Other Matters: Keats

Following the Compatible Quotes entry two exhibits down, several Rifftides readers -- literate bunch that you are -- responded extolling the grandfather of all autumnul rhapsodies of the past two centuries. By popular request, here it is. ODE TO AUTUMN John Keats (1795-1821) SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run; To bend with apples the moss'd … [Read more...]

Indian Summer

Indian Summer is glorious in this precinct of the northern hemisphere. Skies are cloudless. The mountains stand out crisply on the horizon. Daytime temperatures are in the 80s and 90s, dropping to the high 40s at night. That makes for red apples and great wine crushes in the vineyards. The fine weather also makes for happy cyclists. On my velocipede tour of the valley today, the meteorological perfection brought to mind the song Victor Herbert named for this season. A web search unearthed more … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Autumn

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. 
-- George Eliot Then summer fades and passes and October comes. We'll smell smoke then, 
and feel an unexpected sharpness, a thrill of nervousness, swift elation, a 
sense of sadness and departure.
-- Thomas Wolfe When an early autumn walks the land and chills the breeze and touches with her hand the summer trees, perhaps you'll understand what memories I … [Read more...]

Anschell & Jensen Agreed More

Yakima, Washington The recent CD by pianist Bill Anschell and soprano saxophonist Brent Jensen is called We Couldn't Agree More. The title is inaccurate. In an intimate concert last weekend at The Seasons, they were in even greater agreement, with more daring and more complexity. The duo's approach is to play well-known tunes without well-known routines; no arrangements, no obvious statement of melody, no predetermined tempos or key signatures. They call on their experience, ears and reflexes. … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Hubbard’s “Stardust”/”Body And Soul”

In this video clip, bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen introduces Freddie Hubbard, who chooses the verse of one imperishable ballad to set up the chorus of another, to NHOP's evident bemusement. It may be from may be Danish television in the late 1960s, but DailyMotion provides no information about the origin of this rather misty clip. If you know, please tell us by way of the comments link below. Hubbard is stunning in his flugelhorn range and lyricism on his final time through the bridge of … [Read more...]

Arts Journal Is Ten

Hearty congratulations to Doug McLennan, pioneer web chronicler of the arts. He is artsjournal.com's founder, commander-in-chief and unfailingly patient rescuer of digitally challenged bloggers like me. Terry Teachout, who has been aboard nearly the whole time, reminds me by way of his blog that artsjournal.com is ten years old this week. Five years ago, Terry suggested that I do a blog and introduced me to McLennan. Doug let me under his umbrella into the company of a remarkable stable of arts … [Read more...]

Encore And More: Skvorecky And Viklický

In the fall of 2006, we posted a piece connecting two important Czech artists, one a novelist, the other a pianist. This week, the story they gave us drew a comment from yet another Czech artist who was there when it happened during the Soviet domination of Czechoslovakia. Here is the original item from November, 2006. I encourage you to follow the first link below, then come back to this page. In the recent Rifftides piece about Freedom and Josef Škvorecký, I named several jazz musicians from … [Read more...]

Brubeck At Jazz Alley

On the heels of the announcement that he is a 2009 Kennedy Center honoree, Dave Brubeck wrapped up a rare extended club engagement, part of his latest western tour. Sunday, at the helm of the "new" edition of the quartet he has headed since 1951, the 88-year-old pianist and composer played to a packed house for the final set of a four-night engagement at Seattle's Jazz Alley. Brubeck has come a long way in his recovery from a viral infection that put him out of action last spring. In … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: The Piano

I think one of the best things you can do, no matter what you play, is to take up piano. Music is based on chord changes and harmonies, and you can get 'em more out of an instrument like piano, where you can hear all the notes at once. - Zoot Sims It's like a whole orchestra, the piano for me. - Dave Brubeck Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art. - Frederic Chopin … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams, The Art Of The Piano (Origin). Williams' 2800-word liner essay declares renewed and deepened love for the piano and rededicated independence from the strictures and orthodoxies of the music establishment. She cites an internet video clip of Glenn Gould playing Bach as "...a life-altering event" that took her back to "...a music founded on the purity and clarity and infinite tonal colorations of the piano itself." Those are qualities I have never found missing from her work, … [Read more...]

The Gould Inspiration?

My guess is that this is the Glenn Gould clip that sent Jessica Williams into a new phase (see the first paragraph of the previous exhibit). It's from the documentary Art Of Piano. Gould is at home, fairly early in his career, working out on the Bach "Partita # 2." … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Stefon Harris

Stefon Harris And Blackout, Urbanus (Concord). Harris is one of the brightest legatees of the vibraphone tradition glorified by Milt Jackson and such of his successors as Walt Dickerson, Cal Tjader and Bobby Hutcherson. The Jackson school played an important part in Harris's development as a soloist. But, born in 1973, he came to maturity in the 1990s and is under the spell of not only bebop but also the pop culture of his time. The music he grew up with included gospel and R&B, standard … [Read more...]

