." ~Dave Barry  But they are useless. They can only give you answers. ~Pablo Picasso  Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all. ~John F. Kennedy … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Lester Young

With so little video of Lester Young, every foot of him performing on film is precious. Loren Schoenberg calls attention to a performance by Young that showed up recently on You Tube. Whoever submitted the clip from a kinescope of Art Ford's Jazz Party television program provided no information beyond Young's name. Ray Bryant is the pianist. The bassist is Vinnie Burke, who was on many of Ford's shows. Does anyone recognize the drummer? We catch a glimpse of cornetist Rex Stewart, who does not … [Read more...]

CDs: Bley And Silver

While probing the mysteries of the Macintosh universe and meeting with frustrations, roadblocks and delights (man, this thing is FAST), I have continued to listen. Here are impressions of two of the CDs that have kept me company during my slam-bang self-tutorial and late-night iMac school.  Carla Bley And Her Remarkable Big Band: Appearing Nightly (Watt/ECM). Somehow, this album got by me when it came out in late summer. Since it arrived a few days ago, I've listened to it repeatedly, … [Read more...]

The Bill Evans Christmas Serenade

Christmas week is underway, time to listen to the only vocal performance Bill Evans is know to have recorded. I wish I had thought of posting the audio clip, but full credit goes to Jan Stevens of The Bill Evans Web Pages. Rifftides reader Russ Neff called it to our attention. Click on this link. When you get to the Bill Evans site, click on the word "Here" in the first panel. Prepare to smile. … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Two Violins With “Four Brothers”

All I can tell you about this is that the violinists are Katica Illenyi and Csaba Illenyi.The Hungarian Wikipedia entry did not help me learn more. I only wish that Jimmy Giuffre had heard this version of his best-known composition and arrangement.                Thanks to Bobby Shew for calling this to our attention. … [Read more...]

There Will Be A Brief Pause

Posting will resume after I have spent a little time getting to know my new iMac. After beginning on a KayPro 2 and spending more than twenty years with PCs, I have switched to Macintosh. So far, it is exhilarating, but there is a lot to learn. I feel like the audience in the commercial that announced the advent of the Mac twenty-four years ago.  … [Read more...]

Dave Brubeck, 88 Keys, 88 Years, Another Honor

On Tuesday, Dave Brubeck was inducted into the California Hall of Fame along with eleven others including actors Jane Fonda and Jack Nicholson, fitness maven Jack LaLanne, musician and producer Quincy Jones, chef Alice Waters and -- posthumously -- Theodore Geiss (Dr. Seuss), scientist Linus Pauling, architect Julia Morgan, and Dorothea Lange, the photographer best known for documenting the human toll of the Great Depression. Brubeck turned eighty-eight on December 6. Paul Conley of Capital … [Read more...]

“What? You Know About Leo?”

Shortly after I posted the Doug's Picks selection of Wadada Leo Smith's new CD, Tabligh (see the center column), I was in a meeting with Daron Hagen. I casually mentioned Smith. "What?" he said, full of excitement. "You know about Leo?" It turns out that Hagen, a distinguished composer of operas, chamber music and orchestral works, was a teaching colleague of Smith at Bard College and holds him in high regard. That led to a discussion of one of Hagen's -- and my -- favorite propositions, that … [Read more...]

Frances Lynne

From San Francisco comes news of the death of Frances Lynne, the singer who worked with Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck before there was a Brubeck Quartet. Ms. Lynne went on to sing with Charlie Barnet and Gene Krupa as the big band era wound down. Her first recording, however, was not until 1991 with her husband, John Coppola's band. She and the trumpeter were married for fifty-six years. She was eighty-two years old. Reviewing her CD, Remember, I wrote, "Often discussed but seldom heard, Ms. … [Read more...]

Other Places: Europe

Among Rifftides readers in Europe are the proprietors of three web logs helpful to those who wish to keep up with developments on the continent. Tony Emmerson's Prague Jazz concentrates on music in the Czech Republic. George Mraz, Emil Viklický, Frantisek Uhlir, Gustav Brom, Miroslav Vitouš and a few other Czech musicians are widely known. Emmerson (pictured) writes about them, but he also keeps tabs on the current crop of players known mainly in Eastern Europe. He sometimes stretches the … [Read more...]

