Maybe 80 Really Is The New 60

Why didn't I think of this when I posted the Going Like 80 (+) item a few days ago? [See November 23, below.] I just added Jim Hall and Bill Smith to the original list. It is accumulating a near-record number of comments. … [Read more...]

Other Matters: A Bonus Day

River Channel 112511

Just when I thought the cycling season had succumbed to the weather, came a perfect day; temperature in the low forties, hardly any wind chill factor—nothing that couldn't be overcome with five layers on top, two layers below, ear muffs, gloves and a foam grommet for the sunglasses. Here is some of what I saw that made the ride worthwhile despite all of that stuff. A side channel of the river Visiting Canadians enjoying the view in the park Mallards having lunch … [Read more...]

Paul Desmond: Take Eighty-Seven

Ellington, Desmond, undated

Referring to the “Going Like 80 (+)” post of November 23, Rifftides reader Ned Corman writes: And, of course, Paul would have been 87, if I have it right. Yes, he was born on Thanksgiving, November 25, 1924. It has become a Rifftides tradition to observe the occasion. Lamenting Paul’s absence, one of Desmond’s favorite playing and socializing partners, Jim Hall, once said that he would have been a great old man. That makes sense; he was a great young man. Dave Brubeck said, “Boy, I … [Read more...]

Youth And Grace

Grace Kelly on the Roof

The past few days, Rifftides has been unavoidably concerned with deaths and with musicians aged 80 or older. Am I the only one ready for an infusion of youth? Grace Kelly, born in 1992, may not be an elected representative of the talented teenagers in jazz, but she gets the nod here because for several years she has been playing well and developing steadily, and I just saw her new video, and it made me feel good. See if it has the same effect on you. To see and hear Ms. Kelly in action … [Read more...]

Thanksgiving 2011

This is an important national holiday in the United States. To Americans observing it, the Rifftides staff sends wishes for a happy Thanksgiving. To readers around the world: we are thankful for your interest, attendance and comments. … [Read more...]

A Great Day in San Antonio And London

Robert Johnson

Rifftides reader Harris Meyer called my attention to a National Public Radio story about major musical achievements of two men on this date in 1936. In their genres, they could hardly have been more different. What they had in common was greatness. Here is the lead paragraph of the NPR item: Nov. 23, 1936, was a good day for recorded music. Two men, an ocean apart, each stepped up to a microphone and began to play. One was a cello prodigy who had performed for the queen of Spain; the … [Read more...]

Going Like 80 (+)

Rifftides reader Mark Mohr writes: Sad about Motian, he was definitely one of a kind. Who else is still playing at 80? Off the top of my head (more or less): Phil Woods (80) Ira Sullivan (80) Ornette Coleman (81) Richard Davis (81) Jim Hall (81) Bill Henderson (81) Annie Ross (81) Frank Strazzeri (81 Barry Harris (82) Ernestine Anderson (83) Junior Mance (83) Bill Crow (84) Dick Hyman (84) Lee Konitz (84) Martial Solal (84) Jimmy Heath (85) Med Flory (85) Bill … [Read more...]

Paul Motian Memorial Broadcast

This just in: WKCR, the radio station of Columbia University in New York City, will broadcast 24 hours of Paul Motian's music beginning at midnight tonight (EST). The station is at 89.9 on the FM dial and streams at this site on the internet. To hear it, click under "Live Broadcast" in the upper right corner of the page. … [Read more...]

Paul Motian, 1931-2011

Motian 2

It was never my intention that Rifftides be a vehicle for so much bad news, but the losses keep mounting. When a musician of Paul Motian’s importance dies, we must take notice. The great drummer succumbed to a bone marrow ailment early this morning in a New York hospital. He was 80. Motian and pianist Bill Evans were colleagues from their days together in the Jerry Wald band in the mid-1950 and later in clarinetist Tony Scott’s quartet. When Evans formed a trio that would turn out to … [Read more...]

