Other Places: Guilfoyle On Jazz Education

Ronan Guilfoyle is an Irish jazz musician and educator whose blog, Mostly Music, probes issues that concern working musicians as well as academics in institutions where jazz is taught. Those are often the same people. Increasingly, professional jazz players also teach in jazz schools. In part, that is because they need day gigs to support themselves; it should be unnecessary to convince anyone that for all but a handful of stars, there is little steady employment playing jazz. In part, it is … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Charlie Parker

You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail. - Charlie Parker He had just what we needed. He had the line and he had the rhythm. The way he got from one note to the other and the way he played the rhythm fit what we were trying to do perfectly. We heard him and knew the music had to go his way.... He was the other half of my heartbeat. - Dizzy Gillespie … [Read more...]

Charlie Parker’s Birthday

Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City on this date in 1920. The Rifftides staff debated whether to observe the occasion by publishing a 5000-word essay tracing Parker's musical heritage, analyzing the components of his style and evaluating his influence on several generations of musicians. You'll be happy to know that we decided instead to take Bird's advice in the film below and let his music speak for itself. This is the only known clip of Parker actually playing. In several others he is seen … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Bruno And The Singer

Jack Brownlow has been dead nearly two years, but stories about him keep surfacing. Among his other attributes, the pianist was admired for his harmonic ingenuity, chord placement, taste and timing in accompanying instrumentalists and vocalists. At Brownlow's memorial service in the fall of 2007, drummer Phil Snyder told several stories about his musical adventures with the man known to his friends as Bruno. He forgot to tell one, though, and sent it to share with Rifftides readers. As you … [Read more...]

Prez, Continued

If I had known of Ethan Iverson's conversation with Lee Konitz about Lester Young, I would have included a link to it in the previous exhibit. On his blog, Do The Math, Iverson, the pianist and polymath of The Bad Plus, posts what amounts to a Prez master class with Konitz. The alto saxophonist has been intimately familiar for more than sixty years with Young's early work, so familiar--it turns out--that as he and Iverson listened to the recordings, he could sing along with most of Prez's … [Read more...]

The Prez Centennial

Lester Young was born 100 years ago today and died in his 49th year in March, 1959. Billie Holiday called him the president of the tenor saxophonists. His nickname became Prez, and he called nearly everyone else Prez. There is an endless list of musicians who played as they did mostly because of Young. It includes soloists as various as Parker, Artie Shaw, Paul Quinichette, Paul Desmond, Wardell Gray, Dexter Gordon and Brew Moore, to name a few of hundreds. Moore carried his discipleship so far … [Read more...]

Other Matters: “Hey”

Best moment of the day, ten minutes ago: Coming to the end of a long bicycle ride, I passed a church playground not far from the house. A boy of about three ran out of the mass of children on swings and jungle gyms and yelled, "Hey." "Hey," I replied. "Can you go home?" he said. "I'm going home," I told him. "Can you get your girl friend and come back and play?" She was tempted, but she had just put a pie in the oven. … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Language — “Sophomore”

In the e-mail today came yet another news release using one of the favorite clichés of record company publicists. It announced the release of "the sophomore album" of a young saxophonist. A sophomore is a second-year student at a high school, college or university. You could look it up. The word is not a synonym for "second." The saxophonist's fourth release, I presume, will be his senior album, the fifth his post-graduate album, the sixth his post-doctoral album. Strunk and White's The Elements … [Read more...]

An Elis Regina Trove

The world may have known about it, but I just stumbled upon a rich cache of Elis Regina video clips on YouTube. They come from a 1973 Brazilian television special. The program seems to have been available on a DVD that quickly disappeared from the market. Amazon, CD Universe, Netflix and several other sources say it is currently unavailable and, according to Amazon, "we don't know when or if this item will be back in stock." That is a pity, because in the clips Regina, at age 28, is brilliant in … [Read more...]

Other Places: Sachs’s Revelation

Browsing the works of my fellow artsjournal.com bloggers this morning, I discovered in his blog Overflow a piece by Harvey Sachs that illuminates the condition of American popular culture in the new century. Mr. Sachs, the distinguished biographer of Arturo Toscanini and Artur Rubinstein, recently repatriated to the US after decades overseas. He posted this item nearly two months ago, but it has a long shelf life. Here is an excerpt: I had heard of Michael Jackson, knew that he was an … [Read more...]

Getz Leans In

No one ever accused Stan Getz of phoning in a solo. Not infrequently, however, he gave the appearance of detachment as he played while surveying the audience with eyes wide open. When he closed those cool blue eyes and leaned into a solo, something special was likely to happen. In Italy in 1961, cameras caught an instance of Getz fully committed. Video of the event surfaced not long ago. The tune is Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody 'n You." Ray Brown is on bass, Ed Thigpen on drums. The pianist is Lou … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Stan Getz

You don't rehearse jazz to death to get the camera angles. - Stan Getz A good quartet is like a good conversation among friends interacting to each other's ideas. - Stan Getz The saxophone is an imperfect instrument, especially the tenor and soprano, as far as intonation goes. The challenge is to sing on an imperfect instrument that is outside of your body. - Stan Getz Let's face it--we'd all sound like that if we could. - John Coltrane … [Read more...]

Other Places: Bill Evans And The Laurie of “Laurie”

Over at JazzWax, Marc Myers is conducting a multi-part interview with Laurie Verchomin, the "Laurie" of Bill Evans's famous composition. During the final year-and-a-half of his life, when he was in physical deterioration and creative resurgence, Evans and Verchomin had a romantic and intellectual relationship of depth and intensity. His years of drug addiction had doomed him, and he knew it. She dedicated herself to him in his final months. This is one of the exchanges in the second installment … [Read more...]

