New Picks, Ideal for Summer

Please go to the center column and scroll down to Doug's Picks. There, you will find recommendations for two tenor saxophonists, a pianist who sings (or a singer who plays the piano), a pianist and a poet. Yes, a poet. … [Read more...]

CD:Grant Stewart

Grant Stewart Plays The Music of Duke Ellington And Billy Strayhorn (Sharp Nine). If you like the way Sonny Rollins played the tenor saxophone in 1955, you'll like the way Grant Stewart plays it now. Stewart masters the harmony, phrasing and tone that Rollins applied in Work Time and other albums of his classic Prestige period. The similarity is stunning on "Raincheck" and "It Don't Mean a Thing," but the younger man is not a clone. On ballads including "The Star Crossed Lovers," Stewart … [Read more...]

CD: Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano Us Five, Folk Art (Blue Note). As noted in the Rifftides coverage of the Portland Jazz Festival, the saxophonist's Us Five band is a playground of reaction and interaction among diverse but finely attuned musicians. The ages of the other band members, who include two drummers, no doubt average half of Lovano's. If they provide him inspiration and rhythmic fire, it works both ways. In spirit, the music is based in the post-Coltrane ethos of three decades ago. Lovano's energy, … [Read more...]

CD: Daryl Sherman

Daryl Sherman, Johnny Mercer: A Centennial Tribute (Arbors). So, you think you know all of Johnny Mercer? If you can recite the words to "The Bathtub Ran Over Again" and "Here Come the British," you probably do. Ms. Sherman also sings Mercer's lyrics to better-known songs, "Midnight Sun" and "Come Rain or Come Shine" among them. She accompanies herself and plays piano solos, with assistance from Jerry Dodgion, Wycliffe Gordon, Howard Alden, Jay Leonhart and Chuck Redd. Marian McPartland and … [Read more...]

DVD: Fred Hersch

Fred Hersch, Let Yourself Go (Aha!). This skillful documentary delves into what makes Hersch one of the most distinctive pianists of his generation. It includes generous sequences of his playing and his articulate reflections on music. Among other admirers, his teacher, Sophia Rosoff, discusses the "basic emotional rhythm" that sets Hersch apart. The film also explores Hersch's significance as one of the first major jazz artists to go public about his homosexuality and his infection with the HIV … [Read more...]

Book: Miller Williams

Miller Williams, Time and the Tilting Earth (Louisiana). I have been a committed Williams fan since I first encountered his poetry in the 1960s. This little volume of new poems from late in his career is essence of Williams, a concentration of his brevity, warmth, wisdom, humor and absolute command of his craft. Williams' sense of wonder extends from the inner being to the cosmos. Much of his work suggests that they may be the same thing. … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Sound Judgment

Ted O'Reilly writes from Toronto about the item in the following exhibit: Nice stuff with the DBQ. I agree with your comments about the sound quality especially. It was in the days of Professionals when that was recorded: both musicians (who knew how to play together) and technicians. "Balance Engineers" who could listen to a group play, then simply(!) put THAT sound on the air, or disc usually capturing it with three or four well-placed microphones. I am still in awe of the hundreds of … [Read more...]

Brubeck On The Beeb

YouTube has posted a few excerpts from programs the Dave Brubeck Quartet did for BBC television in 1964. The musical and the black and white video quality are superb. In the first one, I am struck by Brubeck's delicacy at the keyboard and by the fullness of Paul Desmond's alto saxophone sound. The critic Steve Race was the program host. Race interviews Brubeck leading into a feature for bassist Eugene Wright. In the discussion, Brubeck earnestness and shyness are as noteworthy as Wright's … [Read more...]

