Other Places: A Tom Talbert Profile

Tom Talbert Smiling

Steve Cerra’s Jazz Profiles remembers Tom Talbert, the under-recognized composer and bandleader who died nearly eight years ago in his early eighties. Steve incorporates a passage in which Talbert wrote about his postwar debut. Worked with several bands and met arranger-bandleader Johnny Richards in Boston. Moved to Los Angeles the winter of 1946 and was soon living at the Harvey Hotel...a musician's hangout fondly referred to as the Hot Harvey. Before long Richards appeared and, in his … [Read more...]

Radio Feedback

Radio Guy

Thanks to the many Rifftides readers who are weighing in on the discussion of jazz on public radio in the US. The comments—some from inside the medium—include reasons for the decline, analysis of its nature, reports of a few bright spots, and a good deal of frustration. It seems to be an open question whether there is a future for informed radio hosts serving as companions who can help listeners get inside the traditions and culture of the music. To read the discussion so far and … [Read more...]

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

Because it’s been too long since you’ve heard it… Cannonball Adderley, alto saxophone; Nat Adderley, cornet; Joe Zawinul, piano; Victor Gaskin, bass; Roy McCurdy, drums. Los Angeles, October 20, 1966. … [Read more...]

It’s Public Radio, If You Can Keep It


Carol Sloane sent an alert to yet another step in the abandonment of jazz by public broadcasting in The United States. Here is the headline of a column on the website of The Boston Globe: The column is by Mark Leccese, an independent ombudsman who keeps an eye on print and broadcast outlets. He laments one veteran jazz host, Eric Jackson, being downgraded and another longtime presence on New England airwaves, Steve Schwartz, being canceled. Then, he asks, “Is there no air time … [Read more...]

Speaking Of Radio…

Matt Wilson

Oh, we weren’t? Well, we are now. First here’s something you can listen to immediately. Today on National Public Radio’s Weekend All Things Considered, the host, Guy Raz, closed with eight minutes and 45 seconds of conversation with drummer Matt Wilson (pictured, left). They talked about Wilson’s new album, Max Roach, Buddy Rich, Lucille Ball, Carl Sandburg, Felicia Wilson’s amazing recovery from a dangerous condition and Wilson’s revolutionary belief that not only is it permissible to make the … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Awards


I copied and learned from my predecessors and I'm grateful to them, and I gratefully accept this award—Sonny Rollins, 6/20/12 I love awards, especially if I get them—Ben Gazzara Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust—Jesse Owens … [Read more...]

The JJA Awards Winners

Horace Silver

Horace Silver and Sonny Rollins top the winners of the Jazz Journalists Association’s 2012 awards announced yesterday in New York City. Lifetime Achievement in Jazz: Horace Silver Musician of the Year: Sonny Rollins Composer-Arranger of the Year: Maria Schneider Up and Coming Artist of the Year: Ben Williams Record of the Year: Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 2 (Doxy Records) Best Historic Recording/Boxed Set: Miles Davis, Bootleg Sessions, Vol. 1, Quintet Live in Europe … [Read more...]

Cycling Shot

Cycling Shot

This is from the top of one of the long, steep hills on today's cycling expedition with friend Dave. Looking west, we see the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in the distance. While the Rifftides staff tackles a couple of deadline assignments, blogging will be intermittent, with entries squeezed in as time allows. … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Two Things About Language


First thing: Have you noticed that half of the answers to questions and half of reports (statistic not scientifically confirmed) on radio and television news and interview programs begin with, “So…” News Anchor: For the latest on White House reaction to those discouraging employment figures, here’s correspondent Ralph Glutz. Glutz: So, Robert, the President chooses to see the glass half full… Interviewer: Coach, did you ever dream that the outcome of a contest … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Grand Central Revisited

A friend traveling in New York tweets, Waiting for a train in Grand Central, remembering when there were lovely benches in the 'waiting room’. It’s hard to believe that there is now standing room only for commuters and people watchers in Grand Central Station. But whether an observer is upright or seated, the magnificent old terminal is one of the world’s prime spots for studying members of the species, as noted in this Rifftides archive piece from three years ago. June 19, … [Read more...]

Correspondence: American Saxes In Moscow

Axis Sax Quartet

Rifftides reader Svletlana Ilicheva writes from Moscow about a concert earlier this week at the Tzaritzino National Park. Called “Classics And Jazz,” the program included four prominent American saxophonists of the same generation who have banded together as the Axis Saxophone Quartet. Ms. Ilicheva reports: The quartet consists of Joshua Redman, Chris Cheek, Mark Turner and Chris Potter. They played their own compositions. Especially I like those by Joshua Redman, they sounded like … [Read more...]

Weekend Listening Tip: Human Spirit

Human Spirit

In a meeting of east and west, April’s Ballard Jazz Festival in Seattle brought together New York pianist Orrin Evans with Human Spirit. Led by trumpeter Thomas Marriott, alto saxophonist Mark Taylor and drummer Matt Jorgensen, the Seattle quintet is attracting international attention, in part because of this album featuring Evans as a guest. (l to r) Orrin Evans, Thomas Marriott, Matt Jorgensen, Phil Sparks, Mark Taylor Jim Wilke, who doubles as recording engineer and radio host, … [Read more...]