What’s New? Bill Holman, Always

Months ago, Bill Kirchner sent a note about examples he was using in one of his New School classes for emerging composers. I set it aside, meaning to enlarge upon it. I just came across the tickler file reminding me. Clearly, my tickler system needs work. Here is Kirchner's message. Where possible, I've added links. Yesterday, I brought some scores/recordings to my New School comp/arr class for the students to check out. Among them were Bob Brookmeyer's "The Nasty Dance" (an undersung … [Read more...]

Rifftides Is Rated: Who Knew?

By way of his splendid JazzWax blog, Marc Myers alerts the Rifftides staff that our little slice of bandwidth gets a bit of notice. In my naiveté, I didn't know there was such a thing as a blog rating service, but Marc points to Invesp Consulting. If you go there, you will see several segments in which Rifftides is rated at or near the top. We follow only Wynton Marsalis and Contemporary Jazz in "The Ultimate Rank," place first in "Top Jazz Blogs By The Number Of Incoming Links," place first in … [Read more...]

Rashied Ali

Rashied Ali, a drummer who applied his advanced technique to free jazz, died today in New York. He was 76. Born Robert Patterson, Ali became a disciple and close colleague of his fellow Philadelphian John Coltrane. He played on some of the most uninhibited recordings of Coltrane's final years, including the astonishing Interstellar Space, a series of free duets. I was on a selection committee for Grammy nominations in 1974, the year Impulse! Records released Interstellar Space. Pianist Billy … [Read more...]

Les Paul

Les Paul, who affected the course of popular music in profound ways, died today at the age of 94. Jazz devotees may remember the guitarist most fondly from the days in the 1930s when he collaborated with Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge and Art Tatum, or his involvement with Jazz At The Philharmonic and a memorable 1944 blues duet with Nat Cole. He went on to star on radio and television, invent equipment, come up with innovative recording techniques and zoom to the top of the pop charts with hit … [Read more...]

Catching Up With John Stowell

John Stowell, Solitary Tales (Origin). The CD's title suits the guitarist, a peripatetic performer who roams the world. I recently heard a musician say, "You never know where he'll show up." Although Stowell often plays with others, some of his most stunning work, as here, is unaccompanied. He alternates acoustic and electric guitars, but when he is plugged in he keeps his amplifier volume low and his attack subtle. The listener is more likely to be involved with the gentle insistence of … [Read more...]

The Jazz Audience

When The National Endowment for the Arts study on Public Participation in the Arts came out a few weeks ago, the survey's bad news about the size of the jazz audience caused ripples of concern. It showed that over a six-year period, the number of Americans attending jazz events dropped to a low of 7.8%. In a population of 301 million, that translates to attendance of 2,347,800 each year at jazz clubs, concerts and festivals. As if that weren't discouraging enough to those worried about the state … [Read more...]

Other Places: Newport Report

The Boston Globe's Steve Greenlee reports from the resuscitated Newport Jazz Festival that he found the weekend's best music in the festival's outlying precincts.  Hiromi (she goes by her first name) started picking out a pretty stride version of "I Got Rhythm,'' but it erupted into a lightning storm that would have stunned Bud Powell. She half-stood and bounced on her feet as she played, her hands a blur. She leaned into the piano and bobbed her head, … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Seikaly, Broom, Glover, Davis-Rollins

As the Alps tower over Swiss villages, stacks of compact discs tower over me. Sampling, auditioning, listening at length when something grabs my ear, I make my way through the CD Alps that surround me. If I live to be 115, which is my plan, there is no possibility of my fully hearing more than a smattering of these discs. Some of the arrivals in the never-ending stream of albums are from veterans, young and old, recording for prominent companies. Many more are by musicians or singers who … [Read more...]

Other Places: Zeitlin At Length

Marc Myers' JazzWax wraps up a four-part interview with Denny Zeitlin, packed with good questions, and answers that give insights into an intriguing man. For decades, Zeitlin has maintained parallel careers as a jazz pianist and a practicing psychiatrist. Myers asked him how empathy plays a role in both pursuits. When I'm doing my most effective work as a musician playing with other musicians, I try to lose that positional sense of self so I can enter their musical world and merge with what … [Read more...]

Louis Armstrong!

Yesterday was Louis Armstrong's 108th birthday, and I forgot to mention it. To make up for that oversight, Rifftides brings you Armstrong in 1958. Pops's singing and playing partner is his pal of 30 years, Jack Teagarden. Louis was 57 years old and playing beautifully on every level -- range, tone and ideas. At 2:41, listen to him turn a little lip bobble into pure gold. The cornetist who kicks things off is Ruby Braff. … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Joe Zawinul

One day I heard a pianist play `Honeysuckle Rose,' ... and I was hooked. I said, `What is that?' He said, `jazz,' which was a word I had never heard, and I asked him to spell it for me. My life was changed after that. - Joe Zawinul I am an improviser, ... I improvise music. Whatever you want to call it all, it is all improvised music. I may capture it and go back and write it down for others, but it was originally improvised. - Joe Zawinul For a white Viennese boy to write a tune that's that … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Weather Report, Birdland

Put aside all of the old arguments about whether this is jazz, jazz-rock, fusion, world music, ethnic music, R&B, funk or something else. The arguments don't matter anymore, if they ever did. This is truly, to borrow Ellington's overused phrase, beyond category. There is no more stunning instance of what rhythm, harmony and harmonics can do for a repeated riff. Joe Zawinul wrote the song. This version of Weather Report is Zawinul at his electronic keyboard arsenal, Wayne Shorter playing two … [Read more...]