Draghici’s “Donna Lee”


Bill Crow sent an alert to a clip of the amazing musician Damian Draghici. Tricked by memory, I could have sworn that I had posted the video a few months ago, but the staff’s thorough search of the Rifftides archive turned up no trace of it. Draghici is a Romanian Gypsy as celebrated in his country for activism in behalf of the Roma people as for his mastery of the pan flute, an instrument rarely encountered in your average jam session. He studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, worked in … [Read more...]

“So What,” Illustrated

So What

Here’s something to engross you as you prepare for a new week. A man named Dan Cohen animates music in the most fundamental and entertaining way. You have no doubt heard the Miles Davis Sextet playing “So What” often enough that you can sing along with the solos. Well, in fairness, it would require a remarkably flexible voice to stay in unison with Coltrane, but enjoy singing along—or reading along—with Mr. Cohen’s tour of one of the great jazz recordings. Miles Davis, John … [Read more...]

Weekendia: Lester Young, Bill Crow, Radio Tip

Lester Young

Here is a weekend roundup of diversions or attractions for those Rifftides readers with nothing better to do on an August weekend; dodging Hurricane Irene, for instance. 1: Lester Young. This is one of the rare instances of The President performing on film. It is a kinescope of an episode of Art Ford’s Jazz Party, from the era when virtually all television programming was live. Ford’s show on WNTA-TV in New York survived for a few months in the late 1950s. He presented a cross-section of … [Read more...]

Other Places: The Ellis Marsalis Center

Ellis Marsalis

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Harry Connick and Branford Marsalis vowed to see that New Orleans musicians affected by the storm would get long-term help. Six years of their hard work and the cooperation of hundreds of others are about to make a tangible difference in the city’s musical community and beyond. A new center named in honor of Ellis Marsalis (pictured)—father of four famous sons in jazz and teacher of hundreds of musicians—is officially open and will be in full … [Read more...]

Catching Up With Kristin Korb

Kristin Korb, Soiree

Kristin Korb, you may recall, plays the bass as she sings or sings as she plays the bass. Take your pick; she does both equally well. This video is from a house-party concert she gave last year. The event was called Spring Soiree. The house provided a splendid view of the lights of Los Angeles. Korb’s colleagues in the rhythm section were her frequent pianist Llew Matthews, and drummer Matt Gordy. The clip gives a rare opportunity to hear former Stan Kenton alto saxophonist Mary Fettig, a … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Regarding Uan Rasey


I had hoped to include in the post below something from André Previn, who was Mr. Rasey’s colleague in the studios and, like him, is one of the few remaining members of the remarkable MGM orchestra of the 1940s and ‘50s. My request for a few words from Maestro Previn made its way to him a day late. He responded with this: Thank you very much for your email. I have many remembrances of Uan, all of which are complimentary and flattering. He was not only the best trumpet player working at … [Read more...]

It’s Uan Rasey’s Birthday

Uan Rasey

Today, trumpet players the world over are celebrating Uan Rasey's 90th birthday. Listeners and moviegoers might be celebrating, too, if they knew that Rasey’s horn is the one they have heard gracing the sound tracks of some of the best-known films from the glory days of Hollywood. Among the pictures he enhanced: An American in Paris, Singing in the Rain, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Gigi, High Anxiety and perhaps most memorably, Chinatown. From 1949 through the first half of the 1970s Rasey … [Read more...]

Their Latin Thing


My peripheral involvement in Bob Belden’s Miles Español project has refired a longstanding interest in music that combines Latin and jazz elements. A story by Larry Rohter in today’s New York Times added more fuel. It is about the restoration and DVD release of a film that played an influential role in bringing widespread attention to Latin music and, in particular, to the brand of salsa cooked up in New York's Latin melting pot. Rohter begins by quoting the master percussionist Ray Barretto … [Read more...]

Summertime Perfection

It was time to put up a new post. With a house full of guests, ideal summer weather and the attractions of all outdoors, I looked for an easy out. The solution begins with a perfect trumpet chorus, then gets better. The gorgeous arrangement was by Russell Garcia. … [Read more...]

A Bill Evans Birthday Observance

Evans, Laurie

At this hour in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Laurie Verchomin is celebrating the 82nd anniversary of Bill Evans’ birth. She is at Alberta College reading from her book about the brief, intense relationship with the pianist that inspired him to write “Laurie.” The composition became a central part of Evans’ repertoire in his final years. Ms. Verchomin was with him on his final day in September,1980. On the left, we see Evans with photo booth shots of Laurie. For a Rifftides mention of the book, … [Read more...]

Joel Miller: Jazz In Montreal, Baby

Cole, Randy

There is more to jazz in Montreal than the sprawling festival that takes place in the Canadian city every summer. Keeping up with developments there is easier because of the work of filmmaker Randy Cole (pictured). Cole’s latest short film is about the influence of a new daughter on the life and work of tenor saxophonist Joel Miller and Miller’s preparations for a project with bassist Fraser Hollins, drummer Greg Ritchie and the visiting American pianist Geoffrey Keezer. The last Rifftides … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: A New “Blue Prelude”

Gordon Jenkins

Gordon Jenkins (pictured) wrote the music and Joe Bishop the words to “Blue Prelude” in 1933. Shortly after, the Isham Jones band introduced the song on record. In the reed section was a young saxophonist and clarinetist named Woody Herman, who ultimately became leader of a cooperative band that some of Jones’ members formed after Jones retired in 1936. That group, in turn, became the first of Herman’s own bands, known as The Band That Plays the Blues. Herman was so attached to “Blue Prelude” … [Read more...]

