Blossom Dearie

When Blossom Dearie died at 82 over the weekend, we lost a brilliant musician whose subtle artistry and private nature conspired to limit her popularity. There was nothing about her "teacup voice," as Whitney Balliett described it, or her sophisticated harmonic sense at the piano that could have led to mass adoration. Nonetheless, for decades she was idolized by a substantial base of listeners charmed by her singing and of musicians who admired her integration of vocal performance with … [Read more...]

Troubling Coverups

In the act of playing music, it is impossible to separate the process from the product. Or, it was. In an important piece of journalism, Eric Felten turns a floodlight on the technological airbrushing of live performances in an effort to insure perfection. Felten's Wall Street Journal essay emphasizes that two recent massive public events in the United States masked actual performance. One was the Super Bowl, with Jennifer Hudson singing "The Star Spangled Banner." The other was President … [Read more...]

Hard Bop, Continued

Response to the Rifftides post on hard bop has created a lively discussion. You can read the comments here. In addition to the Savoy CD called Hard Bop that was, more or less, the focus of the piece, the commenters mention or allude to other albums. If you're thinking of expanding the hard bop (if there is such a thing) section of your library, or starting one, here are a few worthy candidates. Other nominations will be accepted in the "Comments" section. The links will take you to Amazon.com … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Hard Bop

Rifftides reader and occasional correspondent Red Colm O'Sullivan writes from Ireland (where else, with a name like that?): And here's another frequently used term that has no meaning whatsoever: "Hard Bop". I have NO IDEA what that MEANS (as opposed to supposed to mean).That brought to mind something I wrote for a 2000 compilation CD on the Savoy label. The two-disc album was called The Birth of Hard Bop. It was made up of music recorded in 1956 by groups under the leadership of Donald Byrd, … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Hendelman, Shaw, Dial-Roche

In a posting a few months ago, I outlined the problem that all who write about music must face: keeping up. Nothing has changed, except that more CDs than ever are stacked throughout the office and music room. A colleague says he told a caller demanding to know when his album would be reviewed that his desktop looked like the Manhattan skyline, "and your CD is on the 44th floor." Following are recommendations for three CDs retrieved from the jewel box skyscrapers.  Tamir Hendelman, Playground … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Aaron Irwin

Aaron Irwin Group, Blood and Thunder (Fresh Sound New Talent). In a tray card photograph, we see the 30-year-old alto saxophonist drinking a glass of milk and looking about eighteen. Irwin's compositions and arrangements have a concomitant freshness about them, and resourcefulness. His writing tends to make his quintet sound bigger. There is no piano; Ben Monder's guitar has the chording assignment. Chris Cheek's tenor sax adds a third melody voice. Both solo with economy and plenty of … [Read more...]

Hank Crawford

Hank Crawford, another of the cadre of Ray Charles saxophonists who went on to their own fame, died on January 29. David "Fathead" Newman and Leroy "Hog" Cooper, Crawford's colleagues in the Charles band, died earlier last month. Crawford's alto, Newman's tenor and Cooper's baritone saxophones were integral to Charles's big band in the 1950s and early '60s.  Crawford's recording and touring bands were among the finest medium-sized groups of the era. Some of his earliest and best work is … [Read more...]