Russell Garcia, 1916-2011

R Garcia RIP

Composer, arranger and teacher Russell Garcia died yesterday at his home in New Zealand, where he and his wife settled after sailing away from Los Angeles more than four decades ago. He was 95. Garcia is less known than other writers of his era, but his influence is enormous. Occasional Rifftides contributor Jeff Sultanof, a student and admirer of Garcia’s work, outlines for us his career and accomplishments. Jeff is a composer, orchestrator, editor, educator and researcher who has worked … [Read more...]

Update: Help For Jim Knapp

Knapp 2

The fund-raising effort to aid composer, arranger, trumpeter and bandleader Jim Knapp is progressing slowly. Knapp recently lost his right foot and part of his lower leg in an operation to combat diabetes. In a message, he writes, “My recovery is going well. I have a prosthesis now, so I am bipedal again.” His financial recuperation is less stable. Friends and fellow musicians headed by saxophonist Steve Griggs have set a goal of $30,000 to defray Knapp’s medical expenses, which far exceed his … [Read more...]

Other Places: Lucky Thompson & Dave Brubeck

Lucky Thompson

In his Jazz Profiles blog, Steve Cerra’s stock in trade is—logically enough— profiles of musicians. He copiously illustrates them with photographs, album covers and sound clips and often adds personal reflections or anecdotes to enrich the mix. The lead story that Steve put up today is about the late tenor and soprano saxophonist Lucky Thompson. Thompson worked in the 1940s and ‘50s in Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet and with the big bands of Billy Eckstine, Tom Talbert and Count Basie. … [Read more...]

Correspondence: A Granz Film

Bird, et al, Improvisation

Reacting to the Norman Granz item in the following exhibit, Alan Broadbent writes: I'm sure you and your readers must be aware of this precious film, but for the record here it is. Is it from the legendary Granz vault? Yes. Granz produced, wrote and narrated the film In 1950. He titled it Improvisation. The photographer was Gjon Mili, who had collaborated with Granz six years earlier on the short subject Jammin’ The Blues. The players recorded the music in advance. For the filming, … [Read more...]

The Granz Memory


Tadd Hershorn's biography of Norman Granz (see Doug's Picks in the right-hand column) is full of instances of the mental acuity and toughness that helped see the promoter and record executive through countless challenging situations as he presented jazz and fought discrimination. He had a memory that was legendary among the musicians he worked with. Here is a story not in Hershorn's book. When I was a college student in Seattle in the 1950s, I became acquainted with Percy Heath, the bassist … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Peterson and Cavett

Cavett and Peterson

Not that I’d dream of turning Rifftides into an educational institution, but here’s a chance to learn from a great pianist as he plays and talks about his music. Over the years, Dick Cavett has hosted his show on six networks. These two clips come from his period with the Public Broadcasting Service, 1977-1982, long before PBS began dumbing down its prime time programming with vapid fund-raising specials. But I digress. Here, Cavett’s guest was Oscar Peterson (1925-2007). The first video … [Read more...]

Happy Birthday, USMC

Marine Corps Hymn

Today is the 236th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Hard-core Marines (is there another kind?) might consider it heresy to create a jazz version of the Marine Corps Hymn. They would be wrong. A few months ago during a six-hour bus ride to a performance by the Marine Corps All-Star Jazz Band, Staff Sergeant Ken Ebo, the lead trombonist, wrote an arrangement of the hymn. The band is made up of the 18 best Marine jazz musicians. When they arrived to rehearse for their concert in … [Read more...]

Kenny Burrell, Octogenarian


Kenny Burrell has joined the parade of major jazz artists entering octogenarianism and performing at a high level. The guitarist is of a generation of Detroit musicians including Tommy Flanagan, Pepper Adams, Elvin Jones, Roland Hanna and Louis Hayes that made a significant impact on jazz. Burrell's 80th birthday was a week ago. He is preparing for a concert next weekend. Here's more from a Scott Zimberg profile of the guitarist in The Los Angeles Times: Part of what's kept Burrell … [Read more...]

