Help For Jim Knapp

Jim Knapp

A concert in Seattle this week will kick off a fund-raising effort to benefit the composer, arranger and bandleader Jim Knapp. In a recent operation, Knapp lost his right foot and part of his lower leg to diabetes. His insurance doesn’t come close to covering his expenses. A group of musicians and Knapp admirers spearheaded by saxophonist and composer Steve Griggs has organized a campaign to ease Knapp’s financial burden. Their goal is $30,000. The concert Wednesday evening will be at the Triple … [Read more...]

Other Matters: BOO!

2011 Pumpkin 2

Meet the official 2011 Rifftides Halloween jack-o’lantern, designed to scare trick or treaters out of their costumes and away from RT world headquarters. In case that doesn’t work, several pounds of cheap candy are standing by. It may be that jazz musicians have recorded music with a Halloween theme worth relaying to the Rifftides readership. If so, I couldn’t find it. However, by merest chance, the night before Halloween I came across video of the piano team of Greg Anderson and Elizabeth … [Read more...]

Viklický’s Medal

udílení Státních vyznamenání na Pražském Hradě

Last Friday, pianist and composer Emil Viklický received the Czech Republic’s Medal of Merit from the country’s president, Vaclav Klaus. With his international reputation, Viklický (pictured on the right, with the president) is one of his country’s best-known musicians. Among the ten others receiving the medal were the Shakespeare translator Martin Hilsky, champion ski jumper Jiri Raska, and Jan Krulis-Randa, a U.S. climatologist of Czech origin. Bassist George Mraz is a previous winner. … [Read more...]

Getz And Sauter: Focus, The Video


A recent discussion among jazz researchers disclosed what to many of us was news, that there exists video of Stan Getz and Eddie Sauter performing portions of Focus. There has never been anything else quite like the 1961 Verve album of Getz soloing over, around and inside Sauter’s dazzling score for orchestra. Getz was widely quoted as saying that of all his recordings, it was his favorite. In 1964 Getz and Sauter had a return engagement, the music for an Arthur Penn film starring Warren Beatty. … [Read more...]

Miles Español Released

Miles Espanol

A Rifftides reader asked what happened with Bob Belden’s Miles Español video and audio project that I took a brief hiatus to contribute to this summer. It is out as a two-CD set. My essay on the African, Spanish, Caribbean and New Orleans influences that led to Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain, among many other cultural and musical phenomena, is part of the package. … [Read more...]

Other Matters: The Carbaggio Story

Hall and Desmond

Friend Dave Cohler sent me a few puns recently and reminded me of one I sent him long before it became a part of my Paul Desmond biography. Desmond and Jim Hall (pictured) concocted what I described in the book as the most elaborate pun I’ve ever encountered. He loved to recite it: A boy of Italian descent named Carbaggio is born in Germany. With his swarthy looks and dark curly hair, he grows up feeling a bit of a misfit among the blond Teutons. He tries to compensate by being more … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: George Shearing

All my musical foundations go back to the age of 3. My family tell me that I used to listen to the old crystal set, then go to the piano and pick out the tune that I just heard. On the standard “Lullaby of Birdland,” which he composed one morning at breakfast: I always tell people, it took me 10 minutes and 35 years in the business. I get tired of playing it, but not of collecting the royalties. You know, when you've established a certain thing, what can you do? … [Read more...]

The Shearing Sound Revived

Shearing Quintet Revival

Riding on the popularity of its late mentor, a new jazz group’s low profile may be about to get higher. A year or so before he died early this year, pianist George Shearing gave his blessing to vibraharpist Charlie Shoemake’s idea of forming a living tribute to Shearing’s quintet, for decades one of the most successful of all small jazz bands. The resulting combo, featuring Shoemake and other veterans of the Shearing quintet, has been playing concerts, clubs, festivals and jazz parties in … [Read more...]

Jeff Sultanof On Pete Rugolo


Shortly after Pete Rugolo died this week, Jeff Sultanof offered to contribute a piece putting Rugolo’s work in perspective. I was delighted to accept and flattered that he considered Rifftides the proper place for his essay. Jeff is a native of New York City, where he lives and works. He is a composer, orchestrator, editor, educator and researcher greatly admired in the community of professional musicians, critics and academics. He has analyzed, studied, edited and taught the music of Gerald … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Marcus Strickland


Marcus Strickland, Triumph of the Heavy (SMK). In the liner notes, saxophonist Strickland writes, “Playing for a live audience heightens the adrenaline; you don’t have the luxury of correcting mistakes. It puts you on a high wire.” The second of the album’s two CDs, a club recording, captures his trio’s risk-taking and underlines the influence of an audience that truly listens. Strickland, his twin brother E.J. on drums and Ben Williams on bass hold the crowd’s attention and seem to thrive on … [Read more...]

Pete Rugolo, 1915-2011

Rugolo 2

Pete Rugolo has died in Los Angeles at the age of 95. Rugolo’s composing and arranging, particularly for the Stan Kenton Orchestra, had much to do in the 1940s and ‘50s with the creation of what came to be called progressive jazz. As a discoverer of talent and as a producer, he was responsible for recording a number of artists including Peggy Lee and Mel Tormé. He produced the seminally influential Miles Davis Birth of the Cool sessions of 1949 and ’50. Later, Rugolo led a band of his own and … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Progress In Air Travel Safety

plastic spoon

A friend writes: Getting home, our plane had to stop in Sacramento to get gas. The jet stream was so strong last night, we flew north over parts of Canada to avoid it. Flying through the jet stream is NOT a good idea, so we did not. I put some cottage cheese in a plastic container and into my carry-on, planned to eat it on the way. Evidently it looked suspicious—It took a while until the inspector asked me what it was. I told him. He threw it away and returned the container. … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Cecilia Coleman

Coleman, Oh Boy!

