Portland Festival, Take Five: Marsalis-Calderazzo Duo, Brubeckians

Marsalis, Calderazzo

MARSALIS AND CALDERAZZO Parts of Brandford Marsalis’s and Joey Calderazzo’s Sunday concert of saxophone-piano duets suggested the atmosphere of a 19th century recital somewhere in middle Europe. The beauty of Calderazzo’s “La Valse Kendall,” Marsalis’s “The Bard Lachrymose” and the short “Die Trauernde” of Brahms encouraged quiet reflection. These are jazz musicians, however—two of the most adventuresome—and a complete afternoon of stately salon music wasn’t in the cards. The … [Read more...]

Portland Festival, Take Four: Tirtha, Frisell, Titterington


TIRTHA In music, as in much else, Portland welcomes the eclectic and the exotic. Saturday, the ninth day of the Portland Jazz Festival gave listeners much to welcome at the Crystal ballroom. In that bastion of eclecticism on the edge of the Pearl District, Vijay Iyer, an American pianist of Indian heritage, joined with Prasanna, a South Indian guitarist, and Nitin Mitta, a tabla player whose background is in classical music of North India. They call their group Tirtha, which translates as … [Read more...]

Portland Jazz Festival, Take Three: Roy Haynes & Others

Roy Haynes

Events are packed tightly, often simultaneously, in the schedule of the Portland Jazz Festival. If a listener selects one performance, others—sometimes several—must go by the wayside. Missing Roy Haynes did not seem an option. Three weeks short of his 87th birthday, on Friday evening the drummer played, danced, kibitzed and kidded with his Fountain Of Youth band. Even friskier and fuller of wry fun than usual, Haynes played the leader as MC. At the Newmark Theater, he engaged the … [Read more...]

Portland Jazz, Take Two: Bridgewater, Frishberg, Kilgore

Dee Dee With Kenny

More than two decades ago in Paris, Dee Dee Bridgewater began to make Billie Holiday’s music and mystique a part of herself. In the years since, she has expanded, refined and intensified her Holiday role while firmly establishing her own persona. Bridgewater’s tribute to Lady Day filled the Newmark Theater in downtown Portland last night. She demonstrated to the Portland Jazz Fesival audience that she is capable of an uncanny Holiday impression. She briefly employed it to comic effect as a way … [Read more...]

Portland Jazz Festival, Take One: Chuck Israels

Israels 1

(Portland, Oregon) The Portland Jazz Festival’s two-week extravaganza has been filling this Columbia River city with music since February 17. For the duration, concert halls, restaurants, hotel lounges and Portland’s flourishing year-‘round jazz clubs ring with music. Concerts, seminars, workshops and jam sessions run from shortly after dawn until the wee hours. To see the schedule, go here. Dedicated festival pass holders who have attended nearly everything tell me that highlights in the early … [Read more...]

On The Road


Tomorrow, the Rifftides staff is headed south, then west through the magnificent Columbia River Gorge to Portland, Oregon, one of my favorite former hometowns. The occasion is the Portland Jazz Festival. As usual, PDX Jazz is packed with far more music than anyone can take in. I will try to choose carefully and carve out enough time to blog about some of what I hear. My preliminary list includes Roy Haynes, Bill Frisell, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Chuck Israels and Vijay Iyer, among others. It appears … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Ellington 1932-1940

Ellington 23-40

This wraps up discussion of the albums I voted for in the 2011 Rhapsody critics poll. The Complete 1932-40 Brunswick, Columbia and Master Recordings of Duke Ellington And His Famous Orchestra (Mosaic) This magnificently produced and remastered set of 11 CDs covers the Ellington era from roughly the end of his Cotton Club years to the beginning of what has come to be called the Blanton-Webster band. As Steven Lasker notes at the end of his invaluable essay for this set, Duke … [Read more...]