And Don’t Forget João Gilberto

The great Brazilian bossa nova pioneer turned 80 in June and will be giving a concert in Rio de Janeiro on November 15, Brazil's Republic Day. For details, go here. If you don't read Portuguese, just enjoy the graphics and his singing in the background. Then watch this video of Gilberto performing one of Antonio Carlos Jobim's greatest hits, accompanied by the composer. Maybe 80 really is the new 60. … [Read more...]

A Birthday Twofer: Geller and Woods

Woods 2

Two alto saxophonists who came to prominence in the second wave of bebop celebrated birthdays on the same day this week. On Wednesday, November 2, Herb Geller (on the right) turned 83, Phil Woods, (left) 80. Geller has lived in Hamburg, Germany, since 1965. Woods lives in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. Both have active international playing careers. Geller’s daughter Olivia wrote that her dad was “gutted” when the day before his birthday he got the news of pianist Walter Norris’s death; their … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: On Being A Musician

If I can’t play music, what am I gonna do? Music keeps people sane. When you enjoy yourself, most of the time the people who are listening to you enjoy it.—Zoot Sims My life has always been my music, it's always come first, but the music ain't worth nothing if you can't lay it on the public. The main thing is to live for that audience, 'cause what you're there for is to please the people.—Louis Armstrong I've never known a musician who regretted being one. … [Read more...]

New Recommendations


Immediately below and in the right-hand column under Doug's Picks, you will find the Rifftides staff's current recommendations: CDs by a bassist leading his first big band, a saxophonist who melds his American and Indian influences, and a timeless mainstream cornetist. Also, a DVD with Zoot Sims at his most relaxed and eloquent, and a book about a man who changed jazz and challenged society to do the right thing. … [Read more...]

CD: Ron Carter

Carter Big Band

Ron Carter’s Great Big Band (Sunnyside) The venerable bassist’s first recording at the helm of a big band has style, depth and power. The playlist of jazz standards may suggest that Carter and arranger Robert Freedman are plowing old ground, but they produce a crop of fresh ideas. They transform “Opus One,” “Con Alma,” “Sail Away,” “The Golden Striker,” “St. Louis Blues” and eight others. Harmonically and rhythmically, Carter leads. He solos, but does not dominate the album, leaving space … [Read more...]

CD: Rudresh Mahanthappa

Rudresh M Samdhi

Rudresh Mahanthappa, Samdhi (ACT) This is the latest chapter in the alto saxophonist’s accommodation of his Indian cultural heritage to his American jazz ethos. Or is it the other way around? He combines electric guitar, electric bass, drums, the astonishing South Indian percussionist Anantha Krishnan and discreet post-production manipulation. Guitarist Dave Gilmore is a stimulating foil. The demonic “Killer” and the electronically multiplied saxophones of “Parakram #2” may require … [Read more...]

CD: Ray Skjelbred, Jim Goodwin


Ray Skjelbred & Jim Goodwin, Recorded Live in Port Costa (Orangapoid) A couple of years ago I wrote about the night I discovered Jim Goodwin’s cornet playing and became an instant fan: “His solos had echoes and intimations of Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, Ruby Braff, Max Kaminsky and Wild Bill Davison. He wrapped all of that into a style of great individuality, intimacy, forthright conviction and humor.” This CD captures Goodwin and pianist Skjelbred in 1977, 32 years before Goodwin’s … [Read more...]

DVD: Zoot Sims

Zoot Sentimental

Zoot Sims, In A Sentimental Mood (MVD) We see the tenor saxophonist sitting on a couch telling bassist Red Mitchell about his treasured old horn. Then the two and guitarist Rune Gustafsson play “In a Sentimental Mood.” Sims tells about Benny Goodman stealing his apple, and they play “Gone With the Wind.” For nearly an hour, we eavesdrop on a superb trio in an intimate setting, sharing stories and music. Like The Sound of Jazz, it is a video rarity—musicians allowed to be themselves, … [Read more...]