Ron Hudson, Photographer

Ron Hudson

The fine jazz photographer Ron Hudson died at his Seattle home on Tuesday. He was 71. For more than 30 years, Hudson captured memorable images of Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Woody Herman, Milt Jackson, Bud Shank and dozens more of the leading musicians of his time. He worked exclusively in black and white and won admiration for the clarity of his prints. As noted in this Rifftides review of a book of his collected photographs, Hudson had the gift of anticipating a crucial stage in the act of … [Read more...]

Other Places: Arturo O’Farrill’s Cuban Odyssey

A. O'Farrill

Many listeners know that Arturo O'Farrill is a talented New York pianist who leads Jazz at Lincoln Center's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. He has been a considerable force in Latin music in the US for three decades. Fewer may be aware that he is the son of Chico O'Farrill, a Cuban of Irish origin who was one of the most distinctive and versatile composers and arrangers in American jazz. In this week's Village Voice, Larry Blumenfeld tells the father's and son's stories in the context of Arturo's … [Read more...]

Closeted With The MJQ

Blogging is going on the back burner—or maybe a side burner—for a few days while I wrap up an assignment. I am writing the essay and program notes for a seven-CD Mosaic box of the Modern Jazz Quartet's Atlantic studio recordings from 1956 to 1964. It involves a lot of listening, a lot of interviewing, a lot of work and an enormous amount of pleasure. This video from an MJQ concert in Holland in 1982 underlines the point about pleasure. The piece includes a splendid John Lewis solo, Connie Kay's … [Read more...]

SRJO Broadcast Today


I should have alerted you earlier to another web concert by the excellent Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. It will be broadcast beginning at 1 pm (PST) today. Here are the details in an announcement from the SRJO. Tune in to hear highlights of the SRJO's "Jazz Goes To the Movies" (recorded in November 2011) on the next Jazz Northwest on KPLU 88.5FM - KPLU. It's a concert of movie themes and incidental music played by the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. The concert, directed by Clarence Acox … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Bill Monroe’s Legacy

Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe died yesterday at the age of 90. You may remember him as the moderator of NBC's Meet The Press. He was noted for the toughness and fairness of his questioning in the years when that Sunday morning program influenced millions of Americans' thinking about government and politics. I remember him as the man who built the news department of WDSU-TV in New Orleans into a pioneer in early television news and a moderating force when the south was riven by the hatreds and tensions that … [Read more...]

Other Places: Frishberg In Portland


Dave Frishberg will be featured this weekend at one of the main concerts of the Portland Jazz Festival. It's an unusual gig for Frishberg; he frequently plays piano in his adopted hometown but rarely sings his songs there. In Oregon Music News, Jack Berry opens his piece about Frishberg with a story of the time Frishberg got a startling surprise when he spotted an old friend. Here's a link. To see the PDX Jazz festival schedule, go here. … [Read more...]

Other Places: Shearing In Perspective&#151And A Coup

In today's Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout writes about George Shearing's popularity. He finds it admirable. A sample observation: Mr. Shearing's willingness to work both sides of the street vexed jazz critics, who are not an especially tolerant lot, and by the '60s he had been written off as a popularizer. In fact, though, he was something completely different, a dead-serious artist who enjoyed playing well-crafted music that was accessible to a popular audience. To read the whole thing, go … [Read more...]

Winter Moon

Winter Moon 2011

This is what dominates the sky tonight. The photograph snapped by an inadequate camera merely suggests its chilly magnificence. Hoagy Carmichael captured the mood the winter moon generates. This is from his 1956 album with the Pacific Jazzmen. Art Pepper has the first chorus on alto saxophone, with muted trumpet by Don Fagerquist. Jimmy Rowles is the pianist. … [Read more...]

George Shearing, 1919-2011

Shearing head

George Shearing died early today at the age of 91. With his quintet, Shearing used a locked-hands technique at the piano, blending with vibes and guitar to develop a style that resonated with listeners and became one of the most recognizable sounds in an era when jazz was still at the core of popular music. He was already a success because of his hit version of "September in the Rain" when the record of his 1952 composition "Lullaby of Birdland" solidified his popularity. The song also provided … [Read more...]

Shearing On How He Did It

I just came across this video clip of George Shearing answering fellow pianist Billy Taylor's questions about how he developed the Shearing style. The clip has no date, but Taylor's leisure suit says the 1970s. The interested onlooker is Marian McPartland. … [Read more...]

Other Places: Bill Holman Lauded

On his Jazz Profiles website, Steve Cerra begins a tribute to Bill Holman with this passage: In Japan, a select few of those who maintain the country's artistic traditions or make a unique contribution to them are accorded the respect of the nation by being designated as a Living National Treasure [a considerable amount of schimolies also come with the title each year]. When it comes to composing and arranging for Jazz big bands, no one is more deserving of such consideration than Willis "Bill" … [Read more...]

Esperanza Spalding Smashes Grammy Precedent

The young bassist, composer and vocalist Esperanza Spalding last night shattered decades of pop and rock dominance of the Grammys to become the first jazz musician ever to be named best new artist. She edged out the teen idol Justin Bieber and three other pop performers. Spalding's Chamber Music Society CD broke through several categories in 2010 and became a best seller for her label, Telarc. For a Rifftides review of the album, go here. Spalding made an impression in the jazz community for … [Read more...]

