Attacked But Undefeated, We’re Back

The vicious work of a hacker or several hackers rendered Rifftides and all of the other artsjournal.com blogs inaccessible to most of you for the past four days. If you called up our web address, you were probably greeted with a red box containing a warning that if you continued, your computer would blow up, you would break out in a rash, your crops would fail and your dog would die. Or something like that. We were victims of a malware (malicious software) seige that took days to … [Read more...]

Jeff Sultanof On Gene Lees

Since the Rifftides entry about Gene Lees' death on April 22, we have received a flood of comments. They are posted in the comments section at the end of that piece. A couple of days later, Gene's friend Jeff Sultanof sent me a message that he intended as a private communiqué. I was moved by it and persuaded Jeff to revise it as a guest column. My intention was to post it four days ago, but the malware Darth Vader made that impossible. Jeff is a composer, orchestrator, editor and researcher of … [Read more...]

Gene Lees, 1928-2010

Gene Lees died today. We lost a writer unsurpassed at illuminating music and the world that musicians inhabit. I lost a cherished colleague whose work inspired me, a dear friend whose companionship brightened my existence. For a formal biography, see his entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia. My remarks are more personal. Gene's books about Oscar Peterson, Woody Herman, Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer and Lerner and Lowe are among the finest biographies of our time, regardless of category. He was … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Stryker on Childs

In response to yesterday's Rifftides post, music critic Mark Stryker (pictured) of the Detroit Free Press sent a message that included a column he wrote earlier this year. With his permission, we bring it to you. Very nice piece on Billy Childs' new album. I'm anxious to hear it. Billy just wrote a Violin Concerto that was premiered by Regina Carter and the Detroit Symphony in January. I wrote a short preview/profile of Billy in advance of the performance. There's no link, but I've copied it … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Billy Childs

Billy Childs, Autumn In Moving Pictures: Jazz Chamber Music, Vol. 2 (artistShare). There is a long history in jazz of strings in small-group chamber music. In a 1935 concert, Artie Shaw played a piece that he composed for clarinet and string quartet. It brought him attention that helped lead to his first big band. Ralph Burns integrated strings, flute and French horn with his piano, Ray Brown's bass and Jo Jones' drums, for his exquisite 1951 collection Free Forms. Later highlights of the genre … [Read more...]

Announcing New Recommendations

Hear Ye! The latest selection of Doug's Picks is posted in the center column. It includes recommendations of new and old music on CD, a DVD documentary about a revered figure and a stimulating -- even provocative -- book. … [Read more...]

CD: Joe Martin

Joe Martin, Not By Chance (Anzic). At the outset, bassist Martin's album has the air of Downtown New York Generic, but the quality of the musicians and the playing soon kicks it into uniqueness. By the time they reach the ballad "A Dream," Martin, saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist Brad Mehldau and drummer Marcus Gilmore have the listener fully involved for the rest of the seventy minutes. Martin augments his eight nicely made compositions with "The Balloon Song," a Jaco Pastorius piece featuring … [Read more...]

CD: Dollison And Marsh

Julia Dollison, Kerry Marsh, Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider (artistShare). Dollison, the enchanting singer of 2005's Observatory, teams with her husband and fellow vocalist Marsh in recreations of orchestral works by Maria Schneider. With flawless matching of intonation and through overdubbing that makes them a choir, they take Schneider's pieces, with all of their complexity and ethereal beauty, into a personal dimension. Pianist Frank Kimbrough, guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Jay … [Read more...]

CDs: Lester Young

Classic Columbia, Okeh And Vocalion Lester Young With Count Basie (1936-1940) (Mosaic). Young's lightness, buoyancy, rhythmic daring and harmonic subtlety on tenor saxophone helped free soloists from the arbitrary restrictions of time divisions. He told beautiful stories as he flew weightlessly across bar lines. His recordings with Basie, stunningly remastered by Mosaic in four CDs, include masterpieces that have set a high bar for generations of musicians. These are essential recordings. … [Read more...]

DVD: Count Basie

Count Basie: Swingin' The Blues (Masters of American Music). Basie's rhythm section supported Lester Young in his greatest flights of invention. Drummer Jo Jones, guitarist Freddie Green, bassist Walter Page and Basie were the heart of a band that brought the looseness and loping swing of Kansas City onto the national scene and permanently enriched jazz. This 1992 documentary, on DVD for the first time, traces the band's evolution and importance. Narrated by Roscoe Lee Browne, the film tells the … [Read more...]

Book: Randall Sandke

Randall Sandke: Where The Light And The Dark Folks Meet (Scarecrow Press). The qualities of directness and original thinking in his trumpet playing are also evident in Sandke's prose. Full disclosure: I read this book in manuscript and wrote a blurb for it, to wit: "Randy Sandke's research and documentation are thorough. His insights and opinions are forthright. His book will infuriate its targets, those in the music world who place myth, race, nationality, sociology, politics and commerce above … [Read more...]

Listen Up: Two Radio Alerts

No doubt there is marvelous jazz being broadcast all over the world this weekend, but here are two instances that we know about. One program is hosted by Jim Wilke on the west coast of the US, the other by Bill Kirchner on the east coast. Both are available to Rifftides listeners through the magic of digital communication. The blurb from Wilke's publicity juggernaut: A surprisingly inventive duo plays spontaneous improvisations on Jazz Northwest on Sunday April 18 at 1 PM PDT on 88.5, KPLU. … [Read more...]

JJA Awards Nominees Named

The Jazz Journalists Association has announced the nominees in its 2010 awards competition. Darcy James Argue (pictured) did not come from out of nowhere, but the young band leader, composer and arranger has moved up fast and made a big impression. Argue is nominated for the first time, in five categories. For a complete list of the nominees, go here. Rifftides is flattered to be in the running for blog of the year. We are in fast company. Here are the nominees: The Gig, Nate Chinen A Blog … [Read more...]

