LIstening Tip: Mays Plays Gershwin

Pianist Bill Mays and the Oregon Festival of American Music Orchestra will perform George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue tonight. Mays tells Rifftides it will be the full-blown composition that debuted in 1924 with Gershwin as soloist, not the shortened version frequently performed by symphony orchestras. For details, click here. If you happen not to be in Eugene, Oregon, you can hear it live in a web-streaming broadcast on KLCC-FM, Eugene's public radio station, at 8:00 pm PDT, 11 pm EDT. Click … [Read more...]

George Russell, 1923-2009

George Russell died Monday night. Here are some of the facts of his life, outlined by the Associated Press. BOSTON (AP) -- Jazz composer George Russell, a MacArthur fellow whose theories influenced the modal music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, has died. His publicist says Russell, who taught at the New England Conservatory, died Monday in Boston at age 86 of complications from Alzheimer's. Russell was born in Cincinnati in 1923 and attended Wilberforce University. He played drums in … [Read more...]

Kilgore And Frishberg Head East

I am not in the business of promoting night club engagements. Nor do I intend to be. However, this is so rare an event on the east coast, I would hate to think that Rifftides readers in and about New York might fail to hear about it. As a companion unsolicited plug, allow me to call your attention to the most recent Kilgore-Frishberg collaboration on CD, Why Fight The Feeling, their collection of Frank Loesser songs. Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes. I got paid, but I've spent the … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Kuhn, Alexander, Griffin, Assadullahi

Steve Kuhn, Mostly Coltrane (ECM). Kuhn pays homage to John Coltrane, who briefly employed him in 1960 when the pianist was on the doorstep of his career. His tribute encompasses elegiac, earthy and wildly exploratory facets of the great saxophonist. It may remind listeners that, despite a relatively low profile, Kuhn is a major pianist of our time. His grasp of the nature, or natures, of Coltrane's music is evident throughout. His keyboard touch, his fluidity, the flow and density of his … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Wretched Excess On The Language Front

• Overkill word of the day, perhaps the decade: Absolutely. This week on The News Hour on PBS television, nearly every person interviewed began answers to a total of approximately 150 questions with, "Absolutely. " That frequency, from educated people discussing policy issues, is typical at all levels of public and private life. Perhaps we can bring back "yes." • Inapt phrase of the day, perhaps the century: No Problem. Ask for more water in a restaurant and the waiter says, "No problem." Tell … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Larry Bunker’s Dream

Larry Bunker's versatile drumming, vibes playing and skill as an all-'round percussionist put him in demand by jazz players, symphony conductors, film and television studios, and singers. He worked with an array of artists that included Gerry Mulligan, Pierre Boulez, Peggy Lee, Judy Garland, Dizzy Gillespie, Gary Burton and Michael Tilson Thomas. In the mid-sixties, Bunker (1928-2005) took time to fill an ambition. For years, he had dreamed of playing with Bill Evans, and for a year or so left … [Read more...]

Billy Taylor Is 88

Today is Billy Taylor's 88th brthday. It has not gone unnoticed by his publicists that, coincidentally, the piano has 88 keys. Appropriately, they have posted on his web site 88 videos of Taylor playing in a variety of contexts; speaking informatively on CBS Sunday Morning, where for years he did commentary; and being interviewed by Charles Kuralt, Charlie Rose, Charles Osgood and William F. Buckley, Jr., among others. It is worth noting that Taylor and Dave Brubeck have long maintained a mutual … [Read more...]

Russ Freeman In Canada

To those who who knew Russ Freeman or his work it was a source of frustration that he elected during his final years not to play the piano. Freeman died in 2002 at the age of 76. He was part of the west coast jazz scene before it was called that. He worked in Los Angeles in the late forties and early fifties with Howard McGhee, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon and other bop musicians. Then he got famous as the pianist in Chet Baker's first quartet and attracted a following for his inventive work … [Read more...]

