“Boy, Do I Miss Paul Desmond”

Thirty-two years ago today, Paul Desmond bid his girl friend goodbye as she set off for London, urging her to have a good holiday. That was on Friday. He would be fine, he told her; he had friends coming the next day. But his only companion that weekend was the lung cancer that had ravaged him during the past year. His housekeeper found him dead on Monday, Memorial Day. Marian McPartland said, "It's just like Paul to slip quietly away when everyone's out of town, not to bother anybody." Dave … [Read more...]

Bill Mays & Red Mitchell

Bill Mays and Red Mitchell constituted one of the great piano-bass duos of the 1980s. Musicians and dedicated listeners still talk about their gigs at Bradley's in New York's Greenwich Village. Their album Two of a Mind has been out of print for years, although it shows up from time to time on web sites including this one, at prices ranging from high to heart-stopping. In 1982, Mays and Mitchell made two programs that ran on KCET, the Los Angeles public television station. Four pieces from those … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Red Mitchell

Red played the most gorgeous melodic solos of anybody on any instrument. I think maybe he and Lester Young were in the same league. The fact that it was coming out of a string bass was mind-boggling. -- Jim Hall Simple isn't easy. -- Red Mitchell … [Read more...]

Late Ellington

There is little question that the 1940-41 edition of the Duke Ellington orchestra, the so-called Blanton-Webster band, was Ellington's finest. Legions of Ellington lovers have listened to it so often that they can sing along with its arrangements and the solos by Webster, Ray Nance, Johnny Hodges, Ellington and the other members. Still, I've always had a soft spot for the band Ellington took on the worldwide road in the 1960s until shortly before he died in 1974. The musicianship was … [Read more...]

Bases Loaded

Blogging must sometimes take a back seat to gainful employment. I'm roundin' third and headin' home* in one deadline project, an essay and play-by-play account of the music for the Anita O'Day entry in the next Jazz Icons series**. It has been an adventure in research into the two European concerts on the DVD. As soon as that wraps up, I'll begin notes for Bud Shank's final CD, then a piece about Emil Viklický's forthcoming trio CD with George Mraz and Lewis Nash. I may even get in a little work … [Read more...]

Jim Goodwin

Sometime in the final decade of the last century (man, that's beginning to sound like a long time ago) I was on assignment in Portland, Oregon, and dropped into the restaurant of the elegant Heathman Hotel to hear pianist Dave Frishberg and singer Rebecca Kilgore. A cornetist was sitting in with them that night. On the spot, Jim Goodwin became one of my favorite living players of the instrument. His solos had echoes and intimations of Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, Ruby Braff, Max Kaminsky … [Read more...]

Five Recommendations

The Rifftides staff proudly presents the latest assortment of Doug's Picks -- three big bands, a rare Lennie Breau video and the only holdover, a book about Breau to complement the DVD. Please direct your attention to the exhibit in the middle of your screen. … [Read more...]

CD: Darcy James Argue

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam). Can generations nurtured on rock and roll learn to love music by a band configured like one out of the swing era? The answer delivered in this work of imagination, daring and resourcefulness is yes. Argue's textures, harmonies and uses of space and time place him alongside Maria Schneider, Ed Partyka and John Hollenbeck among intriguing young composer-leaders of the new century. His music incorporates funk, spunk and the … [Read more...]

CD: Bob Brookmeyer

Bob Brookmeyer, Music for String Quartet and Orchestra (Challenge). Brookmeyer long since worked himself out of the compulsion to write edgy electronic music and acoustic music that sounds electronic. This gorgeous four-part work finds him in the tonal center of his composer's art. He conducts the formidable Metropole Orchestra and the Gustav Klimt String Quartet in a suite that melds the rhythmic sensibility of Brookmeyer's jazz mastery with his uncommon depth of orchestral understanding. Its … [Read more...]