Other Places: Bruce Lundvall

Ashley Kahn's profile of Bruce Lundvall in The Wall Street Journal captures the Blue Note label president's importance as a developer of talent and identifies his partial retirement as a marker of what is happening to the business of recorded music. To many, Mr. Lundvall's exit from Blue Note's day-to-day operations, officially announced earlier this year, symbolizes the forced transition of an entire industry. Rocker-songwriter (Richard) Marx says: "I know Bruce has been very frustrated in the … [Read more...]

Laws, Sutton And Koonse In Concert

Music for voice, flute and guitar is rare in any idiom. In jazz, it is singular. When flutist Hubert Laws, singer Tierney Sutton and guitarist Larry Koonse performed together at a fund-raising event last fall in Los Angeles, the creative spark that materialized pleased and intrigued them. They made room in their busy musical lives for further collaboration. The three artists' individual prominence alone would make this cooperative group worth notice. But last weekend in one of their rare … [Read more...]

The Melodic Joe LaBarbera

In conversation with a casual listener who said he wanted to know more about jazz, I mentioned that the creation of melody in improvisation is not limited to what are generally considered melody instruments. I said that some drummers play melodic, even lyrical, solos. "What do you mean?" he said, clearly puzzled. I tried, rather clumsily, I'm afraid, to explain that through combinations of phrasing, dynamics and tone control, a drummer who is so inclined (not all are) can create trains of … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Spring On The Heights

Cycling is in full, if often chilly, swing. Fruit trees and wildflowers are blossoming. On today's 30-mile expedition through the back country heights, I came across this field in bloom and didn't want to keep it to myself. "Hello To The Season,"( to quote the title of a piece from Gary McFarland's Point of Departure with Richie Kamuca, Jimmy Raney, Willie Dennis, Steve Swallow and Mel Lewis). I thought that this exquisite 1963 album had long since lapsed into unavailability. But this web site … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Farmer, Konitz, Persson

I have no idea how Sharkey Bonano (see the April 9 item below) felt about Art Farmer's playing or, indeed, whether he was aware of Farmer. They were from different eras and different styles. My guess is that Farmer's lyricism would have appealed to Bonano, whose own playing carried a trace of Bix Beiderbecke DNA. In this video from a 1966 program on the Dutch TV station NCRV, Farmer collaborates on "Just Friends" with alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and the Swedish trombonist Ake Persson. The rhythm … [Read more...]

Celebrating Sharkey Bonano

Sharkey Bonano was born on this day 98 years ago. He died in 1972. During my first residency in New Orleans, I was fortunate that Sharkey was still around and working. Late in his career, when Bonano was able to resist his cornball urges, he was capable of superb trumpet playing of the kind he did in the 1920s and '30s with Gene Goldkette, Ben Pollack and his own Sharks of Rhythm. In this photograph from 1968 or so, he is in his customary derby standing next to Pete Fountain at an impromptu jam … [Read more...]

Other Places: Brubeck On His Institute

The 2010 Brubeck Festival opens today at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. Occasional Rifftides contributor Paul Conley of Capitol Public Radio in Sacramento spoke with Dave and Iola Brubeck about the history of the institute. Among the stories is Brubeck's recollection of the early connection between one of his brothers and an emerging young band leader and arranger named Gil Evans. To hear Paul's report, go here and click on "Listen." … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Kirk Knuffke

Kirk Knuffke, Amnesia Brown (Clean Feed). Knuffke's trumpet tone is notable for softness, fullness and evenness. The audacity of risk in his improvisational concept would be the envy of the Flying Wallendas. The contrast between his sound and the content of his work is a source of fascination throughout this collection of miniatures. Even though his collaborators number only two, Knuffke has plenty of company in 16 little art songs without words, all his compositions. Drummer Kenny Wollesen is … [Read more...]

Holiday And Mulligan

Yesterday was Gerry Mulligan's birthday (1927-1996). Today is Billie Holiday's (1915-1959). If only there were video of them together. There is, of course; one of the most famous pieces of film ever made of a jazz performance. It is from the kinescope recording of the 1957 CBS-TV program The Sound of Jazz. "Fine and Mellow" featured Holiday with a group of horn soloists for which the designation All-Stars seems barely adequate. Holiday's choruses of her classic blues alternate with solos by Ben … [Read more...]

The Fix Is In

It took all night, but the intrepid Rifftides technical crew found the key. The right-hand columns, with their troves of invaluable information and links, are restored and we can get back to the business at hand. Thanks for your patience. … [Read more...]

There Will Be A Brief Pause…

As you may note by the disappearance of the two right-hand columns, Rifftides is undergoing technical problems. The staff is hard at work to locate the cause and hopes that the difficulty will be resolved soon. We appreciate your forbearance. … [Read more...]

John Bunch, 1921-2010

Jazz this week lost John Bunch, a pianist whose imagination and adaptability kept him in demand for more than 60 years. Establishing his career in New York following his World War Two military service, Bunch slid smoothly from swing into bop and remained a reliable sideman and soloist who incorporated aspects of both eras in a personal approach of great flexibility. He was as comfortable and effective with Benny Goodman as he was with Wes Montgomery, or alone. This celebrated album is a superb … [Read more...]

Mike Zwerin, Gone At 79

Last summer, I had the privilege of presenting the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award of the Jazz Journalists Association to Mike Zwerin, my successor in the chain of winners of that honor. Mike was unable to make the trip from his home in France and accepted in absentia. That missed opportunity meant that I will never have the pleasure of a personal meeting with a cherished colleague. Mike died early this morning in a Paris hospital at the age of 79, following a long illness. Our correspondence … [Read more...]