Portland Wrap: DeJohnette, Sex Mob, King And ACS


There’s a lot happening at night in the City Of Roses during the Portland Jazz Festival, but overlapping scheduling makes it impossible to hear many of the excellent Pacific Northwest musicians featured in clubs and hotels. During my five days in town, concerts at the big theaters precluded catching Gretta Matassa, Kerry Polizer, Mel Brown, Randy Porter, David Friesen, Rob Davis and at least a dozen other accomplished regional artists. From Montreal to New Orleans to Montreux and Tokyo, that is … [Read more...]

Steve Kuhn Trio At PDX Jazz

pdx-kuhn by sheldon -4852

Steve Kuhn's Portland festival edition of his trio teamed the pianist with his longtime collaborator Joey Baron on drums and Buster Williams playing bass. The flow of Kuhn’s melodic lines, the density of his harmonies and his assured swing established him long since as one of the major trio pianists in modern jazz. The humor in his playing is not always immediately obvious, but it was evident in his first chorus of improvisation on “There is No Greater Love” that he enjoyed quoting “Santa Claus … [Read more...]

A Jazz Festival Moment: Steve Kuhn On Bill Evans

Steve Kuhn ca 1957

In a Portland festival conversation at the Art Bar, interviewer Tim DuRoche questioned pianist Steve Kuhn (pictured ca 1960) about first hearing Bill Evans. “Did it rattle you a little bit?” DuRoche asked. It did, because we were sort of on parallel paths. I heard him for the first time in 1957 up at Brandeis University, where he was doing a concert with George Russell. When I heard him play and after I listened to a couple of his recordings, I said, “My goodness, this is what I’m trying … [Read more...]

Portland Gets The Blakey Message

Blakey Jazz Message Group

Friday night, members of several graduating classes of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers celebrated their boss. Tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson assembled the intergenerational all-star band only for their concert at the Portland Jazz Festival. Jackson, alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, trombonist Curtis Fuller, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, pianist George Cables and bassist Buster Williams all spent time in various editions of Blakey’s combo. Drummer Lewis Nash subbed for Blakey (1919-1990), whose … [Read more...]

A Jazz Festival Moment: Four Drummers

PDX Drummer Panel

Conversations with musicians are valuable sidebars to performances at the Portland Jazz Festival. They allow audiences to hear artists talk about what they do. At the Art Bar, drummer and radio host Carlton Jackson rounded up four prominent drummers and asked them: "When every element is in perfect alignment—compatible musicians, the right room, good sound—how do you approach the music?" Here’s some of what they said. Jack DeJohnette: “I go into an alternate space, … [Read more...]

Patricia Barber And Kenny Garrett At PDX Jazz

Patricia Barber

Patricia Barber Ms. Barber’s fans seem to admire whatever she does. The Thursday night audience at Portland’s Winningstad Theater indulged the pianist and singer’s every eccentricity. They chuckled as she spent the first two or three minutes of her set adjusting or removing her shoes. She pointed upward with a demand that someone, presumably the sound engineer, “Fix this thing.” Unhappy with something about the beginning of her first piece, she yelled a four-letter oath that materialized … [Read more...]

Matt Wilson’s Arts And Crafts

Matt Wilson Stare

Full of his customary pzazz behind the drum set and on the microphone, Wilson led two sets last night at Jimmy Mak's, one of the prime small venues at the Portland Jazz Festival. He and his fellow Arts And Crafters hewed more or less to the repertoire of their most recent CD, An Atitude for Gratitude. For Wilson, trumpeter Terell Stafford, bassist Martin Wind and pianist-organist-accordianist Gary Versace, "more or less" is the operative term. They thrive on flexibility and the unexpected. The … [Read more...]

A Jazz Festival Moment: Kenny Garrett

Kenny Garrett

In a Portland Jazz Festival conversation this morning, host Devin Philips asked his fellow saxophonist Kenny Garrett to watch a video of himself and comment on it. The performance was 16 years ago at the Montreux, Switzerland, festival. Pianist Kenny Kirkland, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts were the rhythm section. Garrett and the audience of festival-goers and Portland State University music students watched as he played several dozen choruses of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” … [Read more...]

Scott Hamilton At The PDX Festival

Scott Hamilton

When Scott Hamilton came to prominence in the 1970s he was a jazz wunderkind unlike any other saxophonist of his generation. He was twenty-two years old when he arrived in New York from Providence, Rhode Island in 1976. Most of his saxophone contemporaries wanted to be John Coltrane, blazing trails through the post-bebop era. Hamilton wanted to be Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn. He was dedicated to unadulterated swing and harmonies not altered by complex chord substitutions. His … [Read more...]

Other Places: “Airegin” In Triplicate

Bruno Leicht Facing left

Blogger and trumpeter Bruno Leicht (pictured) posts a video-laden retrospective of the imperishable Sonny Rollins creation "Airegin" in three manifestations involving the composer, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Chet Baker and great rhythm sections. What a tune. Recommended. To see it, go here. … [Read more...]

George, Abe And Lester: Presidents Day 2013

Lester Young

In the United States, this is Presidents Day. It falls between the birthdays of two of our greatest leaders, 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 by … [Read more...]

Portland Beckons

Columbia Gorge

The Portland Jazz Festival, a ten-day extravaganza that fills the city’s theaters, clubs and restaurants with music, has been underway since last Friday. Tomorrow, the Rifftides staff will wend our way down US 97, turn right on I-84 and head west to Portland through the Columbia River Gorge—spectacular at any time of year—to catch the last half of the festival. Go here for a complete list of the musicians we have missed in the first days and others we will try to fit into a packed … [Read more...]