Prez On Presidents Day

Lester Young

Today is Presidents Day in the United States. It falls between the birthdays of two of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and George Washington (February 22). Many years ago, there was a movement in the Congress to consolidate the two observances into one holiday that would honor all US presidents. The effort never resulted in an official national holiday, but department stores and automobile dealerships liked the idea so much that they declared it a holiday and celebrate it … [Read more...]

Other Matters: The Owl

Owl 2

Toward evening yesterday, we heard a raucous disturbance among the flock of blue jays occupying a blue spruce at the edge of the yard. We looked out to find the jays dive bombing a row of arbor vitae. About halfway up one of the shrubs was what we later concluded was a western screech owl. It wasn’t screeching, just peering out of its refuge looking unconcerned and, of course, wise. Owls are so infrequent in our neighborhood that I took a picture through the window with an inadequate … [Read more...]

Odds And Ends

Odds and Ends

Correspondence Rifftides reader George McCord writes: ..I was wondering..I read that Brubeck put in a contract that whilst Desmond was playing with the group he could not record with another piano player...I find that hard to believe.. Brubeck and Desmond had no written contract. They had a handshake agreement throughout the life of the quartet. As a practical matter, they concluded that if Desmond recorded with another pianist, it would confuse matters. After the quartet disbanded, Desmond … [Read more...]

Zurke And Monk: A Discovery


Researching Thelonious Monk’s inspirations and examples, the Canadian composer and musicologist Andrew Homzy has turned up a connection that may seem unlikely—until you hear the evidence. “It has been well documented,” Homzy wrote a group of fellow jazz researchers yesterday, “that Monk was inspired by Mary Lou William's ‘Walkin' And Swingin'’ (‘Rhythm-a-ning’) and John Kirby's ‘Pastel Blue’ (‘Blue Monk’). 

This morning, I discovered that Bob Zurke's performance of 'Tea For Two', with … [Read more...]

New Recommendations


In the right column under Doug's Picks, (and, for a time, directly below) please find recommendations of CDs by a trumpeter-arranger, an uncategorizable singer and a drummer who composes and plays piano. We also call your attention to a DVD meant to instruct—it certainly does that—and ends up entertaining. A new book pick will be along soon. … [Read more...]

CD: Jimmy Owens

Owens Monk

Jimmy Owens, The Monk Project (IPO) In this Thelonious Monk tribute, trumpeter Owens’ septet includes pianist Kenny Barron, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland and low-register specialist Howard Johnson on tuba and baritone sax. Kenny Davis is the bassist, Winard Harper the drummer. There are good solos throughout, but the stars of the album are Owens’ conceptions of the tunes, and his arrangements. He brings freshness through textures and tempos. Among the … [Read more...]

CD: Jack DeJohnette

DeJohnette Sound

Jack DeJohnette, Sound Travels (e one) DeJohnette leads small ensembles in seven of his compositions. He plays both drums and piano on several. His sidepersons include Ambrose Akinmusire, Tim Ries, Jason Moran, Lionel Loueke, percussionist Luisito Quintero and vocalists Bobby McFerrin, Bruce Hornsby and Esperanza Spaulding. Spaulding also plays bass. The personnel list may suggest random eclecticism, but within its stylistic diversity the album has unity and a beguiling sense of relaxation. … [Read more...]

CD: Wesla Whitfield

Whitfield Things

Wesla Whitfield, Mike Greensill Trio, The Best Things In Life Wesla Whitfield plugs her current of understated energy into a diverse collection that encompasses “The Best Things in Life Are Free” from 1927, “Bein’ Green” from Sesame Street, and “Walkin’ After Midnight” from the Patsy Cline hit parade. There are also standards by Loesser, LeGrand, Arlen and Frishberg, among others. Whitfield is often billed as a cabaret singer, but with the rhythm section of pianist Mike Greensill, bassist … [Read more...]

