A Desmond Oberlin Masterpiece, Complete

Desmond At Oberlin

Paul Desmond died at the age of 52 on this date in 1977. It was Memorial Day. It had been his custom to join Dave Brubeck and his family to observe the holiday at their Connecticut home, which Paul had christened The Wilton Hilton. This time, his lung cancer made him too weak to consider the trip. From my Desmond biography, here is a summary of events leading up to his final day, beginning with an account of one of our frequent telephone conversations. A few days before Memorial Day, I … [Read more...]

Mulgrew Miller, 1955-2013

Mulgrew Miller at Vienne

This time, sadly, it's true; Mulgrew Miller succumbed early this morning to the effects of the stroke he suffered last Friday. Nate Chinen's obituary in today's New York Times offers an appreciation of the pianist and a summary of his career. Miller's solo performance of Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" at last summer's Jazz a Vienne festival in France gives an indication why he was respected as one of the most expressive musicians of his generation. … [Read more...]

Odds And Ends

Charlie Haden

June 1 will be the first of two Charlie Haden Days at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival in Northern California, honoring the bassist’s nearly three quarters of a century as a professional musician. His career began when he was two years old. He will be 76 in August. Among those performing in tribute: Geri Allen, Lee Konitz, Haden’s Quartet West, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Carla Bley the Liberation Music Orchestra, Bill Frisell and Haden’s four musician children. For information about the Healdsburg festival, … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Bill Perkins And “Yesterdays”

Bill Perkins

Rifftides reader Don Frese writes: I am now the proud owner of 9 of the 11 recordings of “Yesterdays,” the Bill Holman arrangement, by Stan Kenton featuring Bill Perkins (1924-2003) on tenor saxophone (I am missing one that was issued on a Penn State Jazz Club LP, and a recent Wolfgang's Vault download of a French Lick Jazz Festival performance from 1958). Perkins is simply remarkable, taking a different and interesting solo even on performances from consecutive nights (three … [Read more...]

Stompin’ For Mili


Thanks to Rifftides reader John Bolger for his timely alert to a rare opportunity to see a film tied to an important recording by the Dave Brubeck Quartet in the band’s third year. Timely? Yes, because the Brubeck memorial service in New York was so recent and because the Memorial Day weekend is the 36th anniversary of Paul’s death. The album was Brubeck Time. The film is Stompin’ For Mili, made by the photographer Gjon Mili at the October 12 and 13, 1954, recording sessions in the storied … [Read more...]

Bechet And Bird

Charlie Parker ca 1950

After he left his native New Orleans as a teenager, the great clarinetist and, later, soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet for decades toured widely in the United States and Europe. He was respected for his originality and powerful playing, but he tired of struggling to make a consistent living in the US and moved to Paris in 1950, when he was 53. He found steady work in France and quickly became a national celebrity. A film running on YouTube, L' Historire De Sidney Bechet, suggests his … [Read more...]

Unburied Treasure: Chick Corea Trio

Corea head shot

The East Room audience included Mrs. Ronald Reagan, Vice President and Mrs. George Bush and a cross section of Reagan administration dignitaries when Chick Corea, Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes played at the White House in 1982. … [Read more...]

Poodie James Sale


By special arrangement with the publisher, Rifftides readers may acquire autographed copies of Doug's novel Poodie James at a reduced price. To see a description of the book, read an excerpt and learn how to order, click on Purchase Doug's Books on the blue border above. The special price will be in effect until the limited supply runs out. … [Read more...]

Praise For Poodie James

Doug Ramsey is the John Steinbeck of apple country. Rich with sweet detail of the unique landscape of Washington State, Poodie James pulses with Steinbeck’s sense of character—the hurt ones, their tormentors, and everyone in between. This novel will take your heart. —Jack Fuller, author of The Best of Jackson Payne Poodie James is a very good book. Not only is it handsomely and lyrically written, but Ramsey’s snapshots of small-town life circa 1948 are altogether convincing, and he has even … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Watergate

Ramsey at Watergage Hearings

Last night on the PBS News Hour, Robert McNeil and Jim Lehrer remembered their marathon live reporting of the Watergate hearings that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The hearings opened on May 17, 1973. In a special segment on the News Hour, McNeil and Lehrer recalled how their work as Public Broadcating System anchors of the coverage led to the evolution of PBS as a news organization and the creation of The News Hour. Many in the Congress and, certainly, in the Nixon … [Read more...]