Moody In Norway: An Update, Illustrated

James Moody toured in most parts of the world and made friends wherever he went. Following his death in December, the Norwegian pianist Per Husby sent the story of his encounter with Moody a couple of decades ago and the touching question Moody asked him the day after their concert. The pictures and captions below will mean more if you first read Mr. Husby's story. It contains a link to a vocal performance by Moody that includes yodeling. Click here. Then come back to this page. Here is Per … [Read more...]

Other Matters: First Ride Of 2011

Unlike many areas of the northern hemisphere, the Pacific Northwest has had a mild winter so far. Still, it has hardly been prime cycling weather. It was unseasonably warm today—above 60º C—so my Italian friend Vigorelli Bianchi and I hit the road. Downside: the roads and streets were scattered with gravel laid for non-skid protection when there was ice and snow. That made cornering hazardous in spots. Downside #2: there was a powerful southwest wind. On the outbound journey some of … [Read more...]

Allen Smith RIP

From San Francisco comes word that trumpeter Allen Smith died last week at the age of 85. Smith's musical career got underway at the same time as those of his San Francisco State College classmates Paul Desmond, Cal Tjader, Jerome Richardson, Vernon Alley, Roberta Mandel and Dick Vartaniah. He worked with them in various bands and with other Bay Area jazz mainstays, including guitarist Eddie Duran. Although Smith's work as a musician never stopped, he fit it around his schedule as an educator … [Read more...]

Ack Värmeland, Du Sköna

At a jam session a couple of nights ago, someone called "Dear Old Stockholm." I suggested that we play it in the unaltered form of the Swedish folk song that Stan Getz recorded in Stockholm 60 years ago. The bass player said, "Huh?" "It was a folk song?" said the pianist. Many musicians and listeners are under the impression that Miles Davis wrote the song. There is also a general belief that it came equipped with the four bars that Davis inserted. The critic Bob Blumenthal has called that … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Language, Ya Know? (From The Archives)

We in the Rifftides Department Of Language Reform realize that it has been only a year since this item ran. But it failed to change peoples' lousy usage habits, so here it is again. This time, please pay attention. The Rifftides Department Of Language Reform (DOLR) has been neglecting its duties. Its members claim that their failure to stop the misuse of "absolutely" and "no problem" discouraged them. At a staff meeting on the subject, the DOLRers moaned that they despair of succeeding where … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: On Language

Language is the dress of thought.—Samuel Johnson The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.—George Orwell Language is the light of the mind.—John Stuart Mill Mechanical difficulties with language are the outcome of internal difficulties with thought.—Elizabeth Bowen The great thing about human … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Russell Malone

Russell Malone, Triple Play (MaxJazz). The warmth, conversational phrasing and lack of hurry in Malone's guitar work find space and congeniality in the spare background of David Wong's bass and Montez Coleman's drums. In the absence of another chording instrument to collaborate or contend with, Malone is free to make harmonic choices without concern for clash or collision. As the guitarist observes in his liner comments, Wong abets him with "great notes"..."good time" and taste. Coleman's snare … [Read more...]

Other Places: John McNeil’s Backbone

It is known in jazz circles, particularly in New York City, that the trumpeter, composer, bandleader and teacher John McNeil maintains his career through the onslaught of a disease that has the potential to disable him. A lengthy profile of McNeil by journalist, educator and pianist Ben Waltzer gives insight into the disorder McNeil inherited and how he battles and accommodates its depredations. The piece, "John McNeil's Backbone," is on Waltzer's blog, A Hundred Tacks. Here is an … [Read more...]

Other Places: Reprieve In Detroit

As 2010 wound down, it appeared that the venerable Detroit jazz club Baker's Keyboard Lounge might be sold to someone who would make it into a dollar store. That sent a shock through the city's jazz community, which has heard major musicians at Baker's for more than three-quarters of a century. As Mark Stryker reported last week in The Detroit Free Press: Baker's has been integral to Detroit's cultural identity as a jazz mecca for so long, it's hard for musicians, aficionados and even casual … [Read more...]

Striding Ahead With Monk

Following Stephanie Link's performance in the January 31 exhibit, perhaps you were wondering about stride piano's influence on modern jazz. Wonder no more. Kindly pay attention to Thelonious Monk's left hand. Monk was a busy fella at the Berlin Jazztage in 1969. He played several pieces by Duke Ellington and some of his own. The Berliners also teamed him Joe Turner, not the singer but one of the last of the authentic masters of the first stride generation. Monk and Turner played a blues in honor … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Thelonious Monk

Jazz is my adventure. I'm after new chords, new ways of syncopating, new figures, new runs. How to use notes differently. That's it. Just using notes differently. If you really understand the meaning of be-bop, you understand the meaning of freedom. I'm famous. Ain't that a bitch! Monk taught me more about music composition than anyone else on 52nd Street.—Miles Davis … [Read more...]