Listen Up: New Recommendations

Listen 1

The Rifftides staff has done exhaustive auditioning, winnowing and selecting from among hundreds of CDs, DVDs and books hoping to be chosen. The result: a new batch of recommendations. They are compact discs by a pianist and a trumpeter who love Mingus, musical portraits of the seven deadly sins, a Nat King Cole concert that surfaced after 61 years in hiding, a DVD of two elderly avant-garde saxophonists with the energy of teenagers, and a book dedicated to the proposition that Louis Armstrong's … [Read more...]

CD: Knuffke & Stacken

Orange Was The Color

Kirk Knuffke & Jess Stacken, Orange Was The Color (Steeplechase). Balancing daring and restraint, Knuffke and Stacken address 11 of Charles Mingus’s compositions. Knuffke sets aside his trumpet in favor of cornet to intertwine, contrast and parallel his lines with Stracken’s piano. He achieves remarkable precision and velocity at low volume. Stracken equals Knuffke in the control and articulation departments. Among the highlights: a section of free counterpoint on “Ecclusiastics” and … [Read more...]

CD: Joseph Daley

Daley Deadly

Joseph Daley Earth Tones Ensemble, The Seven Deadly Sins (Jaro). Inspired by Wade Schulman paintings, Daley wrote orchestral impressions of the sins. To the veteran composer and tubist, earth tones mean low notes. Anchored by tubas, bass saxophone, contrabass sax, contrabass clarinet, contrabass violin and bass trombone, Daley’s variegated writing nonetheless encompasses a full range of orchestral sounds for reeds, brass and percussion. New York stars including Bob Stewart, Scott Robinson, … [Read more...]

CD: Nat Cole

Cole, Herman

Nat King Cole, The Forgotten 1949 Carnegie Hall Concert (Hep). Cole’s trio and the Woody Herman Second Herd teamed up for a successful concert tour, with Carnegie Hall a high spot. It was recorded but never before issued. Now, here it is, with Cole’s singing and piano playing at a high level. He included many of his famous numbers—“Sweet Lorraine,” “Lush Life,” Body and Soul,” “Bop Kick” among them—and a terrific new piece called “Cuba Libre” by the trio and bongoist Jack … [Read more...]

From The Archives: Clifford Brown

Clifford Brown died on this date in 1956. If he had lived, he would be 80. We will never know what glories he would have added to those he had achieved at the age of 26. Here is what I wrote on the 50th anniversary of his death. Fifty years ago today at The Seattle Times, as I ripped copy from the wire machines my eye went to a story in the latest Associated Press national split. A young trumpeter named Clifford Brown had been killed early that morning in a car crash. My heart stopped for … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Bill Perkins

Bill Perkins

Bill Perkins (1924-2003) was the archetype of the creative musician incapable of letting his style freeze in place. To borrow the phrase coined by his initial inspiration Lester Young, Perkins refused to be a “repeater pencil.” He was with Stan Getz, Gene Ammons, Zoot Sims, Richie Kamuca, Al Cohn, Don Lanphere and many others in a generation of young tenor saxophonists who developed with Young as their model. His playing under Young’s influence graced the bands of Jerry Wald, Woody Herman and … [Read more...]

The New NEA Jazz Masters


The National Endowment for the Arts today named the 2012 NEA Jazz Masters. As announced in the NEA's news release, the winners are: Jack DeJohnette, Drummer, Keyboardist, Composer (born in Chicago, IL; lives in Willow, NY) Von Freeman, Saxophonist (born in Chicago, IL; lives in Chicago, IL) Charlie Haden, Bassist, Composer, Educator (born in Shenandoah, IA; lives in Agoura Hills, CA) Sheila Jordan, Vocalist, Educator (born in Detroit, MI; lives in Middleburgh, … [Read more...]

Bob Flanigan

Bob Flanigan

More than one Rifftides reader has taken me to task for posting nothing about the death of Bob Flanigan, the original lead singer of the vocal-instrumental group The Four Freshmen. Flanigan died on May 15 at his home in Las Vegas. He was 84. As if to validate the group, many of his obituaries dwelled on Flanigan’s and the Freshmens’ influence on the Beach Boys and other pop performers of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The Freshmen validated themselves through excellence as singers and instrumentalists. … [Read more...]

Other Places: Hot Lips Page & A Real Record Store

Hot Lips Page

HOT LIPS PAGE Speaking of quasi-forgotten trumpeters of the 1930s and ‘40s (see the Benny Carter item in the previous exhibit), in his current post, blogger and frequent Rifftides correspndent Bruno Leicht highlights Hot Lips Page. Here’s some of what he writes about that musician of astonishing gifts: ‘Hot Lips’ was a joyful trumpeter with a big tone, directly influenced by Louis Armstrong. Most commercial studio dates don’t reflect his daring trumpet excursions; they rarely let you … [Read more...]

