What Ever Happened To Ron Crotty?

The vacation trip is over. I'm easing out of the driver's seat and back into the saddle. Blogging will resume at a leisurely pace necessitated by rescuing the lawn and garden from two weeks of neglect, paying overdue bills, dealing with an accumulation of telephone messages, and facing the intimidating pile of mail that I hauled out of the post office in a plastic tub the size of the freight containers we saw on trucks on Interstate 5. Well, enough of that; you know what it's like to return from … [Read more...]

Rifftides Encore

The question comes up every now and then. Here's the answer from a posting in the early days of Rifftides, July 12, 2005. Name That Blog Now that you ask, the name Rifftides was inspired by a 1945 Coleman Hawkins piece, "Rifftide." The tune was part of the celebrated 1945 Hollywood Stampede session that included trumpeter Howard McGhee, one of the bebop kiddies Hawk nurtured. Thelonious Monk had played with Hawkins the year before. Monk later recorded the tune and called it "Hackensack" Either … [Read more...]

Out There

The Rifftides staff is still on vacation but headed north and expecting to reach Rifftides World Headquarters sometime early next week. Today's drive was up the California coast on the chain of hairpin curves known as US 1, mere inches from sheer drops into the ocean on one side and the possibility of crushing avalanches on the other. It was beautiful. … [Read more...]

Concord And Fantasy: A Microcosm

When Concord Music acquired the Fantasy, Inc. complex of labels a few years ago, the deal stirred apprehension that records preserving a wide swath of jazz history would disappear into the recording industry black hole known as Out Of Print. Concord took over the Fantasy, Prestige, Riverside, Contemporary and Pablo catalogues. More than three years later, as record companies struggle against the tide of the digital revolution or try to learn to navigate in it, listeners are still concerned that … [Read more...]

Other Places: Gillespie And The Traditionalists

The current subject in Steve Cerra's Jazz Profiles blog is Jack Tracy, a former editor of Down Beat magazine and producer of important records during a yeasty period of Chicago's jazz history. His anecdotes about encounters with musicians include disclosure of an aspect of Dizzy Gillespie's personality that is rarely emphasized. To read it, go here and scroll down to "Jimmy Yancey Memorial." The piece includes a rare photograph reinforcing an essential point … [Read more...]

Communique From Somewhere On Vacation

Being on holiday, as our British friends say, does not preclude a minor post from the road. The first leg of our trip south ended with a drive through the mountains of southern Oregon between Klamath Falls and Ashland. As we negotiated the hills and curves of Oregon Route 66 up and down Mount Parker, we had sunshine, hail, snow and wind, separately and all at once. The accompanying picture was made in less interesting weather. Around every bend was a spectacle, cliffs hanging over us, deep … [Read more...]


The Rifftides staff is on vacation through the end of April. Blogging will be sporadic, if at all, inspired by the immediacy and spontaneity of events, if any. We do not rule out the possibility of reports from the road. … [Read more...]

Bill Evans, Rachmaninoff and Van Cliburn

Mike Harris is the Bill Evans devotee who surreptitiously recorded the Evans trio performances that comprise the music in the eight-disc boxed set Bill Evans: The Secret Sessions. Mr. Harris is a classically trained pianist who, long before he became addicted to Evans, learned to play the works of Sergei Rachmaninoff. In this article for Rifftides, he discloses that Evans, too, was a Rachmaninoff fan. … [Read more...]

Singers, Part 2

The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings (Fantasy). The first CD of the set reissues Fantasy's The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album from 1975 and Improv's Together Again from 1976. It also has two previously unissued songs from the Together Again sessions, "Who Can I Turn To" and a rollicking run through Cole Porter's "Dream Dancing" In which Bennett blends into the end of Evans' solo as if the singer were an extension of the piano. Bennett's delighted laughter at the end of the take … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Shank’s Clay Pipe

Tony Bill writes from Venice, California: CINCO DE MAYO When Bud Shank died on April 2 at 82, there were hundreds of thousands, probably millions, who were reminded of his recordings, concerts and performances. But there were also about a dozen guys who remembered a single, private and magical half-hour of his life...and their own. I met Bud on a boat. He was a sailing pal of my brother, John - a professional skipper who had raced on Bud's boat, Xanalyn. I owned a sailboat, too: Olinka. And in … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Bud Shank After Hours

Jim Wilke, the proprietor of Jazz After Hours, writes: I thought you'd like to know I'm featuring several selections by Bud Shank in each hour of tonight's program. Music ranges from his earliest World Pacific and Pacific Jazz records in the '50s through his latest issued recordings. Please pass the word to others you think would be interested. For a list of the 79 stations that carry Wilke''s syndicated program, go here. If you are in none of their listening areas, you can hear him on … [Read more...]