Sonny Rollins Is 79

Sonny Rollins is 79 today. We celebrate the occasion by bringing you Rollins playing an extended version of a tune his mother remembered from her girlhood in the Virgin Islands. "St. Thomas" has been an essential and beloved part of his repertoire for more than 50 years. The rhythm section Is Kenny Drew, piano; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, bass; Albert "Tootie" Heath, drums. The video from 1968 seems to have been made in Denmark. Happy birthday, sir, and best wishes. … [Read more...]

Other Matters: For Harmony Fans Only

News flash: Johann Sebastian Bach may have been ahead of his time. Eric Altschuler, a Bach researcher for more than a decade, was a guest today on National Public Radio's Morning Edition Sunday. He discussed with host Liane Hansen his proposition that Bach used a twelve-tone row a couple of centuries before Arnold Schoenberg revolutionized 20th century music with the device and, I might add, about 250 years before Ornette Coleman employed the atonal row in jazz. To hear the Altschuler … [Read more...]

Art Pepper’s Last Chorus

Listening to the Art Pepper CDs for the new batch of recommendations in Doug's Picks (center column) stimulated memories of time spent with Pepper not long before he died. The occasion was the basis of an article in Texas Monthly. Later, in slightly different form, it ended up as part of a chapter in Jazz Matters. Here it is as a bonus post--or as a marketing ploy for a twenty-year-old book that manages to stay in print--or as an excuse to show you an unusual picture. Art Pepper's Last … [Read more...]

CD: Art Pepper

Art Pepper, The Art History Project (Widow's Taste). This is the latest segment in Laurie Pepper's guided tour of her husband's musical life. It begins in 1950 with the alto saxophonist on Stan Kenton's band and ends a year before his death in 1982. About a third of the music is previously unreleased. All of it is fascinating. Whether Pepper is full of youth and optimism in the '50s, obsessing over Coltrane in the '60s or declaring his persona in a blistering blues in the '80s, we hear in this … [Read more...]

CD: Eddie Higgins

Eddie Higgins, Standards by Request, 1st Day and 2nd Day(Venus). Among those mourning Higgins' death are virtually all other jazz pianists and the Japanese. He was a celebrity among the large and enthusiastic coterie of listeners in Japan who are devoted to piano jazz. Higgins recorded nearly two dozen albums for Japan's Venus label. These solo CDs from 2008 present him in all of his sleek melodicism, harmonic resourcefulness, subtle swing and quiet wit. Most of these interpretations of … [Read more...]

CD: Barney McAll

Barney McAll, Flashbacks (Extra Celestial Arts). Since he arrived in New York from Australia more than a decade ago, McAll has been a pianist in bands and a composer for motion pictures. He has been nominated for a Grammy for his film work and played with Gary Bartz, Billy Harper and Kurt Rosenwinkel, among other jazz adventurers. His best composing in this engrossing CD incorporates influences from a profusion of sources. It has the drama and variety of a good film score. McAll, guitarist … [Read more...]

DVD: Bill Mays

Bill Mays, Solo! (Mays). The pianist performs compositions by some of his forerunners, among them Monk, Rowles, Evans, Shearing, Hancock and Sonny Clark. There are no studio or production gimmicks here. It's just Mays, a Steinway, an attentive audience, good sound and lighting, smooth camera work and alert direction. From the opening "Cool Struttin'" by Clark to "Monk's Mood" at the end, Mays does more than pay tribute. He upholds quality and tradition while confirming his place in a … [Read more...]

Book: Hank O’Neal

Hank O'Neal, Ghosts of Harlem (Vanderbilt). At last, those who read only English can do more than look at the pictures in this magnificent volume first published in French twelve years ago. O'Neal's subjects are key jazz figures including Cab Calloway, Benny Carter, Maxine Sullivan, Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry. He also covers more than a score of less famous important musicians like Tommy Benford, Doc Cheatham and Lawrence Lucie. As skilled an interviewer as he is a photographer, O'Neal … [Read more...]

Eddie Higgins, 1932-2009

Eddie Higgins died yesterday of lung cancer. Those who knew him called him by his given name, Haydn. He was a pianist of uncommon sensitivity, taste, subtlety and adaptability. He was equally accomplished and enthusiastic working with singers (his wife is Meredith d'Ambrosio), traditional bands (he unabashedly enjoyed the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee) and fiery young bebop lions (he wrote "Expoobident" for Lee Morgan and played on Morgan's album of that name). His admirer and sometime colleague Ben … [Read more...]