Correspondence: Mutes


Following the recent post about plunger mutes, Rifftides reader Deborah Hendrick sent a reqest: Would you give us a history lesson sometime, on the origin of mutes. “Jazz” seems to be played with muted brass more often than not. I’ve always wondered why, and how the practice began. Aside from the plunger, mutes for brass instruments are not primarily specific to jazz, and they go back much further. I can give you no better history of mutes than this brief one on a website devoted … [Read more...]

Sonny Igoe, 1923-2012

Sonny Igoe 2

Sonny Igoe, who played drums with a succession of prominent leaders, died this week at the age of 88. In 1939 when Igoe was 16, he won the first Gene Krupa drum competition. After four years in the United States Marine Corps in World War Two, he worked briefly in a band of former Marines, then began a career that included work with Les Elgart, Ina Ray Hutton, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Chuck Wayne and Charlie Ventura. Herman's featuring Igoe on "New Golden Wedding" in 1951 brought the drummer … [Read more...]

Jobim And Regina: The Waters Of March

Jobim & Regina

Rifftides reader Larry Peterson suggested that while two days of March remain, it would be a good idea to revisit an Antonio Carlos Jobim classic. It is, of course, “Águas de Marco.” March is the rainiest time of year in Rio de Janeiro. Jobim fashioned the progress of the music and the Portuguese lyric to suggest the storm waters’ relentless flow toward the sea. The words, in Portuguese and in his English version, constitute a paen to “the promise of life.” A 2001 poll of Brazilian musicians and … [Read more...]

Service For Bob Brookmeyer


We still get questions about whether there will be a service in memory of Bob Brookmayer, who died in December. The answer is yes. This is the updated information from Bob’s friend and colleague Bill Kirchner: Here's a reminder about the memorial for valve trombonist/composer/arranger Bob Brookmeyer (December 19,1929-December 15, 2011). It will be held at St. Peter's Lutheran Church (E. 54th St. between 3rd and Lexington Avenues) in New York City on Wednesday, April 11, from 6:30 to … [Read more...]

Taking The Plunge

Plunger 2

After playing (or struggling with) the trumpet since I was 14, I finally decided to learn how to use a plumber’s friend for something other than its intended purpose. For five dollars, my neighborhood hardware store sold me what I needed. I unscrewed the wooden handle and, voila!—a plunger mute. The one you see here is fancy and probably came from a music store. Mine is red, the small kind used in sinks. Take my word for it after two days of experimentation, plunger technique on a brass … [Read more...]

The SRJO’s Sinatra Night


Over the weekend, the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra played a concert devoted to music associated with Frank Sinatra. The SRJO is one of the world’s finest big bands dedicated to preserving the spirit and substance of the jazz tradition. Drummer Clarence Acox and saxophonist Michael Brockman co-lead the orchestra and have developed admirable projects devoted to works of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Jimmy Heath, among other major figures. The Sinatra program at The Seasons in Yakima, … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Spring?


The calendar claims that we are two days into spring. There seems to be some mistake. This is what the dawn disclosed this morning. That gardening shed isn’t going to see much action today. Oh, well. They say it’s spring. This Blossom Dearie album also has other songs about spring. They’ll help us through an unexpectedly wintry day. … [Read more...]

The Old Catch-Up Game (2)

Triple Play

This series of brief reviews calls your attention to recordings that captured the Rifftides staff’s interest and may capture yours. Chris Brubeck’s Triple Play: Live At Arthur Zankel Music Center (Blue Forest) As Triple Play, Chris Brubeck, harmonicist Peter Madcat Ruth and guitarist Joel Brown have had fun for more than 20 years. Brubeck plays piano, bass and trombone. They all sing. It’s a jazz band, or a blues band, or a folk group. It’s all of those. In this alternately raucous and … [Read more...]

Cantor’s Clips

Mark Cantor

Mark Cantor (pictured, right), the preeminent jazz film archivist, has established a web channel of clips. If the first batch is an indication, the collection has the makings of a bonanza for viewers interested in the music and in the convoluted history of jazz in motion pictures and on television. As an example of the choice moments Cantor has posted: just in case you didn’t see Sweetheart Of The Campus when it came out in 1941, you missed a rare movie appearance by Leo Watson and the … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Nat Cole Meets St. Patrick

Nat Cole Head Shot

Nat Cole was born March 17, 1917. He did not appear to be Irish, but his birthday falls on St. Patrick’s Day. What better excuse to remember a great musician? Cole did not record many Irish songs, but there is one in his 1946 collaboration with Lester Young’s trio. We begin our Nat Cole birthday observance with Lester Young, tenor saxophone; Cole, piano; Buddy Rich, drums, and “Peg ‘O My Heart.” In an anomaly that only the person who posted this on YouTube could explain, the video continues for … [Read more...]

