Correspondence: Jack Brokensha RIP

Mark Stryker, music critic of the Detroit Free Press, sent this note: Thought you might be interested in this— a couple months ago I recall a comment on your Mitch Miller/Bird post including a reference to the Australian Jazz Quartet/Quintet. The vibraphonist from the group, Jack Brokensha, a longtime Detroiter, died this week at 84. This is a link to the Free Press obituary. Couldn't find any YouTube clips with Jack, save a few Motown hits where he's playing various percussion instruments … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Lagniappe From Art Farmer

A year ago almost to the day, a Rifftides post called "The Art Of Art Farmer" featured three videos from Farmer's 1982 concert at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. It also had some of my musings on the great trumpeter and flugelhornist. Two of the videos were later disabled by those mysterious internet forces always patrolling in search of clips to take down for real or imagined violations. Recently, other forces—equally mysterious—restored the clips to YouTube, and now … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Gail Pettis On TV

Gail Pettis is an orthodontist turned singer (you may supply your own puns) who has commanded considerable notice in her brief new career. She has won awards, toured in Europe and Japan and recorded two albums praised by critics, including this one. Pettis's warmth and intelligence translate into performances that put the song first. She employs her jazz time and phrasing as interpretive tools, not means of calling attention to herself. When she scats, she does it judiciously, with musical … [Read more...]

Other Places: Esperanza Spalding On The News Hour

By any assessment, jazz in the 21st century is a minority music. Depending on whose statistics are accurate, it accounts for somewhere between 1% and 3% of record sales, right in there with string quartets and Gregorian chants. Some of the music's best American players find that they are in greater demand in Europe and Japan than in the United States, although I hear from musicians that gigs are harder to find everywhere as the world economy struggles for equilibrium and recovery. Once in a … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Tony Bennett At The Series

Last night, millions of Americans watched the San Francisco Giants submerge the Texas Rangers in game one of the World Series. They also saw Tony Bennett sing—of course—"I Left My Heart in San Francisco" and at the 7th inning stretch, "God Bless America." If you missed it or if you are in a part of the world mystified by the United States' baseball craziness at Series time, you may nonetheless enjoy Mr. Bennett's performance of the Irving Berlin song that many musicians and many more … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: December 2nd Quartet

Some of the best new work of prominent American jazz artists is not on US labels, and not all of it is easy to find. Stars is a case in point. The pianist in the band known as the December 2nd Quartet is Dena DeRose, who sings on several tracks of this charming album. Bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Akira Tana, complete the rhythm section. The rising young trumpeter Dominick Farinacci is the fourth member. Benny Green is guest pianist on four of the 11 tracks. Recorded in California by the Vega … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: McChesney Heard And Seen

My biography of Paul Desmond includes Desmond solos that Bill Mays, Bud Shank, Brent Jensen, Gary Foster and Paul Cohen transcribed for the book. They analyze or comment on the solos and John Handy analyzes Cohen's transcription of "Take Five." In the text I suggest that playing the recordings and following along with Desmond would help readers appreciate his creative process in improvising. Even if their music-reading skills were slight or nonexistent, a general impression of the flow of notes … [Read more...]

Compatible (+-) Quotes: The Trombone

Trombone players are generally the nicest brass players. However, they do tend to drink quite heavily and perhaps don't shine the brightest headlights on the highway, but they wouldn't hurt you and are the folks to call with all your pharmaceutical questions...It's a little-known fact that trombone players are unusually good bowlers.—Toby Appel's Guide to the Orchestra My greatest teacher was not a vocal coach, not the work of other singers, but the way Tommy Dorsey breathed and phrased … [Read more...]

John Birks Gillespie’s 93rd

Note: If this item looks familiar, it is because I mistakenly posted it on October 17. Today, October 21, is the correct date of Dizzy's birth, so the Rifftides staff is moving the piece to where it belongs and adding a couple of links—DR. This is the birthday of Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993). In observance, here is a remarkable confluence of the talents of Gillespie and the master composer and arranger Robert Farnon (1917-2005). The piece is Gillespie's "Con Alma," orchestrated by Farnon and … [Read more...]

Other Places: Kenny Wheeler

Trumpeter, flugelhornist and composer Kenny Wheeler, now in his 80s, is a man of so few words that he is nearly silent, but John Fordham of The Guardian managed to persuade Wheeler to talk about himself for an article. Anyone interested in the unceasingly searching trumpeter, flugelhornist and composer will want to read Fordham's piece. Here's an excerpt: He doesn't even call himself a composer, but someone who "takes pretty songs and joins them up." The soft-spoken Toronto-born musician has … [Read more...]

Correspondence, Illustrated: “Isfahan”

Rifftides reader Mike Paulson writes: Looked up this clip on YouTube after watching Scott Robinson play "Isfahan" with Martin Wind at The Seasons the other evening. I am amazed at how timeless this arrangement is. Hard to improve on perfection. Not sure why Duke had to hold the sheet music for Johnny Hodges. Ellington and Billy Strayhorn got the inspiration for "Isfahan" during the band's tour of the Middle East in 1963. It became a part of The Far East Suite, which Ellington did not record … [Read more...]