Rifftides Recommendations

In the center exhibit under the legend Doug's Picks you will find new recommendations assembled by the Rifftides staff. They include CDs, a DVD and a book. They are by: •A great pianist in the creative burst of his last days •A bassist eschewing hybridized jazz for the straight but not narrow •Another bassist, who sings as well as she plays •A trumpeter at the beginning of what may turn out to be a significant career •A composer with a keen ear, assessing his fellow composers … [Read more...]

CD: Bill Evans

Bill Evans, Turn Out The Stars: The Final Village Vanguard Recordings (Nonesuch). This six-CD box set has kicked up a fuss lately on several blogs and web sites. The great pianist was dying when he recorded it. That knowledge informs the way critics hear the music he made with his trio at the Vanguard in June, 1980. Their arguments about artistic ascent or decline are fascinating. But the music is what matters, and the music is magnificent. This would be an essential item even if the price were … [Read more...]

Time Is The Enemy

The following exchange showed up on the Jazz West Coast listserve today. It was attributed to Bill Crow's book Jazz Anecdotes, although I couldn't find it there. Wherever it's from, it deserves wide exposure. "How late does the band play?" "About half a beat behind the drummer." … [Read more...]

CD: Christian McBride

Christian McBride & Inside Straight, Kind of Brown (MackAvenue). The bassist sets aside his fascination with rock, hip-hop and electronica to cruise the mainstream. He uses only his acoustic bass. The music is latterday bebop, with a few modal tinges. Alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, always impressive, is at a peak here. His unison lines with young vibraphonist Warren Wolf are an attractive element. Eric Reed and Carl Allen are on piano and drums. After nine tracks of hard swinging, McBride picks … [Read more...]

CD: Kristin Korb

Kristin Korb, In The Meantime (KK). In the nature of things, attention will go to Korb's vocals and her glamorous makeover illustrated in the cover shots. Serious listeners will also be drawn to her bass playing. She accompanies herself as she sings with pianist Llew Matthews, saxophonist Bob Sheppard, guitarist Larry Koonse, drummer Steve Barnes and vibist Nick Mancini. She solos impressively on "Ain't Misbehavin'," adapts James Brown's "I Feel Good" to introduce Bob Dorough's "Better Than … [Read more...]

DVD: Philip Dizack

Philip Dizack Quintet Live In Barcelona Featuring Greg Tardy (Fresh Sound). Dizack, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was 20 when he played a club during the 2005 Barcelona Jazz Festival. Fresh Sound Records was on hand with a camera crew to capture a trumpeter with a huge sound, audacity and polished technique tempered by taste and imagination. Pianist Miro Sprague, bassist Pere Loewe and drummer Obed Calvaire appear to be only slightly older than Dizak. Tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy, 39 at the time, … [Read more...]

Book: Graham Collier

Graham Collier, The Jazz Composer: Moving Music Off The Paper (Northway). The title reads like that of a textbook, but this evaluation of the art is accessible to any layman with ears. Contradicting conventional wisdom about some composers, Collier nudges Thad Jones from his pedestal, for instance, and shrugs off Bill Holman with minor praise. He puts in perspective Ellington's habit of borrowing and praises Gil Evans nearly without reservation. Whether or not you agree with Collier, he backs … [Read more...]

Other Places: Twelve By Zeitlin

The newest addition to's "The Dozens" series is Bill Kirchner's recommendation of twelve tracks by pianist Denny Zeitlin. Five of the pieces appear in the new Mosaic compendium of Zeitlin's 1960s trio recordings for Columbia. The others are from single albums, some available, others rare. Typical of Kirchner's keen musician's guidance through the tracks is this evaluation of Zeitlin's "Stonehenge:" This modal burner deserves to be more widely performed. One reason it isn't probably has … [Read more...]

Breakfast Wine: Missing Too Long

Bobby Shew's Breakfast Wine is so rare that it does not appear in the Shew discography on the trumpeter's own web site. Nonetheless, the PAUSA long-playing vinyl album released in 1985 is a highlight not only of Shew's recording career but also of all jazz releases in the last two decades of the twentieth century. I lost my copy of Breakfast Wine in a move, so when I was rummaging through the used LP bin in a Seattle store the other day and came across a pristine copy, I gave a whoop. That … [Read more...]

