Cornelia, McNeil, Carter And Will

Cornelia Street Cafe

The next time I visit New York, which can't be soon enough, I will make it a point to visit the Cornelia Street Café. The restaurant in Greenwich Village has intrigued me with its digital notifications about performances by musicians, singers, poets and uncategorizable others. Eclecticism seems to be the café's guiding principle. The latest schedule speaks of poetry events—recreated conversations of the German composer Hanns Eisler—a lecture on "The Pathological Sublime and The … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Dandelions

Dandelions 2012

Dandelions may be the gardener's curse, but they have their place. Around here in springtime, their place is in the orchards. On the most recent cycling expedition, this was a good reason to stop. … [Read more...]

Preserving Ted Williams’ Photographs

Ted Williams 2

If you follow jazz even tangentially, you have seen photographs by Ted Williams. Most of us have also seen his shots of major figures in news events of the second half of the twentieth century. This picture of Martin Luther King is one of them. When Williams died in 2009 at the age of 84, he left tens of thousands of his prints and negatives in shoeboxes and notebooks. Most of them have never been published. They are not cataloged. The father and son team of Lou and Max Modica are … [Read more...]

A Blues By Bird

I couldn't find a Parker recording of a blues in the key of A to follow the Ted Williams story. Let's settle for E-flat. Here's Bird with Al Haig, piano; Percy Heath, bass; and Max Roach, drums, recorded in 1953, the same year as the Bee Hive gig in Chicago. Have a good weekend. … [Read more...]

Shelly Manne: Checkmate


The previous item about the Blackhawk triggered thoughts of Shelly Manne (1920-1984) and the quintet he led in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. As chance would have it, this morning I encountered videos of a superb edition of that band. The pieces are from Manne’s 1961 album Checkmate. The drummer’s group had pianist Russ Freeman, trumpeter Conte Candoli, tenor saxophonist Richie Kamuca and bassist Monty Budwig. For the 2002 CD reissue of the album, I wrote this summary: Long before he … [Read more...]

The Blackhawk Gets Its Due

Blackhawk plaque

In my notes for the final volume of Shelly Manne & His Men At The Blackhawk, I wrote: During my years of labor at KGO-TV in San Francisco, I never passed the parking lot a block away at Turk and Hyde without regretting the injustice of a world that puts more value on the storage of automobiles than on preserving historical landmarks. To be accurate, the Landmark Preservation Commission never actually got around to trying to save the Black Hawk or even mounting a brass plaque at space … [Read more...]

Passings: McKusick, Charles, Muranyi, Jones

Hal McKusick

We have been losing important musicians in batches. In the past few days we said goodbye to four men who were not well known to general audiences but were appreciated—even revered—by jazz listeners and by their fellow artists. Hal McKusick’s early career found him in two of the most influential big bands of the late forties, Boyd Raeburn’s and Claude Thornhill’s. Accomplished on saxophones, clarinet and flute, McKusick was also a talented composer and arranger. Among his close … [Read more...]

Readers Choices 2012 (4)

Swirl of notes

Here is the final round of Rifftides readers’ listening choices. Thanks to all who responded for introducing me—and many others, I’m sure—to music or musicians that I would not have known otherwise. Without this exercise, among other recordings The Mars Volta, cellist Claire Gastinel and the marvelous O Grande Circo Mistico by Edu Lobo and Chico Buarque, would have escaped me. Looking over the playlists of recommended albums by young jazz musicians and sampling their wares, I … [Read more...]

Readers Choices 2012 (3)


Thanks to the dozens of Rifftides readers who sent lists of music that they have been listening to. The sweepstakes is now closed (no drawing, no prizes, no winners, no losers). It will take at least a day or two longer to get everyone's list posted. I have been impressed with the range of interests among you. If you find this sort of exercise worthwhile, let me know. We may do it again in a few years. Richard Strauss, Don Quixote, Yo Yo Ma, cello, with Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji … [Read more...]

