International Jazz Day

Hancock in Istanbul

This is International Jazz Day. It was celebrated in a massive concert streamed live from Istanbul. Herbie Hancock gave the keynote speech and hosted the webcast. To watch and listen to it replayed, click here. … [Read more...]

Duke Ellington (1899-Forever)

Ellington 1925

Here it is the night of Duke Ellington’s 114th birthday and Rifftides has left you bereft of a flowery tribute to his genius, immortality, indispensability and __________ (fill in the blank). Instead, let’s see all of that in action in a clip from the 1930 RKO film Check and Double Check. Trumpets: Freddie Jenkins, Cootie Williams & Arthur Whetsol. Trombones: Joe (Tricky Sam) Nanton & Juan Tizol (valve trombone). Reeds: Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, Barney Bigard. Rhythm: Ellington (p), … [Read more...]

Lilacs In The Wind

Lilacs 2013 # 1

This spring, the lilacs seem to have blossomed a bit earlier than usual. They are everywhere in this big valley, in shades from snow white to purple so deep it’s almost black. We have three banks of lilac bushes In our south 40. The one at the bottom end is the biggest and most glorious. Here are a couple of glimpses. Unfortunately, I can’t offer you the aroma. What does this have to with jazz? It needn’t have anything to do with it; the subtitle of the blog is, “…on jazz and other … [Read more...]

Kenny Dorham Gets A Plaque

Dorham Plaque

In notes for the 1998 issue of Kenny Dorham: Blues in Bebop, I wrote: More than a quarter-century after his death, Kenny Dorham is a beacon of encouragement shining across the landscape populated by young jazz musicians. In a generation of imitators, a few perceptive players have discovered Dorham’s lyricism, his magic with harmony, the wistfulness of his tone, and his articulation, which is like intimate speech. Dorham’s compositions increasingly make their way into repertoires and his … [Read more...]

Busy Day, Early Bird

charlie parker laughing

When buried in deadlines and unable to create sparkling new material, give ‘em some Charlie Parker, that’s my motto. Here is Parker on September 15, 1944, at the WOR studios in New York City. The leader on the record date was guitarist Lloyd "Tiny" Grimes. The other musicians are Clyde Hart, an important pianist in the transition from swing to bebop; Jimmy Butts, bass; and Harold “Doc” West, drums. “Red Cross,” is one of 3,427 (or so) jazz compositions based on the form and harmonies of … [Read more...]

Followup: Bev Getz’s Father

Bev Getz

The Stan Getz video posted here over the weekend drew an array of comments from Rifftides readers. One of them was from his daugher Bev, who took impassioned exception to praise for the late Don Maggin’s Getz biography. In response, I sent Ms. Getz a private message about the last time I spoke with her father. She asked if I would post the story. I think it was in 1988 or '89 that your dad played at one of Ken Poston's West Coast Jazz celebrations. The concert was at a theater in … [Read more...]

Benny Carter: An Appreciation

Carter alto

In the latest of his occasional series on arrangers and composers, Jeff Sultanof looks at the career and contributions of a man whom I once described in a liner essay as a quintuple threat, then wrote, “That was too conservative. At the height of his career, he played alto, tenor, clarinet and trumpet, composed, arranged, and sometimes played piano and sang. He is—along with Johnny Hodges and Charlie Parker—one of the three great original alto saxophone stylists in jazz. He wrote … [Read more...]

Benny Carter, An Appreciation, Continued

Mr and Mrs Benny Carter

Please see the previous post for the first installment. BENNY CARTER, PART 2 By Jeff Sultanof In 1999, I went to Los Angeles to celebrate New Year’s Eve with Jerry Graff, my mentor and second father, as well as to visit with Gene Lees and Roger Kellaway. I got a call from Ed Berger to see Benny; he was sorting out his catalog and needed some guidance. I went to his beautiful home in Beverly Hills. Carter immediately took me aback when he said, “I understand you are a very fine … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Stan Getz’s Model Behavior

Getz clowning

There may have been times—no, there were times—when Stan Getz worked overtime to be unpleasant. Zoot Sims had his reasons for describing Getz as "an interesting bunch of guys." It is not likely that Sims had in mind moments like those in this video. Rifftides reader Jeff Chang sent a tip about a film Getz made in 1969 in France. It turns out that his quartet was engaged to play background music for a fashion show. If you think that was an unusual gig for a major musician still riding the wave of … [Read more...]

Other Places: A Visit To Jazz Profiles


Some time ago, Steve Cerra (pictured) flattered me with an interview for his Jazz Profiles weblog. When the piece ran in 2011, it triggered a number of comments. Nonetheless, Steve decided to run it again and posted it today in the left column of his blog. To my delight, he created this montage photo of Jack Brownlow and Don Lanphere, musicians from my hometown who introduced the very young me to Charlie Parker, Villa Lobos, Nat Cole, Fats Navarro and Ravel, among many other musicians who opened … [Read more...]

Do You Miss Erroll Garner?