A.J.’s Take On The J.J.A. Awards

Up to my ears in curricular and non-curricular matters since my return from New York, I may or may not get around to writing more about last week's Jazz Journalists Association awards afternoon. In the meantime, Arnold Jay Smith posted a lively summary on Ted Gioia's blog. In his lead paragraph, he alludes to the demise in the past few months of of several jazz magazines, including Jazz Times, Coda and Jazz Review. In the face of what is fast becoming a debacle of biblical proportions … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: New York

Each man reads his own meaning into New York. --Meyer Berger One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years. --Thomas Wolfe I miss New York. I still love how people talk to you on the street - just assault you and tell you what they think of your jacket. --Madonna I love short trips to New York; to me it is the finest three-day town on earth. --James Cameron It is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal. Its politics are used to … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Grand Central Observer

Grand Central LC

At Grand Central Station, I plop into a chair in a semi-circle of what look like overstuffed maroon leather armchairs, a hard plop; the chair is molded plastic. One of New York's great free shows is underway in the lower concourse, with a cast of thousands. It's the evening commute to the northern suburbs. Many of the commuters are running. The picture doesn't do justice to the activity and energy of the place. "Attention, please. The 5:36 express for Tarrytown, leaving on Track 6 in one … [Read more...]

Marsalises Take Washington

Rifftides Washington, DC, correspondent John Birchard attended last week's descent of several Marsalises on the nation's capital. THE MARSALIS FAMILY GOES TO WASHINGTON By John Birchard Monday, June 15th, 2009, was a day to remember in this capitol city. A jazz-loving First Family welcomed New Orleans' First Family of Jazz to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for an unprecedented session in jazz education. Veteran pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis and his musician sons Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and … [Read more...]

The JJA Awards

The Jazz Journalists Awards ceremony yesterday at the Jazz Standard on New York City's east side was more than three hours of jam-packed activity in a crowded club. The highlight of the afternoon was 90-year-old Hank Jones accepting the Pianist of the Year award. Beautifully dressed, erect, looking 20 years younger than his age and speaking prose as elegantly constructed as one of his solos, he said "This is encouragement to do better," and, "It's just the end of the beginning." There is little … [Read more...]

New York, June, 2009

I like New York in June. I'd like it more if we didn't have heavy rain, with more in the forecast. Umbrellas crowd the streets. People discussing the weather give that "Hey, whaddaya gonna do" New York shrug. Last night at the Tutuma Social Club, Gabriel Alegria and Laurandrea Leguia told me that in Lima, Peru, umbrellas are unknown because it never rains. Lima is their home town. They are New Yorkers now, making a name for their band, blending Peruvian and Caribbean influences with jazz to make … [Read more...]

Anniversary unleashed Rifftides on the world four years ago today. A lot of blogging has gone down since then. See the archives (center column) for a complete history. Here's a section of the first item, posted June 15, 2005, when I was in New York promoting Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond. The Village Vanguard was sold out, full of advance planners and second mortgagers eager to hear Lou Donaldson. We wandered three blocks down the street and found a 1920s garage … [Read more...]

Correspondence: A Niewood Listening Tip

Bill Kirchner alerts us to his latest Jazz From the Archives tonight on the radio and the internet. Recently, I taped my next one-hour show for the "Jazz From The Archives" series. Presented by the Institute of Jazz Studies, the series runs every Sunday on WBGO-FM (88.3). For over thirty years, reed player Gerry Niewood (1943-2009) was a mainstay of the NYC music scene. Not only was he a superb improviser (on soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones, flute, alto flute), but he was an … [Read more...]

Jack Nimitz: 1930-2009

Sometimes fate does not distribute her gifts based on merit. Jack Nimitz never achieved the recognition, popularity or record sales of Gerry Mulligan, Pepper Adams or Serge Chaloff. Nonetheless, he was fully their peer as a baritone saxophonist of the post-bop era. Nimitz died last Wedneday in Los Angeles at the age of 79. From the early 1950s in Washington, DC, with The Orchestra, through the bands of Bob Astor, Johnny Bothwell, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton, Nimitz was a sturdy anchor of reed … [Read more...]

