Chet Baker: Words And Music

As far as I know, this is the first time I've been quoted in Magyar. It's a blurb on the back of the Hungarian edition of Jeroen de Valk's Chet Baker: His Life and Music. That invaluable book is also available in English. Thanks to photographer Paolo Gant (behind the book) for sending the pictures. Gant captured stunning images of Baker not long before the trumpeter's death in 1988. You can see a few of them, prominently copyright-protected, at his gallery's website. All of that is a perfectly … [Read more...]

Other Places: Bird At 90

This is Charlie Parker's 90th birthday. In observance, the German trumpeter, teacher and indefatigable blogger Bruno Leicht posted an entry tracing the evolution of Parker's "Ko-Ko" from its roots in Ray Noble's "Cherokee." In his introduction, Bruno writes: ...Ray Noble had no idea, but this piece seemed to be extra-created for an ingenious improvisor like Bird. And it really became his leitmotiv through the years, from 1939 on. He owned it so to speak, and he took it to his grave. No one, not … [Read more...]

The Johnny Coles Discography

For reasons that cannot be fully explained or quantified, some of the most personal soloists in jazz remain out of the spotlight despite their accomplishments. There is no better example in modern jazz than the trumpeter Johnny Coles (1926-1997), an insiders' favorite barely known to the general public. A native of Philadelphia, a contemporary of Jimmy Heath, Clifford Brown, John Coltrane and Benny Golson, Coles never became a leader except on odd jobs and record dates, but he worked for some of … [Read more...]

Bits From The Savory Collection

Further evidence has come in verifying the value of that cache of previously unheard recordings in the Savory Collection at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Proof is posted on Newsweek's web edition—tantalizing solos from the late 1930s and early '40s by Mildred Bailey and Jack Teagarden; Lester Young with Count Basie; Roy Eldridge; Herschel Evans; Benny Goodman; Bobby Hackett; Lionel Hampton; and the John Kirby Sextet. To read the Newsweek story and hear the audio clips, go here. Just … [Read more...]

I’m Typing As Fast As I Can

Deadlines are stacking up around here like cordwood or like the piles of CDs I haven't heard. I have mixed feelings about deadlines. On the one hand, I'd like to avoid them. On the other, they help make it possible to meet certain commitments; feeding the family, for example. For the next few days while I chop away, posting will be intermittent and may lack the customary Rifftides profundity. … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Deadlines

A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all.—Rita Mae Brown Call me a braggart, call me arrogant. People at ABC (and elsewhere) have called me worse. But when you need the job done on deadline, you'll call me.—Sam Donaldson I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.—Douglas Adams The natural urge when running a distance is to push harder and finish sooner—to race against time. Every second behind a deadline is … [Read more...]

Jeremy Pelt Quartet

In the meantime, here is interesting modish playing by Jeremy Pelt, flugelhorn and trumpet; J.D Allen, tenor saxophone; Dwayne Burno, bass; and Gerald Cleaver, drums. The video was made, evidently recently, at the Paris restaurant Duc des Lombards. YouTube did not supply the name of the tune. You may give it a title of your choice. … [Read more...]

Congress’s UnSavory Copyright Conundrum

Many music lovers intrigued by the National Jazz Museum's collection of newly discovered recordings wonder when they will be able to hear more than the samples on the museum's website. Under current law, there is little likelihood that the music will be generally available in most of our lifetimes. That will change only if Congress loosens copyright restrictions. As an editorial in today's New York Times explains, Copyright laws are designed to ensure that authors and performers receive … [Read more...]

Sarkozy, The Roma And Django

The government of France generated a storm late last week when news broke of its expulsion of Gypsies to Romania and Bulgaria. President Nicolas Sarkozy defends the policy as part of his administration's drive for law and order. Critics say that the dismantling of Gypsy camps and the first waves of deportations of Roma people are human rights violations. They charge that the sweep is a cover to distract attention from the ruling party's recent election defeats and accusations of campaign … [Read more...]

Other Places: The BBC On Herman Leonard

Thanks to Bill Vitka for alerting Rifftides to a BBC music-and-slide show of pictures by the master photographer who died over the weekend. The production lasts less than three minutes, but it includes some of the major works in Leonard's portfolio. To see and hear it, go here. … [Read more...]

Other Places: Unheard Treasures Discovered

This a couple of days old, but in case you missed the news of the unearthing and restoration of a cache of important recordings, see this New York Times article about the National Jazz Museum. Then read this followup. It will probably be a long time before the trove of new old music by Lester Young, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and others can make its way to the public in commercial albums. In the meantime, the museum offers a few tantalizing samples. … [Read more...]

Herman Leonard, 1923-2010

Herman Leonard died last Saturday in Los Angeles at 87. A master of backlighting in smoky atmospheres, and of meticulous darkroom wizardry, Leonard photographed images that caught the mood of music-making by some of the most significant jazz artists of the 20th century. For an obituary, see the New Orleans Times-Picayune's website. Leonard lived and worked in New Orleans for more than a decade until Hurricane Katrina ruined his house and studio and he moved to L.A. On a wall of my music room is … [Read more...]