CD: Bobby Sanabria

Bobby Sanabria, Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Kenya Revisited Live! (Jazzheads). Percussionist, leader and Latin music maven Sanabria puts the MSM band through the exhilirating paces of influential music recorded by Machito in 1957. Machito's Kenya is regarded as one of the milestones of Afro-Cuban music. Sanabria and company do it justice in this tribute concert before an enthusiastic audience. Candido Camero, who was on the 1957 album, is a guest on congas. On "Oyeme," … [Read more...]

DVD: Lennie Breau & Brad Terry

Lenny Breau & Brad Terry Live at the Maine Festival (Art of Life). The genius guitarist and one of Breau's favorite duet partners, clarinetist and whistler Terry, are on camera for "Emily" and "Autumn Leaves" in a 1980 concert. They are heard but not seen for "Limehouse Blues" and "Make Someone Happy." The video quality is subaqueous, but clear enough for you to detect their enjoyment. The sound is okay in the video, excellent in the audio-only portions. The playing is inspired throughout. Bonus … [Read more...]

Book: Lennie Breau

Ron Forbes-Roberts, One Long Tune: The Life And Music Of Lenny Breau (North Texas). Many guitarists consider Breau the world's greatest player of the instrument. In his short life, he left plenty of recorded confirmation that the claim might be true. Forbes-Roberts, himself a guitarist, traces Breau from his beginning as a child phenomenon to a senseless death in his early forties. He does a first-rate job of melding musical substance with Breau's astonishing story. … [Read more...]

Uptown Trio On The Move

A few days short of a year ago, I told you about four 19-year-old musicians worth keeping an ear on. Three of them were the Uptown Trio, who appeared in concert supporting the gifted alto saxophonist Logan Strosahl. I wrote: Anyone keeping a future file would do well to add those names. If these players keep developing at their current pace and intensity, it is likely that we'll be hearing from them. I remarked in the review that pianist Sam Reider, bassist Jeff Picker (his real name) and … [Read more...]

The 2010 NEA Jazz Masters

From a news release just received: May 21, 2009 Washington, DC - The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) today announced the recipients of the 2010 NEA Jazz Masters Award - the nation's highest honor in this distinctly American music The eight recipients will each receive a $25,000 grant award and be publicly honored in an awards ceremony and concert on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center. The eight 2010 NEA Jazz Masters are: Muhal Richard … [Read more...]

Compatbile Quotes: On Masters

We are the masters at the moment, and not only at the moment, but for a very long time to come. -- George Bernard Shaw No art is less spontaneous than mine.
What I do is the result of reflection
and the study of the great masters. -- Edgar Degas
 … [Read more...]

Rifftides Encore: Jazz Dispute

A couple of years ago - maybe it was three - I linked Rifftides readers to a video so clever that it's worth bringing to you again. Now that the staff has mastered the art of embedding, this time you see it right here on our screen; no linking required. When it finishes, you will see links to other creations by the same performer, who, for a reason perhaps known only to him, calls himself "Weeping Prophet." Thanks to reader Paul Paolicelli (his real name) for reminding us of this skillful piece … [Read more...]

Buddy Montgomery Is Gone

We did not intend Rifftides to be an obituary service. It would be simpler to avoid its seeming like one if treasured musicians would stick around. We cannot ignore their passing. The latest loss is Buddy Montgomery, who died today at the age of 79. The youngest of the Montgomery brothers, he outlived guitarist Wes and bassist Monk by many years. Admired among musicians for his creativity as a pianist and vibraharpist, his example affected a number of younger players. The prolific pianist David … [Read more...]

Other Places: On Dizzy And Cheraw

You never know where jazz stories will materialize. This week, one about Dizzy Gillespie's hometown showed up in the travel pages of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The article by Jay Clarke of the Universal Press syndicate makes it clear that Cheraw, South Carolina, has not forgotten about its famous son; far from it. Two excerpts from Clarke's story: Dizzy Gillespie's home no longer exists, but the site has been converted into a small park, decorated with unusual stainless-steel sculptures. One is … [Read more...]