Benny Carter, Trumpeter

Carter, trumpet

Benny Carter (1907-2003) is indelibly identified as a master of the alto saxophone, to the point where many listeners new to his work don’t know that he was also one of the great trumpet soloists of the 1930s. He gave up the horn for several years, concentrating on alto sax, composing and arranging. When he picked up the trumpet again and spent six weeks reconditioning his chops, he regained his distinctive tone and expansive way of improvising. He was always in search of perfection. … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Cycling Shots

West Valley Scene

Don Emanuel, David Evans and other Rifftides readers have encouraged me to continue posting photographs made during bicycle expeditions. Okay. Maybe they are a welcome diversion. I tore myself away for a 15-miler this afternoon and paused at the top of a long, steep hill because my legs told me to. This may be nothing more than your standard b-flat calendar shot, but taking it was an excuse to rest. I like the clouds and that house high up on the left. When I got back, as I opened the … [Read more...]

Stewart Plays Bryant

Louis Stewart

Reaction to the death of Ray Bryant keeps coming in. Dubliner Colm (Red) O’Sullivan writes from Rio de Janeiro, where he is immersing himself in Brazilian music. He alerts us to video of a fellow Irishman, guitarist Louis Stewart, playing a Bryant composition. Stewart has been an important player in the UK for decades. He has occasionally appeared in the US. In The New York Times in 1981, John S. Wilson wrote, after hearing Stewart, “he spins out single-note lines that flow with an unhurried … [Read more...]

The JJA Awards

2011 JJA Awards

The staff is back at Rifftides world headquarters after joining other Jazz Journalists Association members for the JJA’s 2011 award event. We assembled on Saturday at Egan’s Ballard Jam House in Seattle to watch the ceremony by satellite feed from New York. It was one of several satellite parties around the country. John Gilbreath of Earshot Jazz was among us and received one of the nine Jazz Hero awards, a new category this year. Applause, shouts and whistles for John were as deafening as our … [Read more...]

Sing Along With Horace

Horace, Messengers

Woke up this morning (no, that is not going to be the beginning of a blues lyric)… …and made this the background music to preparations for the day. I chose it because I wanted something that had solos I could sing, hum and whistle along with as I fixed breakfast. Every note of Horace Silver’s second Blue Note album, the first by the Jazz Messengers, has been embedded in my brain since shortly after it was released in 1955. My record collection then consisted of 10 or 12 LPs. This was … [Read more...]

Viklický & Printup in Olomouc


New video has surfaced from an engagement that trumpeter Marcus Printup played with the Emil Viklický Trio during Printup’s visit to the Czech Republic in 2007. YouTube identifies the first piece as “In Holomoc Town,” but that is likely a misspelling or alternate spelling of “Olomouc,” the name of Viklický’s Moravian hometown. And where is Olomouc, you might ask. It is southeast of Prague (Praha) and northeast of Brno (thanks for the map, Google). Viklický is the pianist, Petr Dvorsky the … [Read more...]

In Breve: Catching Up

CDs on Desk

Periodically, we post brief alerts to recordings the Rifftides staff finds worthwhile. The mini- or micro-reviews are not intended as deep analysis, but as guideposts. Some of these albums are recent arrivals. We select others, not quite at random, from accumulations in the music room and office, stacks like those on the left. Beneath the piles of CDs is my desktop. I remember it fondly. Bill Cunliffe, How My Heart Sings (Torri). The album has pianist Cunliffe’s ingenious sextet … [Read more...]

Ray Bryant, 1931-2011

Ray Bryant

Ray Bryant died on Thursday in a New York hospital following a long illness. He was 79. A pillar of modern mainstream piano, Bryant was often categorized as a blues pianist. He was certainly that, a great one, but his stylistic breadth, powerful swing and harmonic flexibility put him in demand not only by blues singers and players but also by the most sophisticated modern jazz artists from the 1950s on. A list of a few of his colleagues and employers gives an idea of Bryant’s range: Charlie … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Konitz, Mehldau, Haden, Motian

Live at Birdland

Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Live at Birdland (ECM). When he’s working with people whose knowledge and ears he trusts, Konitz sometimes simply begins. The first track starts with seven seconds of silence. Then, Konitz, accompanied by Motian’s brushes, embarks on an alto saxophone abstraction. The listener who hasn’t looked at the listing on the CD box has no idea what tune this is going to be—and wonders if the rhythm section knows. After a few seconds, Mehldau’s … [Read more...]