Cecilia Coleman Big Band, Oh Boy! (PandaKat). Before she moved to New York 13 years ago, Coleman established a solid reputation as a pianist and arranger in her native southern California. Studies with Charlie Shoemake and Tom Kubis provided a solid theoretical foundation for imaginative charts that she wrote for a variety of small groups she fronted or played with in Los Angeles. With New York’s pool of accomplished jazz players to choose from, she expanded her arranging scope and palette. … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Fruscella & Moore

Fruscella, Moore

Tony Fruscella & Brew Moore, The 1954 Unissued Atlantic Session (Fresh Sound). Fruscella was an enigmatic trumpeter with a deeply personal style, Moore a tenor saxophonist who once said that anyone who didn’t play like Lester Young was wrong. At a time when Dizzy Gillespie’s fiery playing was the general model, Fruscella was one of a few young trumpeters who concentrated on tone, lyricism and quiet melodic invention. Others were Don Joseph, Phil Sunkel, Miles Davis and Chet Baker. The … [Read more...]

“I’ll Be Seeing You”

It occurred to me as I was writing the review above that I have linked to Tony Fruscella’s “I’ll Be Seeing You,” but never actually put it on Rifftides. Let’s remedy that. Fruscella, trumpet; Bill Triglia, piano; Bill Anthony, bass; Will Bradley, Jr., drums. … [Read more...]

Don’t The Moon Look Lonesome

Moon Through Trees

The irregular Rifftides series of posts inspired by moon sightings now continues. A half-hour ago, I glanced out the window at the harvest moon beginning its transit across the valley. It was framed by the branches of a huge fir tree, but clouds were beginning to move across its face. If I was going to get a shot, it had to be soon. I dashed downstairs, grabbed the el cheapo digital camera, bounded back up to the kitchen, removed the window screen, flung open the window and had time for two … [Read more...]

For Fun: Weiss, Most & Co.

Weiss & Most

Mort Weiss identified himself in a comment here as “the world’s greatest out-of-work Jewish bebop clarinet player.” That may be, but he found work one night not long ago at Steamers jazz club in the Los Angeles area. Weiss led a band with Sam Most, tenor sax and flute; Ron Eschete, guitar; Luther Hughes, bass; and Roy McCurdy, drums. The tune is Jerome Kern’s “I’m Old Fashioned” at a lovely, relaxed tempo. Most’s two tenor choruses channeling Lester Young are as enjoyable as watching him dig … [Read more...]

Dancing In F. A Cognac For Albam


Here are a couple of anecdotes from Bill Crow’s “Band Room” column in the October Allegro, the New York Local 802 newspaper of the American Federation of Musicians. Ron Mills, while fronting a combo at a dance in Chicago, was approached by a couple of dancers. The husband asked, with an earnest look, “Do you play a lot of songs in the key of F. That’s the key I dance best to.” The wife nodded in agreement. As the night progressed, Ron couldn’t see any difference in their dancing … [Read more...]

It’s Larry Young’s Birthday

Larry Young

Rifftides does not make it a practice to observe birthdays of jazz artists. That could be a full-time job. Once in a while we make an exception. This is one. Larry Young was born on October 7, 1940. He took the organ beyond Jimmy Smith’s earthy approach and Don Patterson’s piano-style into the use of modes. Young sometimes employed the instrument’s capacity for overtones to produce otherworldly effects. With Tony Williams Lifetime, Miles Davis on Bitches Brew and Jimi Hendrix on Nine to the … [Read more...]

Jazz At Newport, Part 2

Cohen, tenor

One index of the effectiveness of a jazz group in the yeasty activity of a festival is how much attention they get from other musicians. Backstage at Jazz at Newport, visiting players from New York and California raised eyebrows and leaned forward as they listened to Portland’s PDX Quintet. Led by trumpeter and flugelhornist Dick Titterington, the band played a set that started with Mike Wofford’s arrangement of Cole Porter’s “Dream Dancing,” then turned to post-bop repertoire. Freddie … [Read more...]

Jazz At Newport, Part 1

Newport OR

In 1963, Dick Gibson (1926-1998) threw a party in Denver, where he lived. An investment banker who expanded his fortune when he founded the Water Pik company, Gibson invited well-heeled friends to mingle with his favorite mainstream musicians and listen to them play. He ran his jazz parties for three decades and hired a cross section of artists that included James Moody, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry, Ross Tompkins, Victor Feldman, Budd Johnson, Trummy Young and Cliff Leeman, to name a few. … [Read more...]

Thank You

Thanks to the dozens and dozens (and dozens) of Rifftides readers who sent birthday messages via Facebook and other social media. How the word got out, I have no idea, but you folks certainly know how to make a guy feel that maybe this blogging stuff is worth the effort. … [Read more...]

Kilgore And Frishberg At The Touché

Frishberg, Kilgore

“Schedule permitting” I wrote in the previous exhibit, “I hope to work in a bit of blogging.” The schedule did not permit. The Oregon expedition was a jam-packed (ahem) four days that allowed the Rifftides staff (plus one) time to sleep a little and to eat now and then, often on the run. It's life on the road. I hope tomorrow to bring you a compact account of the Jazz at Newport Festival on the Oregon coast. For now, let me tell you about Rebecca Kilgore and Dave Frishberg Thursday evening at … [Read more...]