Benny Powell, 1930-2010

Benny Powell, the veteran trombonist, died last Saturday in New York. Born in New Orleans, Powell was treasured by his colleagues as a superb musician and teacher and as a gentleman who observed old-South standards of courtesy and consideration. Among the bands that Powell graced were those of Count Basie, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Bill Holman, Benny Goodman, Duke Pearson and Terry Gibbs. Here he is playing the blues in the company of a few of his admiring colleagues: Dizzy Gillespie and Harry … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Linda Ciofalo

As always, the Rifftides staff is trying to keep up with new releases. It can't be done; the inflow never ceases and listening time is at a premium, but in the next few days we'll alert you to a few. Linda Ciofalo, Dancing With Johnny (Lucky Jazz Music). The dancing partner of the title is Johnny Mercer. Ciofalo applies her smooth, rangy voice and flexible phrasing to some of his best-known lyrics. She interprets Mercer beautifully, capturing the joy and irony he intended in "Tangerine," the … [Read more...]


Rifftides reader Dave Bernard sent this inquiry: What did muenster-dummel mean on the Norgran record jackets? For those born after the LP era, the terms may draw a blank. Norgran was one of two labels founded by Norman Granz (1918-2001), who created Jazz At The Philharmonic in the 1940s. His other early label was Clef. Norgran and Clef eventually morphed ino Verve. Granz was a pioneer of the jazz concert and a tough, resourceful businessman. He guided the careers of Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: James Moody

James Moody, 4B (IPO). According to the evidence on this CD due for release in early August, Moody at 85 is undiminished in energy, endurance, chops and harmonic imagination. In the companion to last year's 4A, the winner of the JJA's 2010 lifetime achievement award moves at deliberate speed— swinging—through jazz and standard classics including "Take The 'A' Train," "Hot House," "But Not For Me," "Bye Bye Blackbird" as a waltz, and compositions by Kenny Barron and Todd Coolman. … [Read more...]

Fred Anderson, R.I.P.

Fred Anderson, who exemplified the Chicago avant garde as a tenor saxophonist and as a club owner gave it work, has died at 81. The Chicago Tribune's Howard Reich followed Anderson's career. He writes in the newspaper: His was a rigorous, demanding brand of jazz improvisation that bridged the bebop idiom of Charlie Parker (an Anderson hero) with the "free jazz" experiments of the 1960s and thereafter. The fast-flying phrases and blues-driven energy of bebop converged with the non-chordal, … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Tom Varner

Tom Varner, Heaven and Hell (Omnitone). When Varner moved from New York to Seattle in 2005, he left behind none of his French horn virtuosity, compositional skill or avant-garde daring. Heaven and Hell is his meditation on changes in the world and in his life since the 9/11 attack, and on the evolution of his approach to music. The 15-part suite reflects a sensibility that is at home with the influences of, among others, Gil Evans and his fellow arrangers for the Miles Davis nonet, Stravinsky, … [Read more...]

2011 Jazz Masters: A Family Affair

The following news release arrived late yesterday: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) today announced the recipients of the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award--the nation's highest honor in this distinctly American music. For the first time in the program's 29-year history, in addition to four individual awards, the NEA will present a group award to the Marsalis family, New Orleans' venerable first family of jazz. All of the 2011 recipients will be publicly honored at the annual awards ceremony … [Read more...]

Well, Hello, Louis

Rifftides reader Deborah Hendrick e-mailed the following question: I have noticed that when talking about Louis Armstrong, musician Wynton Marsalis carefully, almost deliberately, pronounces "Louis" as Lou-iss, not Lou-ee, which is how I usually hear the name. How did Armstong pronounce his name? He invariably pronounced it Louis, not Louie, as he demonstrates here, with help from a friend. … [Read more...]

Other Places: Herbie Hancock & The World

Fellow blogger Larry Blumenfeld is in The Wall Street Journal with a piece about Herbie Hancock. His article addresses the pianist and composer's latest excursion into the arena of popular music in which he won a Grammy a couple of years ago. In fame and societal impact, Hancock has come a long way from Miles Davis, Maiden Voyage and other accomplishments of the 1960s that made him one of the most respected musicians of his generation. Blumenfeld concentrates on what Hancock sees … [Read more...]