Karrin Allyson At The Seasons

Beginning a west coast tour, Karrin Allyson took her quartet into The Seasons Thursday evening. Alternating between bossa nova subtlety and blues forthrightness, she drew liberally from the Brazilian repertoire of her current Imagina CD, singing in Portuguese and English. She sparkled with delicacy and brightness in Antonio Carlos Jobim classics including "Estrada Branca (This Happy Madness)," "Double Rainbow" and "Desafinado." She displayed her Kansas City roots in "Some of My Best Friends are … [Read more...]

Department Of Unlikely Coincidences: Moon Love

Driving home following the Allyson concert (and a fine hang over a good glass of Washington wine), I turned on the radio. The classical station was playing Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. As I crested a hill, there was the full moon, filling half the sky. At that moment, the orchestra reached the horn arietta in the second movement, the one that inspired Andre Kostelanetz to steal from Peter Ilyitch and write "Moon Love." In the video clip below, Leonard Bernstein conducts the Boston Symphony … [Read more...]

A Bud Shank Memorial

Ken Poston of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute sent information about the tribute later this month to Bud Shank. The great alto saxophonist and flutist died on April 2. The Bud Shank Memorial Concert is scheduled to take place May 23rd at 7:00pm at The Four Points Sheraton at LAX 9750 Airport Blvd. It's happening during the upcoming "A Swingin' Affair" festival but will be free and open to the public. Numerous musicians are performing, including Bud's original rhythm section: Claude Williamson, … [Read more...]

Listening Tip: A Sudhalter Program

Bill Kirchner continues his Jazz From The Archives series on WBGO-FM, Newark, (88.3) and the internet with a show about a musician frequently mentioned on Rifftides. Here's his announcement. Musician/author Richard Sudhalter (1938-2008) wrote (in the first case, co-wrote) three landmark books: BIX: MAN AND LEGEND, LOST CHORDS, and STARDUST MELODY. He also was a fine jazz cornetist in the Bix Beiderbecke/Bobby Hackett mold. As a musician, he had wide-ranging stylistic interests and was … [Read more...]

How To Raise A Daughter

Paul Paolicelli and I got to be friends hanging out at professional meetings when we were television news directors. We were both trumpet players and found more to talk about than the state of journalism, which in the 1970s and '80s was already a little soft around the edges. Come to think of it, so was the jazz business. Paul still runs a TV news operation, in North Carolina, and has a blog on his station's web site. This morning he responded to the "Giant Steps" piece below by referring me to … [Read more...]

“Giant Steps” At 50

John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" is the harmonic steeplechase generally regarded as the most significant - at least the most prominent - milestone on the tenor saxophonist's path out of bebop on his way to what he called a universal sound. Difficult as the fact may be to absorb for those still bowled over by the freshness and complexity of what Coltrane did with the piece, he made his stunning recording of "Giant Steps" 50 years ago today. To put the lasting impact of his accomplishment in … [Read more...]

It’s For Your Own Good

You may have been wondering why, to submit a comment to Rifftides, you are asked to type in a box two words like these samples. A curious and, possibly, irritated reader asked, Isn't it funny when they want you to type in the words at the bottom - it's like a "TEST" to see if you can make them out? Why don't they make it easy for us? Why is that? We can't cheat. We are on our own computers. That is so funny isn't it? It's not so funny if spammers grab your e-mail address and plague you with … [Read more...]

Other Places: Charlap On Improvisation

Last Friday, Leonard Lopate of WNYC radio in New York invited Bill Charlap to drop by the studio where Lopate does his Please Explain program and talk about how jazz improvisation works. Seated at the piano, Charlap spoke clearly about the raw materials of music and showed what jazz players do with them in the act of creation. He used "These Foolish Things" and the blues as his demonstration models. Lopate, a personification of the inquiring mind, asked good questions. He reached a couple of … [Read more...]