Joyce Collins, 1930-2010

The pianist and singer Joyce Collins died recently in Los Angeles following a long illness. She was 79. Highly respected in jazz circles, Collins played with a sensitive touch and subtle use of chords. Her singing was an outgrowth of those values, with attention to interpretation of the meaning of songs and, as Marian McPartland put it, "...deep feeling, a way of lingering over certain phrases, telling her story in a very poignant way." Collins's recorded debut as a leader had Ray Brown on bass … [Read more...]

The Montmarte Masks

If you have seen videos filmed at the Montmartre club in Copenhagen in the 1950s and '60s, you may have wondered about the stylized wall masks that often show up in the opening moments. Rifftides reader Dave Bernard has wondered about them, too. Mr. Bernard researched the masks and reports the results in the comments section of a recent post about Bud Powell. To see the masks and what he has learned, go here. While we're at it, we may as well enjoy more of Powell at the Montmartre with bassist … [Read more...]

The Blues Are Brewin’

1947 was a good year for movies. It saw the release of Miracle on 34th Street, Gentleman's Agreement, Life with Father, Lady from Shangai and Out of the Past, among other excellent films. New Orleans also hit the screen that year. It began life as an Orson Welles project, but Welles dropped it and went on to other things. If he had developed it, the movie might not have been in a league with Citizen Kane, but it would likely have had more to recommend it than the music. Unlike the other films … [Read more...]

The Long Wait Is Over: New Picks

Maybe it was the holidays. Maybe I've been busy writing for a living. Maybe I'm lazy. Well, no matter. You finally have a new edition of Doug's Picks. Consult the center column for the latest recommendations. … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Oscar Peterson and NHØP

Here is a lovely opportunity to hear and see two masters toward the ends of their lives. Oscar Peterson played at the Montreal Jazz Festival in July of 2004 with bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, guitarist Ulf Wakenius and drummer Alvin Queen. The piece is "Cakewalk." NHØP died the following April, Peterson in December of 2007. To see other videos from their Montreal concert, go here. … [Read more...]

CD:SFJazz Collective

SFJAZZ Collective, Live 2009 (SFJazz). Last year's tour by the all-star septet was built around their arrangements of music by pianist McCoy Tyner. It also included new compositions by its members, Joe Lovano, Miguel Zenón, Dave Douglas, Robin Eubanks, Renee Rosnes, Matt Pennman and Eric Harland. This two-CD set, recorded in halls across the US, is a tribute to Tyner, offering invigorating playing and writing by members of a younger generation he influences. Among the new pieces, Zenón's "No … [Read more...]

CD:Eddie Thompson And Brad Terry

Eddie Thompson and Brad Terry, Eddie and Me (Living Room). Thompson, a blind British pianist, spent ten years in the US before he returned home in 1972. He performed often around New York with Terry, a peripatetic clarinetist whose brilliant work would be better known if he had pursued a conventional career. This album, finally reissued on CD, captures their empathy, harmonic audacity and wit. It is available as a download here and as a CD by e-mailing here. Full disclosure: I wrote a pro bono … [Read more...]

CD: Henry Threadgill

Henry Threadgill Zooid, This Brings Us To, Volume 1 (PI Recordings). Threadgill names his band Zooid after a cell "that is able to move independently of the larger organism to which it belongs." Accordingly, five musicians simultaneously and freely invent within, around and through structures devised by saxophonist and flutist Threadgill, one of the leading lights of the avant AACM movement. The music has moments of amusing bluster, others of reflective calm. Its intricacy demands patient … [Read more...]

DVD: The Story Of Jazz

Masters of American Music: The Story Of Jazz (Medici Arts). An opening montage cleverly synchronized to Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing" introduces the first in a series whose other initial subjects are Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. The programs ran on public television in the last century. It is good to have them revived on DVD with crisp picture and sound. The Story Of Jazz features superb performance clips, interesting interviews and a … [Read more...]