Other Matters: The Real Winifred Stone

If you have read Poodie James, you may remember Winifred Stone. She is the publisher of the newspaper that was important to the development of Poodie's town by the Columbia River and the agricultural region around it. In the story, she is concerned about Poodie's persecution by the mayor. Her paper is important in exposing that injustice. Her character is based on a real person and her newspaper on a real publication. This week, National Public Radio's StoryCorps was in Wenatchee, Washington, … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Wayne Shorter, “All Blues”

Here is Wayne Shorter at France's splendid Vienne Festival in 2003. The other members of his quartet are pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. Added attraction: the wide shots of Vienne's ancient Roman amphitheater.width="440" height="355"> … [Read more...]

“The Future Lies Ahead” (Mort Sahl)

Stan Kenton could be grandiose in his music. Otherwise, for the most part, he was down to earth. In the 1950s following a concert, a reporter asked him, "Mr. Kenton, where is jazz going from here?" "Well," Kenton said, "tomorrow night we'll be in Detroit." That is still the best response I've found to a question that will continue to be asked and can never be answered. Atlantic Records called Ornette Coleman's first album for that label The Shape Of Jazz To Come. A more honest title, it turned … [Read more...]

Find Old Recommendations

Rifftides reader Russ Mitchell asks: Is there ONE place to find ALL of Doug's picks? If there is, I can't find it. They are archived. Follow these (relatively) simple directions: 1. Click on the Archives link in the center column, just below Doug's Books. 2. Scroll 'way down to the heading, Category Monthly Archives. 3. Scroll down past the list of months to the beginning of the recommendations listings. Click on individual months to see the picks. These go back to June of 2006. For picks and … [Read more...]

The News From JazzTimes: It’s True

The following announcement is posted on the JazzTimes web site: Important Message From JazzTimes Management By JazzTimes To our readers and members of the jazz community: JazzTimes has temporarily suspended publication of the magazine and has furloughed the bulk of its staff while it finalizes a sale of its assets. The brand and operation will undergo reorganization and restructuring in order to remain competitive in the current media climate. Print publishing is expected to resume as soon as … [Read more...]

The Jazz Times Dilemma Examined

There is still no confirmation, and no denial, of reports that Jazz Times will go out of business as a print publication. General economic decline, the increasing loss of advertising life blood and the necessity to shrink staffs weaken all magazines and newspapers. Nasty fiscal weather is even more threatening to publications that specialize in cultural affairs. In hard times, support for the arts is likely to top the list of cuts in advertiser, donor and personal budgets. In his blog's Sunday … [Read more...]

Bad Times At Jazz Times

Unconfirmed reports continue to filter out of Silver Spring, Maryland, that Jazz Times magazine's precarious advertising revenue position will force it to cease publication. In his latest post on the matter, my colleague Howard Mandel quotes a recently dismissed Jazz Times associate editor as saying that "it's doubtful the magazine would be able to survive in its present format." To read Howard's posts on the situation, go here. Ira Sabin founded Radio Free Jazz in 1970 as an … [Read more...]

Prez And Pell Correspondence, Illustrated

The story about Dave Pell's restoration of Lester Young's Dolnet tenor saxophone brought a message from documentary producer Ken Koenig and one from Jim Harrod, moderator of the Jazz West Coast listserve. Each of their responses took the form of a photograph. Mr. Harrod sent a copy of a Dolnet ad from an early-1950s issue of the magazine Jazz Hot. From the collection of James Harrod Mr. Koenig took a photograph of Dave Pell with the resuscitated Dolnet, and Lester in the background, at the Los … [Read more...]

56 Years Of Rust: Pell Rescues Prez’s Horn

The following article appeared in the Fall, 2008, issue of the British magazine, Jazz Review. By Doug Ramsey Lester Young drew on Louis Armstrong, Frank Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke and his own genius to create one of the most personal styles in music. In the 1930s he provided an evolutionary step between Armstrong and Charlie Parker. Flying weightlessly over bar lines, Young helped to free the jazz soloist from the arbitrary restrictions of time divisions and showed the way to the rhythmic and … [Read more...]