Erroll Garner Head Shot

Sometimes I get buried in deadline work and through neglect or “a kind of monumental inefficiency” (to borrow a favorite Paul Desmondism), I let a day or two go by without putting something new on Rifftides. Then, it gets to be ‘round midnight and it occurs to me that I have committed what my blog guru long ago said was the ultimate weblog goof—dead air, white space, or whatever it’s called on the internet. So, not having the foresight to stockpile shelf pieces, I flail about looking for … [Read more...]

A Rare Trio


Rifftides readers in the New York metropolitan area, or planning to visit it, may care to make note of an unusual performance coming up this week. Soprano saxophonist Bill Kirchner, pianist Marc Copland and vocalist Carol Fredette will make a rare collaborative appearance on Wednesday evening, April 17, at The Players. Ordinarily, the private club on Gramercy Park South is open only to members, but membership is not required for this occasion. The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, co-sponsor of … [Read more...]

Herbie Hancock

Hancock Head Shot

This is Herbie Hancock’s 73rd birthday. According to YouTube, the version of his “Canteloupe Island” below has been watched by 6,770,455 viewers. If you’re seeing it for the first time, congratulations. If you’re seeing it for the 6,770,456th time, hearty congratulations. Whoever posted the video doesn’t know how to spell canteloupe, but that seems of little concern to Mr. Hancock, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette and Pat Metheny. Herbie Hancock, 1940-2013, and going strong. … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Dave Liebman in Moscow

Svetlana-Ilicheva X80

Rifftides reader Svetlana Ilyicheva (pictured) now and then sends reports about concerts she attends in Moscow—Russia, not Idaho. Here is her account of a recent performance by visiting American musicians. A few days ago (April 3) I was at the concert given by the Dave Liebman Quartet at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall. It was organized with the aid of the US embassy. That vast hall is filled to the brim only on rare occasions, but there were quite a lot of people. I believe that goes to show that … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Coleman, Ellington, Santos Neto, Longo, Korb

Coleman Arrhtyhmias

  Steve Coleman, Functional Arrhythmias (Pi) For more than 30 years, Coleman has been a leader in music on the forward edge of jazz. This album synthesizes and focuses concepts that the alto saxophonist and composer developed through the M-Base movement he founded in the 1980s. The philosophical and metaphysical aspects of M-Base may never have been clearly explained, but there is nothing unclear about this music. Its crispness, directness and compelling movement are expressed in 14 concise … [Read more...]

Listening: Schneider & Upshaw. Weiss Twice.

Schneider, Upshaw CD

The next few Rifftides posts will be devoted to reviewing—or at least acknowledging—some of the hundreds of recent album arrivals that have given my mailman an aching back and made an obstacle course of the office and music room. My intention is to choose wisely among a bewildering profusion of mostly recent CDs by known, little known and unknown musicians and to keep the reviews reasonably short. Dawn Upshaw, Maria Schneider: Early Morning Walks (artistShare) Maria … [Read more...]

It’s Gerry Mulligan’s Birthday

Mulligan Vienne

To compensate for lateness in posting a birthday tribute to Gerry Mulligan (1927-1996), the Rifftides staff is pleased to bring you videos of Mulligan from three stages of his career. First, we find him at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 with his quartet; Mulligan, baritone saxophone; Art Farmer, trumpet; Bill Crow, bass. This seems to be a clip from Bert Stern’s film Jazz on a Summer’s Day. The closing announcement is by Gerry's friend Willis Conover of the Voice of America. The piece is … [Read more...]

Other Places: Stamm And Cables

Stamm head shot

Small town newspapers sometimes provide surprisingly interesting coverage of world-traveling jazz artists who pass through or live in their communities. For decades, Marvin Stamm and his wife Nancy have been residents of the Westchester County town of North Salem, an hour north of New York City. This week, the North Salem Daily Voice interviewed the trumpeter about why he lives there. This is some of what he said: I tell people in my travels about our town, but they find it difficult to … [Read more...]

Sarah Vaughan And Joe Louis In Chicago

Louis, Vaughan, et al

Here’s a followup to the Sarah Vaughan birthday post of March 27. In his Crown Propeller’s Blog, Armin Büttner published a picture of the great singer in interesting company at the Crown Propeller Lounge in Chicago. The club thrived as one of the city’s most vital nightspots from the late 1940s through the 1950s. It specialized in jazz and R&B and booked some of the leading lights in both fields. Here we see world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis with Sarah and trumpeter King Kolax. Crown … [Read more...]

High Water And Mr. Five By Five

Naches River

Here’s the latest in the Rifftides spring series. The snow is melting fast in the mountains and the rivers are running high. From today’s early afternoon cycling expedition, you see the Naches River just before it merges into the Yakima and below that, a branch of the Yakima River near downtown. The forecasters say that the rivers in the Pacific Northwest are within a foot of flood stage, which is plenty high enough. Just ask Jimmy Rushing. … [Read more...]

Spring Is Here

Apricot Blossoms 2013

We are back from vacation, and look what sprang while we were gone. We'll have apricots. There is regrouping, listening, reading and blogging to do. Stay tuned. But, how do we live up to that headline? Ah...of course; Stan Getz, Lou Levy, Monty Budwig and Victor Lewis, 1981. … [Read more...]