Herbert L. Clarke On Jazz

Herbert Clarke

In 1921, 16-year-old trumpet student Elden E. Benge of Winterset, Iowa, wrote a letter to Herbert L. Clarke (pictured, right), asking advice. Clarke (1867-1945) was the most celebrated cornet soloist of his day, a veteran of John Phillip Sousa’s band and leader of his own concert bands. His recordings of marches and adaptations of classical pieces rang out in living rooms in the days when Victrolas were the iPods of the early twentieth century. Clarke’s method books of technical and … [Read more...]

Lagniappe*: Akinmusire, Portal And Others

Portal, Akinmusire

Wondering how trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is doing in the wake of the (justified) fuss over his 2010 album When The Heart Emerges Glistening, I did a bit of web surfing and discovered that he’s doing fine. Among the evidence was video of an intergenerational concert led by the 77-year-old French film composer and saxophone and clarinet adventurer Michel Portal. The occasion was the 2011 Monte Carlo Jazz Festival in Monaco. Portal’s fellow arsonists in this performance of his “Citrus Juice” are … [Read more...]

Bobby Shew Quartet At Tula’s

Bobby Shew

Bobby Shew played a one-nighter Saturday evening in his brief tour of the Pacific Northwest. The gig at Tula’s in Seattle launched in slight confusion over the introduction the rhythm section played to the first tune, Victor Young’s “Beautiful Love.” It did not match what Shew had in mind. He halted the proceedings and offered the packed house a wry explanation, “This is jazz. You don’t have to know what you’re doing.” There was a brief conference that consisted mainly of head nods. Pianist … [Read more...]

Baker’s “Blue ‘n Boogie”

Baker Backstreet

Seattle and I have got to stop meeting like this. I’m heading back across the Cascades for trumpeter Bobby Shew’s appearance tonight at Tula’s. Coincidentally, a message arrived yesterday evening from Mr. Shew. It was succinct: “Check it out,” followed by a link to this blistering 1981 Chet Baker version of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Blue ‘n Boogie.” A master trumpeter's recommendation of a trumpet performance is not to be ignored. Check it out. Some time ago, I heard a private recording of … [Read more...]

Jack Brownlow On Jazz Profiles

Bruno Portrait

The latest post in Steve Cerra’s Jazz Profiles concerns first-rate musicians who are well known only where they live. Sometimes, Steve points out, that is because they don’t get a break. Sometimes, it is because they want to stay put. “Every town has one,” he writes. “Whether it’s Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Reno or Seattle. Somewhere in these cities, there is an exceptional Jazz musician who is mainly known only to those familiar with the local Jazz scene.” Cerra’s case-in-point is the late … [Read more...]

Other Places: Roy Haynes, “I Don’t Analyze It.”

Roy Haynes

One night in the early 1970s when the Half Note of blessed memory was still in downtown Manhattan and had yet to develop midtown pretensions, Roy Haynes was playing drums with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. Dave Frishberg was the pianist. I think the bassist was Victor Sproles. In the closing tune of a late set, Haynes played a ferocious solo that went on for 20 minutes and was too short. The patrons and the other musicians were spellbound by the intricacy, control and rhythmic wit of his playing. … [Read more...]

Chick Webb, The Savoy King

Chick & Ella

Before Chick Webb died in 1939 at the age of 30, he established himself as a model for jazz drumming and his band as a gold standard of swing that humbled even Count Basie and Benny Goodman. In addition, Webb discovered Ella Fitzgerald. He became her mentor, guardian and protector as she developed from a street kid into a great singer. “If it wasn’t for Chick, we wouldn’t have had Ella,” arranger and composer Van Alexander says in a new film bout Webb. Webb’s importance is firmly underlined … [Read more...]

The Subject Is Seldes, Taylor And Jazz

Seldes 1

Whether the mercantile strictures of 21st century television will ever again permit cultural programming of substance on the commercial networks is anybody’s guess. The field has largely been left to public television, which has met the challenge with various degrees of responsibility and effectiveness. In the medium’s early days, serious music may not have been welcomed with open arms on the major US networks, but it did make it onto the schedules. NBC-TV’s The Subject Is Jazz ran once a … [Read more...]

The Lucid Emil Viklický

Viklicky Trio

Last night the Emil Viklický Trio appeared at the small Seattle club Lucid, following up the film screening described in yesterday’s post. Lucid has the intimacy, camaraderie and absence of a cover charge reminiscent of jazz clubs in the 1950s and ‘60s. One significant difference from those days; at Lucid, as at many clubs today, the pianist must supply his own instrument, the kind that plugs into the wall. In the first set, Viklický, bassist Clipper Anderson and drummer Don Kinney concentrated … [Read more...]

Rhythm On My Heels

Rhythm Heels

The central characters in the new Czech film Rhythm On My Heels are young jazz musicians and their friends. They are ensnared in a plot by the communist party’s intelligence wing to concoct a case branding them anti-communist activitsts. This powerful film is directed by Andrea Sedláčková and acted by a vibrant cast. It is based on Josef Škvoreckýs book The Tenor Saxophonist’s Story. Many in the audience for last night’s screening at Seattle’s Town Hall lived through the communist occupation of … [Read more...]