Readers Choices 2012 (2)


Rifftides readers' recent listening choices are still coming in. We intend to get them all posted as production time allows. Scroll down to the April 15 item to see the simple guidelines. If you respond, please end with your name and where you live. Use the "Contact Me" link above the Rifftides title to send your choices. The deadline is midnight PDT, Thursday, April 19. Charlie Parker 1946, Jazz At The Philharmonic (reading Granz biography, new interest in JATP). Stan Getz w/ … [Read more...]

CT Needs Help

Clark Terry

Clark Terry’s long siege of ill health, and recent drastic surgeries, have left him in need of help to meet medical expenses. Later this month, the Jazz Foundation of America will hold a special New York fundraising event for CT. The concert will bring together dozens of musician friends and admirers who will perform at St. Peter’s Church. Whether or not you can attend, please consider a donation. For details, click here. … [Read more...]

Readers Choices, 2012 (1)


Responses to the invitation in the previous post are arriving in sizeable batches. Briefly, the idea is for you to let the rest of us know what you’ve been listening to. How to do that? The April 15 post tells you to use the “Contact Me” link at the top of this page. Remember to include your name and location. It takes time for the staff to develop links for those who want to investigate the music mentioned by fellow readers, so please be patient if your list has not yet appeared. Here are … [Read more...]

Readers’ Choices

Readers' Choices

Six years ago when Rifftides was a year old, we asked readers to send information about the music they were turning on, and vice versa. There was a deluge of replies. It took several days of long posts to accommodate the responses. It's time to do it again. The invitation went something like this: The Rifftides staff is interested in what our readers around the world are listening to. Please take a moment to send a message with your name (if you care to disclose it), your location and the … [Read more...]

They Said Goodbye To Brookmeyer

Brookmeyer head

Wednesday night’s memorial service for Bob Brookmeyer attracted friends and admirers from many compartments of his productive life. The valve trombonist, composer and arranger—influential in jazz since the early 1950s— died at the age of 81 last December 15. The memorial was at St. Peter’s Church in Manhattan, long a site of worship services incorporating jazz, and of events commemorating the music and its makers. The Rifftides staff thanks saxophonist, composer and bandleader David Sherr, who … [Read more...]

It’s Spring, After All

Spring 2012

The apricot tree is in blossom and the daffodils are daffodilling. The Rifftides staff hopes that it's nice where you are, too. Getz from an album recorded in his late period, with Lou Levy, piano; Monty Budwig, bass; and Victor Lewis, drums. … [Read more...]

Jazz Archeology: A New JATP Record


In the Seattle Times, critic Paul deBarros tells of a man named Bill Carter finding in a storage container “a treasure chest from the golden age of jazz.” The unearthing may not equal the importance of the discovery by another Carter—Howard—of King Tut’s tomb, but it is creating excitement among devotees of classic mainstream jazz. deBarros writes: Among the hundreds of tapes Carter retrieved from that container was a recording of a 1956 Seattle concert that featured Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar … [Read more...]

Other Places: Sounds Like A Fair Trade


There are indications that the economy is slowly improving. There are few signs that it is improving for musicians. Times are also hard for dining and drinking establishments, so some of them try to better a lose-lose situation by persuading musicians to perform for nothing. The usual enticement is the argument that it’s an opportunity for self-promotion. The following fishing expedition and reply are lifted, with permission, from Bill Crow’s “Band Room” column in the April issue of Allegro, the … [Read more...]

Followup: LaPorta & Reilly At Newport


After he saw the Gerry Mulligan birthday post below, Jack Reilly sent the following update on that day at Newport in 1958. I played after the Mulligan set, with the John LaPorta Quartet: Dick Carter, bass; Charlie Perry; drums; me, piano; and LaPorta, alto sax. Jimmy Giuffre's new pianoless trio also played that same day, but after our set, We played 2 of my tunes, DECIDED and SEARCHING, and one of John's originals, THE MOST MINOR and the standard DARN THAT DREAM. Unfortunately we … [Read more...]