Book: Teachout On Armstrong

Terry Teachout, Pops: A Life Of Louis Armstrong (Houghton Mifflin). Teachout is a consummate biographer. His books about H.L. Mencken and George Balanchine proved that. With Armstrong, he exceeds himself. Teachout combines the advantage of unique access to Armstrong's archives with deep musical understanding and the gift of writing clearly about complex matters. He makes the reader understand that when the history is told and the analysis finished, there is just one real explanation of how a … [Read more...]

Weekend Listening: Hadley Caliman

A few days into his 79th year, tenor saxophonist Hadley Caliman is thriving in the Pacific Northwest, starring in the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra and leading his own group. As a high school youngster, Haliman was a part of the yeasty Los Angeles jazz community of the late 1940s and early '50s. After college, he went on to record extensively and work with musicians as varied as Gerald Wilson, Don Ellis, Freddie Hubbard, Santana and The Grateful Dead. Jim Wilke recorded Caliman in a recent … [Read more...]

Pianists: Matthew Shipp And Greg Reitan

Why consider in the same piece albums by pianists as unalike as Matthew Shipp and Greg Reitan? Because in different ways the ghost of Bud Powell informs their music; because pairing them may lead partisans of one to listen to the other and find unexpected rewards; because the profound dissimilarity between the iconoclast Shipp and the modern traditionalist Reitan typifies the wide variety of satisfactions to be found in jazz; and because they are more or less simultaneously releasing new … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: On Bud Powell

No one could play like Bud; too difficult, too quick, incredible!--Thelonious Monk Bud is a genius.--Charlie Parker Bud is a genuine genius.--Duke Ellington He laid down the basis of modern jazz piano.--Dizzy Gillespie Bud was the most brilliant that a spirit might be, a unique genius in our culture.--Max Roach … [Read more...]

Stories: Sinatra, Herman and Manne

Once again, Bill Crow's The Band Room column in the New York musicians union Local 802 newspaper, Allegro, is packed with anecdotes. Here are two. Outgoing (Local 802) President Mary Landolfi told me this one: Her husband Pat and another tuba player, Lew Waldeck, had arranged to meet at the Carnegie Tavern after a benefit at Carnegie Hall. The major attraction at the benefit was Frank Sinatra, and when Lew came into the Tavern afterward, he was all agog. "Pat," he said excitedly, "I just met … [Read more...]

Other Places: It’s Moody In Detroit

James Moody is in Detroit this week. Mark Stryker, the music critic of The Detroit Free Press, heralded the event with a column that begins: James Moody is my hero, and he should be yours. At 84, the irrepressible saxophonist and flutist remains a ferociously creative musician, playing with passion, energy and a sense of wonder at the endless possibilities of music. Stryker provides a sketch of Moody's career, then a section that includes this exchange: Q: Do you practice every day? A: I try to. … [Read more...]

Jazz Masters Honored

Wednesday night, the 2010 NEA Jazz Master awards went to pianists Kenny Barron, Cedar Walton and Muhal Richard Abrams; arranger, composer and band leader Bill Holman; saxophonist and flutist Yusef Lateef; vibrahaphonist Bobby Hutcherson; singer Annie Ross (pictured at the ceremony); and record producer George Avakian. They received their medals and checks in a National Endowment For The Arts ceremony at Lincoln Center. To read accounts of the event by Nate Chinen of The New York Times and my … [Read more...]

Ed Thigpen, RIP

An American jazz master who relocated to Europe nearly four decades ago died yesterday in Denmark hours after eight of his peers were honored in New York. Drummer Ed Thigpen succumbed to heart and lung problems in a hospital in Copenhagen, his home since 1972. He was 79. Thigpen was universally admired for his technique, which he applied with taste and musicianship that made him one of the best known drummers in the world during his long run as a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio. Here, he is … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: The Tenor Saxophone

I made the tenor sax - there's nobody plays like me and I don't play like anybody else. - Coleman Hawkins If you like an instrument that sings, play the saxophone. At its best it's like the human voice. - Stan Getz The tenor's got that thing, that honk, that you can get to people with. - Ornette Coleman … [Read more...]