Weekend Listening And Viewing Tip: Stamm And Holober Live

Holober and Stamm at Nyack

Trumpeter Marvin Stamm and pianist Mike Holober just ended a duo concert at the library in Nyack, a Hudson River village north of New York City. The music was streamed live on the internet and is ready for viewing on the Nyack Library’s website. I snagged this screenshot as Holober and Stamm were launching into the Bill Evans composition “Funkallero.” The concert included, among other pieces, Raye and DePaul's “Star Eyes,” Michel LeGrand’s “You Must Believe in Spring,” Cole Porter’s “I Love … [Read more...]

A Dave Brubeck Memorial Service

St John The Divine

  At the very moment that last evening’s memorial service for Dave Brubeck got underway, the rumble of thunder penetrated the massive Gothic walls of New York City’s Cathedral of St. John The Divine. A murmur ran through the throng filling the 120-year-old church. With dignity and a commanding presence, Iola Brubeck read Langston Hughes’ poem “I Dream a World.” She said that it echoes the core of her husband’s belief in the equality of all peoples. An excerpt:   A world I … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Shearing And You Know Who

shearing, williams

Veteran Bay Area pianist and trumpeter Dick Vartanian writes: My brother-in-law was entertainment chairman of the Lion's club in the early 1970s. They put on a benefit for the blind every year. He asked me if I could get some people to appear. George Shearing was in San Francisco, so I asked him. His reply, as expected, was a direct yes. He played a few numbers with his trio and then announced to the audience that he had taken the liberty to bring a friend. At that point they played an … [Read more...]

Springtime On The Hudson

Springime on the Hudson

For my first New York visit in too long, nature trumped the forecasters and gave us a beautiful morning. This was the view from my host's apartment across the Hudson River to Fort Lee, New Jersey Let's hope that the weather holds for the Dave Brubeck memorial tomorrow. The service is late in the day. The Rifftides plan is to post a report on Sunday. … [Read more...]

Recent Listening In Brief

CDs Scads

So many CDs, so little time. There are hundreds of review copies stacked up around here and no immediate hope of writing in depth about more than one or two. Therefore, I shall write not in depth about several. These mentions—a bit longer than tweets—point you toward albums that have impressed me on first or second listenings, CDs that I would like to hear again. Tommy Flanagan, Jaki Byard, The Magic of 2 (Resonance) In this previously unissued 1982 collaboration from San Francisco’s … [Read more...]

Brubeck Memorial, Brubeck Performance

Brubeck Head

There will be a public memorial service for Dave Brubeck in New York City next Saturday, May 11. Brubeck died last December at the age of 91. Along with, no doubt, hundreds of others I will be at the service in the cavernous Cathedral Of St. John The Divine on the upper west side of Manhattan. A little known video of a Brubeck quartet performance recently surfaced. The other musicians are Jerry Bergonzi, tenor saxophone; Chris Brubeck, electric bass; and Randy Jones, drums. The piece is “All … [Read more...]

John Lewis, “Django” and Django

John Lewis Head Shot

This is the birthday of John Lewis (1920-2001), the pianist and music director of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Many of his compositions are staples of the jazz repertoire. None is better known than “Django,” named for the Belgian Gypsy guitarist who was the first European musician to become a major jazz figure. Lewis discussed the piece and his reason for writing it in a television appearance with Billy Taylor. The clip is a reminder of the pleasantness of John's personality and the understated … [Read more...]

2013 JJA Awards & A Gil Evans Video

Wayne Shorter JJA

The Jazz Journalists Association today announced its members’ choices for the 2013 JJA awards. The organization honored saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter with its lifetime achievement award. Trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith was named musician of the year. Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans is the JJA’s record of the year.  In addition, there are 26 jazz heroes, described as “activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz who have had significant impact … [Read more...]