Other Places: Chinatown/Sax No End

On his web site, Old And New Swingin' Dreams, Bruno Leicht gathers together four versions of "Chinatown, My Chinatown" and its latterday nom de déguisement "Sax No End." The clips run from Fletcher Henderson in 1930 to the Clarke-Boland band in 1967, the Oscar Peterson Trio a year later and, finally, an undated video performance by Clarke-Boland. Along the way, we hear solos by, among others, Rex Stewart, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Johnny Griffin, Sahib Shihab, Ronnie … [Read more...]

JazzTimes Resuscitated

JazzTimes magazine announced today that it will come back to life with an August issue. A post on the magazine's web site says that a Boston company, Madavor Media, has acquired JazzTimes. It describes Madavor as "a market-leading enthusiast publishing and trade-show group." Jazz Times announced in early June that it was temporarily suspending publication. A New York Times report today says that Madavor bought the JazzTimes brand and assets from publisher Glenn Sabin. Sabin's father, Ira, … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Martial Solal

Martial Solal Live at the Village Vanguard (CamJazz). The CD's subtitle is I Can't Give You Anything but Love. In this recital, the French pianist gives his listeners more than love. We get architectural thinking, drollery, daring, virtuosity that includes astonishing mastery of meter, and chord voicings that illuminate like fireworks. Solal was 80 when this was recorded in 2007. His command of the instrument and his intellectual resources were in full operation. He interprets seven standards … [Read more...]

Solal In Action

Here's a look at Martial Solal in performance with a trio in a video pastiche. YouTube does not identify the sidemen, but they appear to be the Moutin brothers, Francois on bass and Louis on drums. … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Apricots and Bechet

It was 97 degrees today and time to get the apricots off the tree. In 2008, the tree produced two apricots. This year, it compensated, loading its branches with huge fruits. Eat your hearts out. Or, better, visit Rifftides World Headquarters and eat an apricot. The two bushels are perhaps a fifth of the tree's output. What does this have to do with jazz? It's summertime. Here's Sidney Bechet. … [Read more...]

Future File: Joan Chamorro

In Barcelona, there is a baritone saxophonist named Joan Chamorro. As might be expected of a young player of his instrument, he is under the spell of Harry Carney, Gerry Mulligan and Pepper Adams. I can find no recordings under his own name, although here and here, Chamorro is listed as a sideman. Jordi Pujol sent the Rifftides staff a message in which he mentioned that this year his Fresh Sound label will release a CD with Chamorro as leader. Based on what I have heard of his playing, that … [Read more...]

Len Dobbin

Len Dobbin, a man of many parts in Montreal, died last night. Among his other roles, over the years Mr. Dobbin was a broadcaster, reviewer, photographer and producer intimately involved in the Canadian jazz scene. For details, go here. Len was a frequent and knowledgeable correspondent to Rifftides. The Rifftides staff will miss him. … [Read more...]

From the Archive: “Rifftide” And Rifftides

(This item originally appeared in Rifftides on July 19, 2005) A Little "Rifftide" Geneology Annie Kuebler, the Mary Lou Williams archivist at the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, gives us further insights into "Rifftide." That is the 1945 Coleman Hawkins recording that inspired the name of this blog. She does not say that Hawkins stole the tune from Williams, only that it is likely to have been lodged in his mind when he played on a little-known record date with Mary Lou a couple of months … [Read more...]

A “Rifftide” Or “Hackensack” Demo

To my knowledge, there is no video of Coleman Hawkins or Mary Lou Williams playing "Rifftide" or "Oh, Lady Be Good" and certainly not "Hackensack," Thelonious Monk's appropriation or adaptation of the line. So, we'll have to settle for Stan Getz and John Coltrane accompanied by Oscar Peterson, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. This was 1960 in Dusseldorf. There are several dubs of this clip floating around the internet. This one has the clearest picture and sound. … [Read more...]