Book: Clark Terry


Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry (UC Press) The great trumpeter, flugelhornist and mumbler writes with joy about the good times in his long life and with frankness about the rough patches. His humor and generous spirit are intact whether he is telling of his love for Basie and Ellington, his triumphs as a performer, his legions of friends, or encounters with racists and bottom feeders in and out of the jazz world. Terry’s ear, eye and memory for detail provide insights into not only … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra #2: Play Like Tom Harrell

Tom Harrell

Psst, hey Bud, c'mere a minute. Wanna play like Tom Harrell? (that’s my Sheldon Leonard impression). All you gotta do is practice, then you’ll be able to play the blues in all 12 keys without missing a beat. (It helps to have a pianist who can play the blues in all 12 keys.) Then you’ll sound like this: Well, maybe not exactly like that. Harrell was assisted by Jamie Aebersold, who in his mercantile life runs a play-along empire. Thanks to Angela Harrell for letting us know about … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Spoon And Pepper Reunited

Pepper And Spoon

In 1981, Art Pepper sat in with Jimmy Witherspoon at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, California. Their acquaintance went back to the early 1950s when the Central Avenue jazz scene in Los Angeles was thriving. Pepper died the following year at the age of 56, Witherspoon in 1997 at 77. … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: The Tierney Sutton Band

Sutton American Road

This nearly completes reviews of albums I voted for in the Rhapsody jazz critics poll as 2011’s best. The Tierney Sutton Band, American Road (BFM) Sutton and her band apply their musicianship, intensity and camaraderie to a dozen American songs. The pieces range across traditional music (“Oh Shenandoah/The Water is Wide,” “Wayfaring Stranger,” “Amazing Grace”); pop (“On Broadway,” “Tenderly”); songs from the theater (four by Bernstein, three by Gershwin, one by Arlen); and patriotism … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Lundgren Trio, Rollins

Together Again...Bakery

I voted for these albums in the recent Rhapsody jazz critics poll and wrote a feature story about one of them, but have not previously reviewed them. Jan Lundgren, Chuck Berghofer, Joe La Barbera: Together Again…At The Jazz Bakery (Fresh Sound) In a recent Wall Street Journal article, I concentrated on the surprise discovery and audio rescue of the recording that resulted in this CD by pianist Lundgren, bassist Berghofer and drummer La Barbara. Toward the end of the piece, I wrote, “Mr. … [Read more...]

The Oak Room Farewell

Oak Room

Visits to New York won’t be the same now that the Algonquin Hotel has closed the Oak Room. Since Ben Bodne sold the hotel in 1987, it has changed hands several times and is now operated by the Marriott chain as one of its high-end properties. With each change, another layer of the Algonquin’s mystique seems to evaporate. The Oak Room existed as an elegant dining and listening post for only 32 years of the hotel’s 110-year history, but from its opening night it was one of the most important New … [Read more...]

Giants Step On Patriots

Eli Manning 2

As nearly everyone in the United States knows, the New York Giants just beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The score was 21 to 17. Rifftides readers elsewhere may not understand why that is significant. The Super Bowl is the culmination of the professional football season. American football is not to be confused with what most of the world calls football, which is soccer or rugby. Here in the US, a great deal is made of this ultimate contest in the sport. This was the 46th such … [Read more...]

When Saindon Met Locke

Locke & Saindon

Toward the end of last summer, vibraphonist Ed Saindon sent a message alerting me to video of a duo concert he and fellow vibist Joe Locke had just played at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Saindon has been a professor at Berklee since 1975. I made a mental note to post one of their collaborations. As mental notes have a way of doing, it sank into the murky depths, where it lurked until it found its way to the surface this morning. So, belatedly, here are Saindon and Locke. They play … [Read more...]

Gehry Has Designs On The Jazz Bakery

Disney Hall

There is good news today for a premier west coast jazz listening establishment. Architect Frank Gehry, creator of some of the most dramatic buildings in the world, is donating his services to the Jazz Bakery. The Los Angeles performance hall lost its lease in 2009 and has functioned in an assortment of rented or donated spaces while it looked for a new site. Now, it has found one on a sliver of land not far from its former Culver City home. Gehry designed the home of the Los Angeles … [Read more...]