Other Places: Yusef Lateef

Yusef Lateef flute

At 92, Yusef Lateef continues to earn universal admiration not only for his artistry as a saxophonist, flutist, oboist and composer, but also for the warmth of his personality and eagerness to share his musical knowledge, which is wide and deep. Thanks to Rifftides reader Harris Meyer for alerting me—and you— to a recent installment of the radio program American Routes. Lateef told host Nick Spitzer about his career, his music and his philosophy. In his early development as a … [Read more...]

From The Archive: Still Glad (Revised)


The John McNeil part of the post immediately below brought to mind an omnibus Rifftides piece from three years ago in which McNeil and his bandstand associates played an important part. The entry had to do with a splendid popular song from the 1940s and its transformation into a jazz vehicle. The staff found video that was unavailable in 2010, compensating in part for the copyright removal of another performance. Arent' You Triply Glad You're You? (Updated from Rifftides, March 27, … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Kumquats

And you thought kumquats have had no effect on popular culture. How about a kumquat, my little chickadee?—W.C. Fields, My Little Chickadee (1940) You're...standing...in...my...KUMQUATS—The Fantasticks (1960) We should be dancing, I agree, my little kumquat—The Stunt Man (1980) … [Read more...]

Odds And Ends: Well, Actually, Two Odds And A Video At The End

Kumquats 1

KUMQUATS In Los Angeles, we had a kumquat tree. Every winter it gave us a crop of the tangy little citrus globules. After we moved north to apple country, I missed the kumquats. One day a couple of summers ago, my wife returned from a shopping expedition with a fledgling kumquat tree in a pot. She found it at a Home Depot, of all places. What the heck, she said, it may not survive in this climate, but it’s worth a try. In spring, summer and fall, we keep it on the deck. In winter, it sits in … [Read more...]

Donald Byrd Update

D Byrd Color

Following a week of uncertainty and speculation, the death of 80-year-old trumpeter Donald Byrd has been confirmed. Haley Funeral Directors in Southfield, Michigan today published an online obituary. The notice said that a private funeral for Byrd will be held this week. Neither the funeral home nor the family is releasing further information. Last week, a nephew announced that Byrd died on February 4 in Dover, Delaware, but Byrd’s immediate family maintained silence that continues. The … [Read more...]

This Will Make You Feel Better

Fats Waller

Does the gloomy weather have you depressed? Can't face having to shovel another foot of snow? Still paying off your Christmas credit card binge? Here's a perfect remedy: Fats Waller in 1934 with Gene Sedric, tenor saxophone; Herman Autrey, trumpet; Harry Dial, drums; Billy Taylor, Sr., bass. I’ve always been impressed with Autrey’s ability to insert lovely little obligato licks among phrases of Waller’s vocal. Sedric, "Honey Bear" to his friends, was a marvel of warm playing. See? You … [Read more...]

Donald Byrd, 1932-2013

Donald Byrd

On several blogs and websites, a man name Alex Bugnon, a nephew of trumpeter Donald Byrd, is quoted as saying that Byrd died on Monday in Dover, Delaware, his home in recent years. According to the reports, Bugnon said that other members of Byrd‘s family were keeping the death of the 80-year-old jazz artist under "an unnecessary shroud of secrecy." I have tried to get at least one further confirmation; a coroner’s report, word from an immediate family member in Delaware, a funeral home … [Read more...]

Eubie Blake’s Birthday

Eubie Blake Stamp

Eubie Blake made himself even more famous well into his 90s when he said, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” He died on February 12, 1983 at the age of 100 years and five days. More famous? Yes, he had been widely known for decades as a pianist, bandleader and composer. Blake’s “Memories of You,” “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and “Charleston Rag” were among a string his of hits that began with an early one for Sophie Tucker, “It’s All Your Fault.” … [Read more...]

Jeff Sultanof On Robert Farnon, Part 2

Farnon conducting

Robert Farnon By Jeff Sultanof Robert Farnon composed several film scores, of which the best known is the music for Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951). The trombonist, composer and arranger J.J. Johnson told me that a theme from the film, “Lady Barbara” was one of his favorites. Johnson eventually recorded it with Farnon. We hear a bit of the theme in this scene from the motion picture with Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo. Farnon recorded a long-running series of … [Read more...]

Jeff Sultanof On Robert Farnon, Part 1

Gillespie Farnon Carter

As Jeff Sultanof makes clear in the first segment of his two-part essay for Rifftides, the most accomplished composers and arrangers looked up to Robert Farnon (1917-2005). To the left, we see him between two of his admirers, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Carter. Early in his career, both offered him encouragement and advice and, later, became fans. The sheer skill of Farnon’s craftsmanship would have been reason enough for envy, but he combined mastery of technique with a creative imagination that … [Read more...]

Other Places: Young Miles Davis Speaks Out

Young Miles

Thanks to Michael Cuscuna and his colleagues at Mosaic Records for a reminder in their Daily Gazette of an interview with the forthright Miles Davis. Nat Hentoff spoke with the 29-year-old Davis for a 1955 Down Beat article. Full of opinions, the trumpeter took on conventional wisdom about a number of players and genres. For instance, this observation about a hot new band, the Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet: I don’t like their current group too much because there’s too much going on. I mean, … [Read more...]