New Picks

Guitar picks

You may think it’s about time the Rifftides staff gave you new recommendations. So do I. Therefore, merciless taskmaster that I am, the staff has complied by finding three CDs that are quite different from one another, a DVD that has one grand jazz master sitting in with another, and a readable book that can go a long way toward telling you everything you wanted to know about the jazz repertoire. You will find the recommendations in the right column under Doug’s Picks and, temporarily, also on … [Read more...]

CD: Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Cover

Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform) The trumpeter and composer’s four-disc work is a monument to Black Americans’ struggles for freedom. The names of the 19 movements summon up key episodes in the story, among them “Dred Scott,” “Thurgood Marshall and Brown vs. Board of Education” and “The Freedom Riders Ride.” With his free jazz quintet’s unfettered improvisation Smith blends skilled writing, including passages for a nine-piece ensemble of strings and winds. The tempers of the … [Read more...]

CD: Ben Webster, Joe Zawinul

Webster-Zawinul Cover

Ben Webster and Joe Zawinul: Soulmates (Riverside OJC) Long after Ben Webster became famous and when the pre-Weather Report Joe Zawinul was laboring as a sideman, the immigrant Austrian pianist and the seasoned tenor saxophonist became pals. In 1963 they made this album, a product of their friendship and a reminder of what a splendid mixing bowl for jazz New York was in those days. Philly Joe Jones is the drummer, Sam Jones and Richard Davis split the bass duties, Thad Jones plays cornet on … [Read more...]

CD: Diana Krall

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Diana Krall: Glad Rag Doll (Verve) Krall takes a side trip into the 1920s and shows a bit of thigh on the album cover. Evidently, that’s all it takes to get the music business stirred up and the tweets and sales figures flying. How’s the music? Not bad. On some tracks, she has fun. On others—well, how much uplift could anyone get from “Here Lies Love?” The harmonies, if not the lyric, of “Let it Rain” inspire animation in her voice. Glad Rag Doll won’t replace Live In Paris, but the … [Read more...]

DVD: Johnny Griffin

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Johnny Griffin Live In France 1971 (Jazz Icons) One of the greatest second-generation bebop tenor players, Griffin (1928-2008), was also one of the fastest. He is often remembered for speed and excitement , but here his ballad playing is an equal attraction, notably on his “When We Were One” and “Soft and Furry.” In a concert performance with Dizzy Gillespie sitting in on two pieces, and filming in a studio, the man known as The Little Giant is in superb form. His colleagues are veteran … [Read more...]

Book: Ted Gioia

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Ted Gioia: The Jazz Standards: A Guide To The Repertoire (Oxford) In nearly 500 pages, Gioia covers 254 songs that he considers the core of the jazz repertoire. They include compositions by jazz musicians as well as standard songs. Duke Ellington, of course, fits both categories. In a typical essay of perhaps 500 words, Gioia discusses a song’s and its writer’s history, its musical form and construction and, often, its social and cultural significance. He also recommends important recordings … [Read more...]