Brubeck, Rotterdam, Part 6

As long as the YouTube benefactor in Holland keeps posting new segments from that 1972 Dave Brubeck concert in Rotterdam, Rifftides will keep bringing them to you. The piece that just popped up, "Someday My Prince Will Come," was a staple in the classic Brubeck quartet's repertoire before it disbanded in 1969. Paul Desmond reaches into what he would no doubt refer to as his bag of tricks for a brilliant use of repetition (which amuses Alan Dawson), one of his celebrated duets with himself, blues … [Read more...]

Happy Fathers Day

The Rifftides staff could think of no more appropriate way to observe the holiday than with Earl "Fathah" Hines (1903-1983). Here he is at the Berlin Piano Jazz Workshop in 1965 with Niels Henning Ørsted-Pedersen on bass and an unidentified drummer who looks like Alan Dawson. The piece is Eubie Blake's "Memories of You," one of Hines' favorites for decades. At the Berlin workshop, Hines was the leadoff man in a blues-in-C relay, followed by Teddy Wilson, John Lewis, Lennie Tristano, Bill Evans … [Read more...]

Getting Organized

The Rifftides blogroll, known as Other Places, has been a hodge-podge. The staff finally slumped into action and arranged it into categories. We added a few entries and deleted some that died or became inactive. It's a work in progress, but at least it's easier to navigate now. Oh, you want to know where it is. It's at the end of the middle column. … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Charlap And Rosnes

Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes, Double Portrait (Blue Note). When Charlap and Rosnes married in 2007, it was logical to expect that an album of duets would follow. Now, it's here, the collaboration of two of the most complete pianists in any genre of music. Considerations of domestic compatibility aside, piano duos that involve improvisation demand aspects of musicianship that go beyond technical ability. Among them is the capacity to anticipate and accommodate the partner's harmonic thinking and … [Read more...]

Other Places: Joe Maini

Over on JazzWax, Marc Myers has performed a public service by posting a fascinating account of the life of the gifted alto saxophonist Joe Maini (1930-1964). The piece addresses not only Maini's musicianship but also the inaccuracy of lingering reports about how he died. Marc enlists Maini's daughter in the telling. To read the article, go here. But first, you may want to see and hear Maini play. The clip is from 1963, when it was still possible in some cities to regularly find live jazz on … [Read more...]

Brubeck, Mulligan, Six & Dawson, Parts 4 & 5

Two more pieces have emerged from the Dutch YouTube contributor who is posting segments of a remarkable Dave Brubeck concert in Rotterdam in 1972. The core unit was the Brubeck trio with bassist Jack Six and drummer Alan Dawson. Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan were the guest saxophonists on the Newport Jazz Festival tour. Unlike many YouTube videos, these are of high visual quality and hold up in the full-screen mode. Don't miss Six and Dawson enjoying the metric play at 5:15 of the second clip. … [Read more...]

Five Years And Still Wailing

Rifftides began life on June 15, 2005 with this item: Launching Rifftides Today is the first day of this new web log about jazz and, as its subtitle proclaims, other matters. At the top of the center column you will find a sort of manifesto, below that information about the proprietor. Farther down the center column under "Doug's Picks" are things I like that I hope you will like. I want this to be not merely a blog, but a diablog, so please respond with reactions. Your participation will be at … [Read more...]

The JJA Awards

At the Jazz Journalists Association awards ceremony in New York today, James Moody was honored for his lifetime achievement in jazz. Vijay Iyer was named musician of the year. Joe Lovano won in three categories; record of the year, small ensemble of the year and tenor saxophonist of the year. Maria Schneider was named composer of the year, Darcy James Argue up-and-coming musician of the year. Don Heckman won the award for lifetime achievement in jazz journalism. To see the complete list of … [Read more...]