Lundgren Now

Lundgren hand up

The Rifftides staff is springing—well, easing—(all right, slouching) back into action after near-total immersion in the Miles Español project described three items down. Here is a pleasant way to do it. Word from Sweden is that the Ystad Jazz Festival organized and supervised by pianist Jan Lundgren in his hometown was a sold-out success. The four-day festival concluded last Sunday. I had hoped to cover it for you, but was unable to make arrangements. Maybe next year. … [Read more...]

Lundgren Then: An Archive Special

The news from Ystad arrived in a conversation with Dick Bank that also included discussion of a recording that is a high point in Lundgren’s career as a pianist and in Mr. Bank's as a record producer. It is Lundgren's album with bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe La Barbera of songs by Ralph Rainger. When the CD was released two-and-a-half years ago, it received enthusiastic reviews, but in narrow precincts of the press and the web. It deserved more attention and still does. Therefore, … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Clark Terry Update

Bill Crow sent this followup to the August 4 Rifftides item: I talked to Clark yesterday on the phone (my call interrupted his practicing the trumpet). He’s been home from the hospital for a couple of days and says he is concentrating on healing up. Sounded wonderful.He laughed a long time when I told him a joke. He’s an expert at hanging in there, and I hope that he hangs in for a long time. … [Read more...]

The Miles Español Project

Bob Belden

Blogging here has slowed in the past few days and may not pick up markedly for a few more. The Rifftides staff is on deadline for an historical essay to accompany Bob Belden’s Miles Español film project. The research has had to be deeper, wider and more intense than I imagined when I said yes to the assignment. No regrets, though. A few years ago, William Zinsser wrote an inspirational book called Writing to Learn. I thought I knew a thing or two about the subject at hand, but as I write this, … [Read more...]


Clark Terry

This item from trumpeter Mike Vax has popped up in various places on the web in the past couple of days. It is dated August 3. I just talked with Gwen Terry. Clark Terry had surgery on his right leg to remove some blockage and the operation went very well. I will be talking with Clark tomorrow and will give him all the good wishes that I know will come from many of you. Please keep him in your thoughts and think good things for him. After all - any surgery at age 90 is a major … [Read more...]

Other Places: Jazz And Poverty

The subtitle above may seem like a redundancy, and for too many musicians, it is. Fellow artsjournal blogger Howard Mandel's newest post offers a question— “Are hard times good for jazz?” —and answers it at some length, complete with a classic 1930s film clip. The reader comments are also interesting. To see the piece, click here. Nice work, Howard. I wish I'd thought of that. … [Read more...]

New Recommendations

OK thumbs up

In the right-hand column under Doug's Picks, you will find recommendations of new CDs by a daring pianist, a daring duo and a daring singer. For now, last month's DVD and book picks remain on the main page. New ones will follow——sooner or later. … [Read more...]

CD: Denny Zeitlin

Zeitlin Labyrinth

Denny Zeitlin, Labyrinth (Sunnyside) Four of the 10 solo piano pieces are adventurous departures from previous versions of Zeitlin’s compositions, including his kaleidoscopic treatment of the title tune. His reconstructions of Richard Rodgers’ “People Will Say We’re in Love” and Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” would make Rodgers frown at the harmonic liberties and have Shorter smiling. Zeitlin holds Tom Harrell’s “Sail Away” in a respectful embrace and takes John Coltrane’s “Lazy Bird” for a … [Read more...]

CD: Marsalis And Calderazzo

Marsalis Calderazzo

Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (Marsalis Music) A dozen years of togetherness in Marsalis’s quartet have bred familiarity that allows the saxophonist and the pianist to flow through one another’s thoughts. In these duets, their interactions and reactions are as profound on the mirthful pieces as on the melancholy. Marsalis wrote three of the songs, Calderazzo four, Wayne Shorter and Johannes Brahms one apiece. The Brahms “Die Trauernde” is an art song, … [Read more...]

CD: Mark Murphy

Mark Murphy Never

Mark Murphy, Never Let Me Go (Jazz Paisan) In his early years, Murphy supported himself as an actor and a singer. His singing soon took precedence. His acting never stopped. The roles he inhabits are the songs he sings. His idiosyncrasies parallel those of Olivier, Brando, Guinness and Depp in character development undergirded by technique in the service of emotional range. In Murphy’s dozens of albums, that virtuosity has never been clearer than in this one. The songs are by Porter, Jobim, … [Read more...]

DVD: Fred Anderson

Anderson Timeless

Fred Anderson, 21st Century Chase (Delmark). We gave this DVD glancing reference in noting the avant-garde Chicago tenor saxophonist‘s passing in 2010. It deserves fuller mention. “Chase” refers to the tenor sax tag-team tradition in jazz. Think Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray in outer space. The other chaser here is Kidd Jordan, New Orleans’ dean of far-out tenor men. Jeff Parker is on guitar, Chad Taylor on drums. Harrison Bankhead, complete with top hat, plays bass and cello. Bassist Henry … [Read more...]

Book: Riccardi On Armstrong


Ricky Riccardi, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years (Pantheon). In the eulogy at Armstrong’s funeral in 1971, Fred Robbins said, “He was truly the only one of his kind, a titanic figure in his and our time, a veritable Picasso. A Stravinsky. A Casals. A Louis Armstrong.” Many of Armstrong’s critics charged that his artistic stature diminished after 1931, 1940, 1956…(pick a year). Riccardi’s meticulous research and engaging narrative put that notion to rest. … [Read more...]