CD: Ernestine Anderson

Ernestine Anderson, Hot Cargo (Fresh Sound).    In these 1956 sessions, Anderson's early singing has lost none of its naturalness, musicality or appeal. Her accompaniments by Harry Arnold's big band and Duke Jordan's trio sound equally fresh. I wrote earlier that this was one of the best vocal albums of the 1950s. I am revising that assessment. It is one of the best vocal recordings of the last half of the twentieth century. Sweden's Metronome label originally released this … [Read more...]

CD: Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet, Tabligh, (Cuneiform).  stalwart of the avant garde for nearly four decades, Smith continues at the head of the pack in free jazz. In this set of four moody, barely-structured pieces, the trumpeter frequently evokes late-period Miles Davis. He sometimes takes the horn below its natural range to explore pedal-tone territory that Davis never visited. Pianist Vijay Iyer, bassist John Lindberg and drummer Shannon Jackson have developed an uncanny ability to react to … [Read more...]

CD: Alexander String Quartet

Alexander String Quartet, Retrospections (Foghorn Classics). The ASQ plumbs the seriousness, assertiveness and sense of glee in quartets 1, 2 and 3 of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Wayne Peterson. Peterson draws on inspiration from sources as varied as samba, bluegrass, the bebop of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and predecessors including Bartok and Ives. He integrates those influences in spirit, not letter. Played by the Alexander String Quartet with deep understanding, Peterson's … [Read more...]

DVD: Bobby Shew

The Bobby Shew Story (Skyhigh Films). The great trumpeter talks about his career -- stumbling into a jam session at age fifteen and discovering that he had the gift of improvisation -- deciding to give up studio work: "I realized I was on a chain like a pet monkey" -- the joy of losing his fear of playing incorrectly: "I'm not afraid of sticking my neck out any more." Interspersed with the interview segments are sequences of Shew performing at the Jazz Bakery with the Chris Walden big band. They … [Read more...]

Other Places: Cerra On Feldman

In his Jazz Profiles blog, Steven M. Cerra's stock-in-trade is thorough examinations of the careers of important jazz musicians. His current project is Victor Feldman, the late, astonishingly talented drummer, pianist and vibraharpist. Steve just posted the third of three parts about Feldman. In the first installment, he tells of going to The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, California, in the late 1950s when Feldman was playing piano and vibes with the all-star group led by Howard Rumsey.  As an … [Read more...]

Book: Ted Gioia

Ted Gioia, Delta Blues (W.W. Norton). Those who think that their musical sophistication places basic blues beneath consideration are likely to benefit from Gioia's exhaustive, deeply informative study. He concentrates on Mississippi Delta blues and its heroes including Robert Johnson, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt and B.B. King. Gioia traces the evolution of the blues from the plantation work songs that were also one of the roots of jazz. He is persuasive on the role of economics in driving … [Read more...]

Thanks For The Memory

The research into Ralph Rainger that has kept me more or less hors de combat from Rifftides lately included the not entirely disagreeable task of watching The Big Broadcast of 1938. Film musicals still recycled vaudeville in those days, so what we get is a series of blackouts draped over a flimsy structure called a plot. It's an excuse to see, among other things, a few vintage W.C. Fields bits and hear Martha Raye, a drastically underrated singer. Part of the plot involves Bob Hope's character … [Read more...]

Farewell Service For McKenna

In the Boston Globe, Matt Negrin reports on yesterday's memorial service for pianist Dave McKenna. He includes what one of McKenna's favorite singers said about working with him.  It was like partially singing with an orchestra and floating on air at the same time, because he was buoyant," said Daryl Sherman, who had sung with the pianist since the 1980s, including at his final performance in the Oak Room in New York City's Algonquin Hotel. She called McKenna the "Woonsocket … [Read more...]

Dave McKenna Memorial Service

Rifftides readers in Rhode Island and nearby parts of New England who were friends or admirers of Dave McKenna may wish to attend a memorial service for him today, Sunday, December 7. The pianist, a mainstream jazz powerhouse for decades, died on October 18. He was seventy-eight. The 2 p.m service will be at The St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center, 84 Cumberland Street in Woonsocket, RI, McKenna's home town. His sister, Jean O'Donnell, will sing at the service. Other singers will be Carol Sloane, … [Read more...]