Marion Brown

Alto saxophonist Marion Brown, who came to prominence in the 1960s and '70s, died yesterday at age 79. He had been in an assisted living home in Hollywood, Florida, since 2005. Although some references list his birth year as 1935, he was born on September 8, 1931, in Atlanta, Georgia. Brown's career got a boost when John Coltrane chose him to be on Ascension. That 1965 album, in effect, was Coltrane's announcement that he was fully embracing free jazz. Brown also collaborated with Ornette … [Read more...]

Martin Wind Trio & Dee Daniels At The Seasons

Hours before Friday night's concert at The Seasons Fall Festival, bassist Martin Wind's trio lost a third of its roster when drummer Matt Wilson returned home to attend to a family medical situation. Wind called Greg Williamson, who drove 150 miles from Seattle to Yakima across the Cascade Mountains in time for a quick talk-through before he joined Wind and saxophonist Scott Robinson on stage. The combination clicked in the trio's first half and after intermission when singer-pianist Dee Daniels … [Read more...]

From Today’s Ride

There is more coming soon about the festival at The Seasons, but to clear the mind it was necessary to hop on the bike for a couple of hours. I came across this scene near the end of the ride. Naches River, 3:56 pm, October 16, 2010 … [Read more...]

Correspondence: About Mark Murphy

Mark Murphy may have had his problems the past few years, but rumors that he is not singing well appear to be unfounded. Rifftides reader and occasional correspondent Jim Brown sent a report with evidence. A year or two ago, there were suggestions that Mark was in bad health, perhaps had dementia, and that he might not be performing again. Here's a performance from last summer that will blow you away. Whatever his health problems might have been, it seems clear that he's still hanging in. There … [Read more...]

Catching Up: The Seasons Fall Festival

Following four days of downtime forced by computer and internet problems, Rifftides offers a brief summary of the first five days of The Seasons eight-day Fall Festival. In the first of two appearances, the Tom Harrell Quintet opened the festival Friday evening in The Seasons' acoustically perfect performance hall in Yakima, Washington. With the polish and assurance developed in their years together, Harrell's band combined an edge of adventurousness that, by the time the first piece ended, had … [Read more...]

Hope On The Internet Front

It wasn't sludge (see yesterday's entry), but it did get worse. The problem was intermittent and untraceable even with cable company equipment so sophisticated it might be on loan from the CIA. Now, however, after a pair of two-hour visits from techs, long, baffling phone calls with two other techs and, finally, the purchase and installation of a new piece of equipment, the Rifftides World Headquarters web connection seems alive and stable. That's what I thought 24 hours ago. After a glass of … [Read more...]

Afloat Again—On Monk’s Birthday

It could have been worse—toxic red sludge, for instance. The technician just left after performing CPR on the internet connection, which was out of commission for 48 hours. The Rifftides staff will resume posting soon. Now, ears open wide and notebook in hand, we're off to The Seasons for the next concerts of the Fall Festival. This afternoon,Tom Harrell's quintet and pianist Bill Mays are performing Harell, Antheil and Gershwin with the Yakima Symphony Chamber Orchestra. Tonight, it's the … [Read more...]

In Breve (2): Rosenthal, Carter, Bang, Chang

Continuing the not quite helter-skelter survey of recent recordings that we began last week, here are four more worth your attention: Ted Rosenthal, Impromptu (Playscape). Rosenthal interprets classical composers' themes with respect, but he is not reluctant to add or subtract an element to make them work for improvisation. The pianist, bassist Noriko Ueda and drummer Quncy Davis approach pieces by Bach, Schubert and Brahms as they would those by other revered composers—say, Monk, Ellington … [Read more...]

The Seasons Fall Festival And Scott Robinson

Among the dozens of musicians either already here or headed toward my current home town for the eight days of The Seasons Fall Festival are Tom Harrell and his quintet, Bill Mays, Martin Wind, Matt Wilson, Scott Robinson, the African percussion expert Michael Wimberly, composer Daron Hagen and a raft of classical players, composers and conductors. Thursday evening I heard Harrell rehearsing his Wise Children suite with the Yakima Symphony Chamber Orchestra. Whew. It's something to look forward … [Read more...]

Brown, Green And Hamilton: “Cotton Tail”

While the Rifftides staff prepares the next installment of In Breve, we don't want you to feel abandoned. We have been holding the following video for just such an occasion—Benny Green, piano; Ray Brown,bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums; and the WDR Big Band conducted by John Clayton, in 1994, playing Duke Ellington's "Cotton Tail." In the right hands, "I Got Rhythm's" harmonic changes never grow old. Green has moments in which he might be the reincarnation of Bud Powell. The saxophone section … [Read more...]

CD: Miles Davis

Miles Davis, Bitches Brew 40th Anniversary (Columbia). Here is everything you are likely to want to hear, know, ask or think about Davis' full-fledged leap into the rock ethic that informed his music in the 1970s. It is a lavish boxed package of two LPs, three CDs, a DVD, a book and a packet of posters, ticket replicas, photos, proof sheets and Columbia memos. For those willing to spend more than a hundred bucks, the memorabilia aspect is an attraction, but the music is the thing. Sidemen … [Read more...]