Brecker and Blake

Speaking of Seamus Blake (see the item below), I looked for a video clip with him in action and came across one of the 28-year-old Blake in heavy company. He follows the late Michael Brecker in solo on Charles Mingus's "Goodbye Porkpie Hat." All of the other information I can give you is that this was in Japan in 1999 and that the pianist is David Kikoski. The camera work suggests that this was filmed during an earthquake of at least 6.5 on the Richter scale. You may want to take a seasickness … [Read more...]

Catching Up (3): Blake, Dorham, Sadigursky, Longo, Stowell, Wright

Seamus Blake, Bellwether (Criss Cross). Since 1993, when Seamus Blake was 22, Gerry Teekens of Criss Cross Records has been traveling from Holland to New York to record the gifted Canadian tenor saxophonist. Teekens was one of the first recording executives to document Blake's work, and he has been doing it ever since. Bellwether is Blake's sixth Criss Cross album as a leader. He has been a sideman on 16 others. That is hardly overexposure for a musician of his inventiveness. Blake's technique … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Geese

Geese 2-thumb-400x300-12423

This evening before dinner, I headed out the door to clear the wooly mind that resulted from too many hours at the keyboard. Five minutes into the walk, a flock of Canada geese the size of this one flew directly over me at about 200 feet.There was nothing unusual about that. Flocks of geese fly over this valley most mornings, heading south, and most evenings, heading north. But it quickly became apparent that something extraordinary was happening. No sooner had the flock passed over than … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Geese

If you feel the urge, don't be afraid to go on a wild goose chase. What do you think wild geese are for, anyway? - Will Rogers Tonight I heard the wild goose cry, Wingin' north in the lonely sky. Tried to sleep, it weren't no use, 'Cause I am a brother to the old wild goose. -- 1950 hit record for Frankie Laine, music and lyrics by Terry Gilkyson … [Read more...]

Winter Jazzfest

If you are puzzling over the course jazz is taking in the second decade of the new century, this would be a good weekend to be in New York at the Winter Jazzfest. The event is packed with young artists making waves that excite fans their ages and younger, and frustrate many older listeners who have rigid convictions about what constitutes jazz. There is a wide range of musicians and styles, but the prevailing direction is forward, not back. It is an intriguing festival that has Jenny Scheinman, … [Read more...]

Stacy Rowles Memorial

A memorial service for Stacy Rowles is set for Sunday, January 10, in the auditorium of the Musicians Union local in Hollywood, California. The growing list of more than fifty musicians who will perform in tribute includes Pete Christlieb, Joe LaBarbera, Charlie and Sandi Shoemake, Gary Foster and Mike Melvoin. The trumpeter and singer died in late October of injuries from an automobile accident. She was the daughter of pianist Jimmy Rowles. The affair will start at 11:00 a.m. and run into the … [Read more...]

Line For Lyons, Twice

Rifftides reader Ty Newcomb sent a link to video of the Dutch singer Fay Claassen doing Gerry Mulligan's "Line for Lyons." After enjoying it, I noticed that YouTube has another version of the piece by The Dave Brubeck Quintet. What to do? Why, show you both, of course. First, we see and hear the composer with Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Jack Six and Alan Dawson at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1972. The director goes berserk with reverse zooms out of the stage lights, but a little dizziness is a small … [Read more...]

Other Places: Hyman’s Bebop

On his JazzWax blog, Marc Myers begins a series about pianist Dick Hyman. What a good idea. The first installment of the interview adds a video clip of Hyman and Billy Taylor doing a two-piano duet on "Hot House." If you thought Hyman played only Scott Joplin and James P. Johnson, read Marc's interview, then watch that clip. … [Read more...]