The Old Catch-Up Game

Moon Dreams

Now and then, the Rifftides staff calls your attention to recordings selected from the stacks of more or less recent arrivals. Comments are brief, in an effort—no doubt doomed—to catch up with worthwhile releases. Dutch Jazz Orchestra, Moon Dreams: Rediscovered Music of Gil Evans & Gerry Mulligan (Challenge) Languishing in the stacks, this 2009 album called to me. I’m glad it did. It features arrangements that Gil Evans, in his mid-30s, and Gerry Mulligan, in his early … [Read more...]

Cyber Jazz Today

John Birchard

In a new venture, Washington, DC, Rifftides correspondent John Birchard (so that’s what he looks like) is combining his broadcast experience, devotion to jazz and fascination with the internet. The former Voice Of America newscaster has posted his first installment of a webcast he calls Cyber Jazz Today. It is an hour program in which he plays music, speaks briefly but cogently about it and, in a valuable wrinkle, provides glimpses of the future. John writes: I have come up with a weekly … [Read more...]

Thinking About John Gilmore

John Gilmore

John Gilmore (1931-1995) was a tenor saxophonist highly regarded by leaders in a wide stylistic range. He worked with Earl Hines, Buster Smith, King Kolax, Miles Davis, B.B. King, and Charles Mingus, among many others. Gilmore was equally comfortable playing mainstream tenor with fellow Chicagoan Red Saunders and exploring the planets with Sun Ra. During his time with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the first half of the 1960s, Gilmore’s front-line partner was trumpeter Lee Morgan. Blakey, … [Read more...]

Poodie Kindled

Poodie 2-thumb-90x138-7812

I just discovered that my novel Poodie James is now available from Amazon on the Kindle e-reader for a ridiculously low price. If a reader hadn't asked me about that, I wouldn't have investigated and wouldn't have known. But, then, I'm only the author. Harrrumph. The book, of course, is also still available as a book. Attention, producers: No one has snapped up the movie rights. … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Wes Montgomery, Discovered

Wes M. Echoes

Wes Montgomery, Echoes of Indiana Avenue (Resonance) It is part of jazz lore; when Cannonball Adderley heard Wes Montgomery in Indianapolis in 1959, he was so impressed that he insisted his label, Riverside, record the guitarist at once. Orrin Keepnews of Riverside took Montgomery and his trio into a studio. After a dozen critically acclaimed albums for Riverside, Montgomery signed with Verve, then with A&M. By the end of the 1960s he was one of the few jazz artists—and one of the … [Read more...]

Zenon Quartet On Fire

Zenon Quartet

Because nature insists on taking its course, there has been much here lately about people who have passed on. Inevitably, there will be more. It is time to affirm life. I encountered video of alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon doing just that last summer as he toured Spain. Because of the surrealistic opening minute or so and the sideways camera perspective throughout, I nearly talked myself out of showing you this, but the excitement and content of the performance carried … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Another Warhol

Griffin Congregation

Rifftides reader Ted O'Reilly writes: Wasn't there a Warhol cover for a Johnny Griffin Blue Note? A brief search discloses that, as we might expect of one of Canada's leading jazz broadcasters, Mr. O'Reilly is correct. The album was The Congregation, recorded by the tenor saxophonist in 1957 with Sonny Clark, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; and the excellent, under-recognized Kenny Dennis on drums. Here is Warhol's cover, and the title tune mining a vein that in the second half of the … [Read more...]

Andy Warhol’s Jazz Gigs


There are many paintings for which Andy Warhol is far better known than the few album covers he made in his salad days. Nonetheless, those covers—like everything he produced, from images of soup cans to those of Marilyn Monroe—are collectors items going for phenomenal prices. I just saw a website offering a mint copy of the Prestige Trombone For Three album for nearly $900 US, plus shipping from Sweden. Since the album is available in CD form with a non-Warhol illustration for about a … [Read more...]

Red Holloway And Mike Melvoin, Gone


While I was on the road came the sad news that the Southern California jazz community lost two of its stalwarts days apart. The irrepressible tenor saxophonist Red Holloway died last Saturday at a nursing home in Morro Bay on the central California coast, not far Cambria, where he moved more than four decades ago. He was 84. Pianist Mike Melvoin died February 22 at the age of 74. With Cambria as his base, Holloway played far and wide with Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, Horace Silver and many … [Read more...]