Other Matters: A Spring Ride

To my surprise, on the rare occasions when I divert from the main topic and post illustrated accounts of cycling excursions, Rifftides readers ask for more. Okay. This morning my Italian friend Vigorelli Bianchi took me 35 miles through farmland, orchard country and high desert. It is difficult with a camera to emphasize the hilliness of the hills. Take my word for it—they are hilly and they are long. This was an up hill This was a down hill The Wenas Valley New friends along the way Sage … [Read more...]

CD: Steve Coleman

Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Harvesting Semblances And Affinities (Pi). Coleman, an audacious alto saxophonist and composer, is as progressive as ever. Even subtler at melding disparate ingredients than in his first burst of M-Base renown in the 1980s, he declares in his liner essay, " intent was a type of energy harvesting, i.e. the gathering, through musical symbolism, of the energy of particular moments." The music of his sextet is less metaphysical than his description. For all of … [Read more...]

CD: Art Pepper

Art Pepper, Unreleased Art, Vol V (Widow's Taste). Laurie Pepper continues to bring forth CDs of previously unreleased works by her husband. An alto saxophonist who hurled himself into his music, Pepper's astonishing energy did not flag in this concert recorded in Stuttgart, Germany in 1981, the year before his death. His formidable rhythm section was pianist Milcho Leviev, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Carl Burnett. Opening with an exuberant "True Blues," the two CDs include Pepper … [Read more...]

CD: Gail Pettis

Gail Pettis, Here in the Moment (OA2). Pettis's second album makes firm the promise of her first. To her deep contralto, clear diction and centered intonation she adds phrasing and tonal fillips that give her vocals identifiable personality. Among the indicators of her command, maturity and substantial jazz sensibility are the delight in her voice as she begins her bluesy take on "At Last," a joyful whoop on the last word in "Day in Day Out," her reflective treatment of the lyric of "The Very … [Read more...]

DVD: Coleman Hawkins

Coleman Hawkins, Live In '62 & '64 (Jazz Icons). Cameras caught the patriarch of the tenor saxophone (1904-1969) during a final period at the top of his game. The concert in Belgium suffers slightly at the hands, and sticks, of drummer Kansas Fields, who plays well but has difficulty containing his solos. Hawkins is magisterial, as he is two years later in London, where Harry "Sweets" Edison joins him on trumpet, along with Sir Charles Thompson on piano and Jo Jones on drums. Jimmy Woode is the … [Read more...]

Book: Jack Fuller

Jack Fuller, What Is Happening To News (Chicago). Concerned about the fragmentation, dilution and manipulation news? So is Fuller. The veteran journalist worked his way up from reporter to CEO of a media conglomerate, then stepped out of the profession. Now he is using his Pulitzer Prize-winning skills to write about why, in a sophisticated media age, the primitive part of our brain lets trivia, opinion and emotion crowd out substance. Fuller believes that there are new ways to apply old values … [Read more...]

Announcing The New Set Of Recommendations

The latest Doug's Picks appear in the center column. They are: • CDs by two fiery alto saxophonists and a satisfying singer • A concert DVD by the man who first poured jazz into a tenor sax • A book that considers the shallowness of so much of the news we watch, hear and read—and what might be done about it … [Read more...]

More From Holland

The Rifftides staff is feverishly preparing a new batch of Doug's Picks. (Well, all right, langorously preparing.) In the meantime, part three of that 1972 Brubeck concert in Rotterdam has appeared. If you have missed the previous installments, it's the Brubeck Trio with Jack Six, bass, and Alan Dawson, drums. Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond were guests on the Newport Jazz Festival tour. Here is "Take the 'A' Train," with notably muscular solos by Mulligan and Brubeck and Desmond in contrast … [Read more...]

Video: Truth Finally Comes Out

The YouTube contributor who posted the Dave Brubeck-Paul Desmond-Gerry Mulligan "All The Things You Are" video we brought you last month promised that there would be more. He is as good as his word. The piece that Brubeck announces seems likely to be from his 1972 oratorio Truth Is Fallen, or in preparation for it. The work was inspired by a passage from Isaiah: "And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street and equity cannot … [Read more...]