Mulligan’s Birthday

Mulligan head shot

Thanks to Rifftides reader Hal Strack for the reminder that this is Gerry Mulligan’s birthday. Mulligan would be 85. Here is the baritone saxophonist, composer, arranger and pianist at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 with a great edition of his quartet: Art Farmer, trumpet; Bill Crow, bass; Dave Bailey drums. They played Mulligan's "As Catch Can." The video is a clip from Bert Stern’s film Jazz On A Summer’s Day. The closing announcement was by the Voice Of America's Willis … [Read more...]

Missing Gene Lees

Gene Lees by Reeves

Gene Lees died two years ago this month, on April 22. That day I wrote, “We lost a writer unsurpassed at illuminating music and the world that musicians inhabit. I lost a cherished colleague whose work inspired me, a dear friend whose companionship brightened my existence.” The Portland, Oregon, broadcaster, poet and visual essayist Lynn Darroch was another of Gene’s friends and admirers, although, he said in a message, "It wasn't a smooth ride." There were no smooth rides with Gene. There … [Read more...]

New Recommendations


Don't be alarmed by the symbol. The Rifftides staff merely wants to call your attention to the new batch of suggested things to listen to, watch and read. You will find brief items about CDs by a trailblazing harmonicat, a piano/flute couple and a pianist who keeps you guessing—and entertained. We're holding onto a Lee Konitz DVD a while longer, and telling you about a book by an expert who doesn't buy the idea that mental instability must accompany genius. The recommendations are under … [Read more...]

CD: Toots Thielemans


Toots Thielemans, Yesterday & Today (Out Of The Blue) Two CDs with thirty-eight tracks, most previously unreleased, follow Thielemans from 1946, when he was a 23-year-old guitarist with a Belgian swing band, to a 2001 harmonica performance of “What A Wonderful World” with pianist Kenny Werner. In the late 1940s and early ‘50s, when many European musicians were struggling with the style, Thielemans had a firm grasp of bebop. Playing through the decades with George Shearing, Hank Jones, J.J. … [Read more...]

CD: Mike Wofford & Holly Hofmann

Wofford Hofmann

Mike Wofford/Holly Hofmann, Turn Signal (Capri) Pianist Wofford’s and flutist Hofmann’s quintet set is notable for variety, rich textures and harmonies, and depth of feeling. In conception and sound, trumpeter Terell Stafford blends beautifully with them. Bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Richard Sellers are strong and flexible in support. Among the highlights are Wofford’s “The Dipper,” a Horace Silver tribute that evokes Silver’s writing and playing; Stafford’s powerful solo on Jimmy … [Read more...]

CD: Matthew Shipp

Shipp Elastic

Mathew Shipp, Elastic Aspects (Thirsty Ear) The first track of the pianist’s album has no piano, just bassist Michael Bisio bowing and drummer Whit Dickey generating sepulchral sounds with mallets on cymbals. The second track is a few seconds of Shipp unaccompanied in what might be heard as late Debussy. With the third track, the trio is off and running with a kind pointillist post-bop, a suggestion of Bud Powell’s “Un Poco Loco,” lots of interaction and mutual improvisation. This being … [Read more...]

DVD: Lee Konitz

Konitz DVD

Lee Konitz with Dan Tepfer (Jazz Heaven) Designed as a master class, the DVD provides fascinating listening and viewing for anyone curious about the creative process of making jazz. In conversation with his frequent collaborator, pianist Tepfer, Konitz discusses and demonstrates the wisdom he has accumulated in his nearly 85 years. In the hour-and-a-half conversation, he frequently picks up his alto saxophone to demonstrate a concept or a point and brings Tepfer into the spoken and played … [Read more...]

Book: Judith Schlesinger

Insanity Hoax

Judth Schlesinger, The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the Myth of the Mad Genius (Shrinktunes) With wit and a nice sense of irony, Schlesinger lays siege to the popular notion that to be truly creative, a person must be mentally unbalanced. A PhD psychologist and a jazz critic, Schlesinger discusses myths about Charlie Parker, Chet Baker and other jazz musicians but also about Balzac, Beethoven, William Blake and Gustav Mahler, among other geniuses presumed to have been insane to some degree. She … [Read more...]