Singers, Part 1

I've been sampling CDs by singers. For the most part, the CDs are new, but not all of the singers are. As an example, take Jimmy Rushing...please. Jimmy Rushing, The Scene: Live In New York (High Note). Rushing became famous with the Count Basie band of the late 1930s and was with Basie until 1950. The cliché most often applied to him is "blues shouter," and he was a magnificent one. The designation sells him short, though. Rushing was also a superlative singer of standard songs, particularly … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Crow On Ancient Technology

Ethan Iverson's recollection of that quaint piece of audio gear, the reel-to-reel tape recorder, triggered even older thoughts from the eminent bassist and anecdotist Bill Crow. My memories of early equipment go clear back to the Edison cylinder record player. My dad bought one (used) around 1933. It came with a box of cylinders, maybe a dozen, from which I learned a couple of Harry Lauder songs, some vaudeville tunes, and a song called "The Last Long Mile," the lyrics of which I remember … [Read more...]

CD: Kendra Shank

Kendra Shank, Mosaic (Challenge). With her previous CD of Abbey Lincoln songs, Shank firmly differentiated herself from the overcrowded current field of women who declare themselves jazz singers. Mosaic takes her a step further. It elevates Shank into the company of the few singers capable of using jazz skills and values to invest a collection of individual songs with story-telling continuity. That happens in classical recitals of art songs. It is rare in jazz and popular music. … [Read more...]

CD: Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis, Metamorphosen (Marsalis Music). In the decade the saxophonist's quartet has been making music together, this is its most satisfying album. There's the usual dynamism, even aggressiveness, but little of the anger that Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo, Eric Reavis and Jeff "Tain" Watts have sometimes worn on their sleeves. All of the impressive tunes are by band members, except Monk's "Rhythm-a-ning." Even at its most abstract, the playing has buoyancy and lyricism. … [Read more...]

CD:Steven Bernstein

Steven Bernstein, We Are MTO (Mowo!) Trumpeter Bernstein's vision for his Millennial Territory Orchestra runs forward and back, with stops in the 1920s, the future and points between. Inspiration comes from, among others, Fats Waller, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Lennon & McCartney, Preston Jackson (1926) and Ray Charles, with Sun Ra hovering in the background. The melding of tribute and affectionate spoofing includes an irresistible version of the Count Basie staple "Dickie's Dream." … [Read more...]

DVD: Jackie Paris

Raymond De Felitta, 'Tis Autumn: The Search For Jackie Paris (Outsider Pictures). Jackie Paris may be all the evidence we need that talent is not enough. The remarkable singer had a burst of popularity and was adored by the jazz community when bebop was dominant. Then, except for brief reappearances and a few records, he all but sank out of sight. When Paris was old, Raymond De Felitta found him and made a film that tells Paris's story with the passion of a fan and the cool eye of a … [Read more...]

Other Places: Brubeck, Brubeck And Adams

The news from Connecticut is that Dave Brubeck's two-week hospitalization for a viral infection is at an end. The setback made him miss the premiere in California last week of a new orchestral work inspired by Ansel Adams. He and his son Chris had been working on it for a year. Brubeck is back home and back at work, but his doctors felt that a transcontinental trip was not a good idea for a recuperating 88-year-old. In advance of the premiere, Paul Conley spoke with the Brubecks, father and … [Read more...]

The Big Band Thing: New Perspectives

Comments are still arriving about Bill Kirchner's list of recommended big band recordings since 1955. You will find the original item here and followups here. Not all of the comments are coming to Rifftides. As discussions will in the internet age, this one gravitated to other sites. Here is a little of what the unfailingly provocative young composer and bandleader Darcy James Argue wrote on his Secrety Society web site. The thing is, there's an awful lot of bigband music that is important to … [Read more...]

Bud Shank, 1926-2009

Bud Shank's honesty, forthrightness and cheerfulness came through in his playing. Those qualities and his transcendent musicianship were evident to all but those deafened by categorical imperatives having to do with geography, race and style. He lived to be 82, and he worked to the end, one of the great alto saxophonists in jazz. Shank died Thursday night shortly after arriving home in Tucson, Arizona, from Southern California. He had been working on a recording project. Earlier this year, he … [Read more...]

Why Music

The text of a remarkable address is making its way around the internet through the part of the world in which music matters, which is everywhere. Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of the Boston Conservatory's music division, greeted the parents of incoming freshman students. He made the speech in the fall of 2004, but it has taken on new life lately, because of passages like this: I have come to understand that music is not part of "arts and entertainment" as the newspaper section would have … [Read more...]