Correspondence, Illustrated, From Canada

With too many Rifftides posts lately about the deaths of prominent figures in jazz, it was good to hear from someone who documents the work of young musicians. The message came from Randy Cole in Montreal. I've been making a number of short films, and I wanted to share one with you. Most of my films thus far feature two wonderful Montreal musicians, Al McLean on sax and Kevin Dean on trumpet. Mr. Cole's communique contained a link to one of those films. I was unfamiliar with him or the … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Canada

In a world darkened by ethnic conflicts that tear nations apart, Canada stands as a model of how people of different cultures can live and work together in peace, prosperity, and mutual respect.—Bill Clinton Canada is the linchpin of the English-speaking world.—Winston Churchill Canada is a country whose main exports are hockey players and cold fronts. Our main imports are baseball players and acid rain.—Pierre E. Trudeau … [Read more...]

Abbey Lincoln, RIP

Abbey Lincoln died today in New York. The singer and actress was 80 years old. After meeting Max Roach when he played drums on one of her record sessions in 1957, Ms. Lincoln came under his sway in her approach to music and in uncompromising civil rights activism. She and Roach married in 1962 and divorced eight years later, but his influence steered her toward a later career as a song writer and recording artist with a string of successful albums. For a lengthy review of her life, see Nate … [Read more...]

Leon Breeden, Gone

The average jazz listener—whoever that might be—may never give a thought to how his favorite musicians learned their art. There was a time, long past, when most professional jazz artists reached proficiency through on-the-job training. Music departments in institutions of higher education took decades to recognize jazz as a serious branch of music. Older jazz players who majored in music can tell you stories of being disciplined or, in extreme cases, thrown out of school for jamming in … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams, Touch (Origin). It would have been difficult to imagine that Williams might exceed what she achieved in her 2009 solo concert recording The Art of the Piano. Yet, less than a year later she returned to Seattle's Triple Door and gave this recital glowing with her customary pianistic dazzle and a nearly Brahmsian gravity leavened with wit. The album's title implies more than the exquisite way she addresses the instrument's keyboard and pedals—the pianist's equivalent of … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Dana Hall

Dana Hall, Into The Light (Origin). Drummers who flaunt their technique can be enemies of music when their busyness becomes the center-ring distraction in a band. Dana Hall is a busy drummer, but in his case that's a compliment. He accompanies with waves of rhythmic patterns surging and swelling behind, under and around soloists. This 40-year-old Chicagoan—debuting here as a leader—manages to amalgamate his virtuosity so that he melds into the flow of the soloists' improvisations. That … [Read more...]

Oliver Nelson Revisited

In his few years, Oliver Nelson achieved major success as a composer and arranger in jazz and in the Hollywood studios. His first big band collection, Afro-American Sketches (1961), made it clear that he was an important new talent. His Blues And The Abstract Truth with an all-star septet that included Bill Evans, Freddie Hubbard and Eric Dolphy is one of the most significant jazz albums of the second half of the 20th century. A good saxophonist, Nelson blossomed as a writer. His inventiveness, … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Weekend Listening Tip

Jim Wilke, known worldwide for his Jazz After Hours satellite radio program, also runs a popular weekly broadcast featuring musicians from the Pacific Northwest. He sent this alert about the first program in a new series. It will present music from a major festival that ended last weekend. Centrum Jazz Port Townsend Festival Big Band next on Jazz Northwest The All Star Festival Big Band is always one of the hits of the annual Jazz Port Townsend Festival. This year's concert lived up to the … [Read more...]

Elder Lee: Konitz At 82

The alto saxophonist Lee Konitz's inventiveness and boldness have seldom flagged. As his recent recordings demonstrate, he continues to embrace adventure and risk. If his repertoire is stocked with pieces that he revisits time and again—"All the Things You Are," "I'll Remember April," "Body and Soul," "Just Friends"—Konitz is the epitome of the jazz soloist who tries never to play anything the same way twice, never coasts on clichés, even his own. As a listener who has been captivated … [Read more...]

Mitch Miller And Bird

Jazz listeners who derided the sing-along records and TV shows that made Mitch Miller rich and famous in the 1950s and '60s tended to forgive him the shallowness of his pop pap because he played with Charlie Parker. Miller died over the weekend at the age of 99. See Matt Schudel's excellent obituary in The Washington Post. In addition to his sing-along extravaganzas, Miller produced recordings by singers as various as Johnny Mathis, Hank Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett and Frank … [Read more...]

Other Places: Kilgore In New York

If you live in New York City or are headed there this week, you're in luck. Rebecca Kilgore is in town, sharing a gig at Feinstein's with the tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and his quartet. I learned of her appearance by way of The Wall Street Journal's WSJ.com, which has a New York Culture section that doesn't show up in the national print edition. Will Friedwald wrote the piece about Kilgore. He underlines the rarity of her appearances in The Apple. Once you do hear Ms. Kilgore, however, you'll … [Read more...]

Other Places: A Hard Bop Blog

Thanks to Rifftides reader Dave Lull for alerting us to a jazz blog that debuted in early July. Although its name, Tony Flood's House Of Hard Bop, could hardly be more specific, in his first post Mr. Flood opened with a demurer: Hard Bop: the Dominant, Not Sole, Focus Here. I care a great deal about what came before it, and what came out of it, most of all the remarkable musicians who faced challenges (pardon the euphemism) posed by the British invasion of 1964. "Hard bop" is an abstraction, but … [Read more...]