Weekend Extra: Dizzy Gillespie & Red Mitchell

Dizzy Gillespie & Red Mitchell 2

The image to the left captures a moment in a short, happy period in the histories of two major figures in the jazz of the late twentieth century. In 1970 bassist Red Mitchell joined Dizzy Gillespie's quintet for a European tour that included concerts in Holland and France. When I recently visited Mike Longo in New York, he recalled the tour as one of the highlights of his eight years as Gillespie's pianist and music director. Guitarist George Davis and drummer David Lee came to Gillespie's … [Read more...]

2014 NEA Jazz Masters

NEA Jazz Masters

The National Endowment for the Arts today announced the class of 2014 NEA Jazz Masters to be inducted early next year. Here are the Endowment’s profiles. JAMEY AEBERSOLD* Educator, Saxophonist, Pianist, Bassist, Banjo player Born in and currently resides in New Albany, Indiana * Jamey Aebersold is the recipient of the 2014 A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy, which is bestowed upon an individual who has contributed significantly to the appreciation, knowledge, … [Read more...]

Other Places: Supersax

Supersax Plays Bird

The latest edition of Steve Cerra’s Jazz Profiles features an extensive illustrated history of Supersax. The group of saxophone virtuosos dedicated themselves to performing transcriptions of intricate Charlie Parker solos. In addition, band members played top-grade improvisations of their own. Steve’s post has an interview of Supersax founder Med Flory by Marc Myers of Jazz Wax. A live concert video of “A Night in Tunisia” includes not only brilliant reed section work but also let-out solos by … [Read more...]

Take Five (The Book) Goes Digital

Take Five Kindle Edition

As of today, of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond begins its new existence as an ebook. The hardcover edition has sold out. Used copies are going for as much as $150 on book and auction sites, but new hardbound copies are history. The electronic transformation is good news on several counts: The book will continue to be available. For now, it is on Kindle. Publisher Malcolm Harris of Parkside Publications tells me that he plans to have it up on Apple and Barnes & … [Read more...]

Groenewald Comment Landslide

The extensive response to yesterday's post about Oliver Groenewald's tentet and the phenomenon of medium sized bands in jazz precludes individual replies to the comments. Thanks to everyone who wrote. There will be more on the subject. To see the comments, go to the next exhibit down the page. … [Read more...]

Medium But Well Done, Groenewald Edition

Oliver Groenewald

Five years ago, I started what I intended to be a series of Rifftides pieces about little big bands. This was the rationale: Six to eleven pieces allow arrangers freedom that the conventions and sheer size of sixteen-piece bands tend to limit. Medium-sized groups have been important since the beginnings of jazz. For reasons I don’t remember—sloth, possibly—the series stopped after this installment and this one. A new ten-piece band has reignited the idea. The tentet’s … [Read more...]

And The 2013 JJA Winners Are…

Willard Jenkins

Following its May announcement of awards to musicians, the Jazz Journalists Association this week disclosed the winners of its journalism awards for 2013. Congratulations to Willard Jenkins, winner of the award for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism, to Patrick Jarenwattananon of National Public Radio Music, winner of the Blog of the Year Award for his A Blog Supreme, and to all of the other winners listed below. Print Periodical of the Year: 
JazzTimes Website of the Year: … [Read more...]

Sam Most, Johnny Smith…Gone

Sam Most

Risking the appearance of Rifftides becoming an obituary service, I must note the deaths in the past week of two supreme artists of the bebop era, flutist Sam Most and guitarist Johnny Smith. Each of them blazed trails on his instrument and was a major influence on generations of players who followed him. Sam Most From the notes I wrote for Most’s 1976 Xanadu album Mostly Flute (Out of print, sadly. Copies are being sold for exorbitant prices on the internet): At 17, he was working … [Read more...]

Aperturistic Trio At Tsaritsyno


From time to time, Rifftides reader Svetlana Ilyicheva (pictured) reports about music she hears in Moscow. Here are her impressions of the June 12 concert by the visiting American group known as the Aperturistic Trio and their guest, the trumpeter Eddie Henderson. They played at a royal estate that is a splendid reminder of Russia’s pre-revolutionary past. The third “Classics & Jazz” festival took place at Tsaritsyno with the participation of the Aperturistic Trio consisting of James … [Read more...]

A Bert Wilson Broadcast


Bert Wilson was an undersung musician and an extraordinary man who died earlier this month. An underground hero of saxophonists far beyond the Pacific Northwest where he lived, he was so unusual and so little recognized that Rifftides is departing from our policy of not publishing verbatim announcements from elsewhere. Here is Jim Wilke’s alert to a special broadcast this weekend devoted to Wilson’s music. Bert Wilson was an inspiration, mentor, and brilliant saxophonist who passed on … [Read more...]

This And That

Ben Tucker

Ben Tucker, RIP There has been a civic outpouring of affection for bassist Ben Tucker, who died on June 4 in his adopted hometown, Savannah, Georgia. Tucker was killed when a car smashed into his golf cart. He was 82. He moved to Georgia four decades ago after establishing himself as a valuable sideman in Los Angeles, then New York. Tucker worked with pianists Carl Perkins, Billy Taylor and Marian McPartland, among many other leading jazz artists. He is on record with Bob Dorough, Herbie … [Read more...]

Herb Geller, Darmstädters And “Django”


Herb Geller is at home in Hamburg, Germany, recovering from a health setback. Until fairly recently, the octogenarian alto saxophonist’s demanding schedule had him in clubs and at festivals throughout Europe. One of those events was the Darmstädter Big Band’s Kentomania tour featuring music written for Stan Kenton’s band by Bill Holman, Gerry Mulligan, Bob Curnow and others. Geller is featured here in Bill Mathieu’s arrangement of “Django” by John Lewis. In addition to Geller’s solo, the … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Woody Herman

Woody Herman head shot

The singing was something I got from my father. There were a lot of times where there was a great deal of fodder recorded and played, because there was a market for it - just as there is today. And there were more bad bands than there were good bands - I think that should always be remembered. They’re asking for ludicrous, ridiculous kinds of tunes. It could be “Johnson Rag” or, “Don’t you have any Russ Morgan pieces?” or they’re always getting your tunes mixed up with … [Read more...]

A Pinto Pony

Pinto Pony Selah 6 8 13

My early morning cycling expedition took me nowhere near the Alamo or a Navajo, but I stopped to look at this fella looking at me… …and, naturally, I remembered a recording. That song with words and music by Joe Greene was a big hit in 1947 not only for Woody Herman but also for the Mills Brothers and for June Christy with Stan Kenton. According to the label on the Columbia 78 rpm record, "The Four Chips" accompanying Woody were Dick Kane, piano; Gene Sargent, guitar; Andy … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Terence Blanchard

Blanchard Magnetic

Terence Blanchard, Magnetic (Blue Note) Even in tracks orchestrated with layers of electronic mysteries, a fine sense of chance-taking permeates Blanchard’s return to the Blue Note label. “Don’t Run,” the piece with the least contrivance, is to a considerable degree the album’s most daring. Built on a stuttering unison melodic line, it is just short of a free-for-all for the trumpeter, soprano saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and bassist Ron Carter, with drummer Kendrick Scott's strategically placed … [Read more...]

Václav Klaus, Impresario

udílení Státních vyznamenání na Pražském Hradě

Imagine the president of the United States regularly presenting jazz in the East Room of the White House; that is the level of recognition Václav Klaus gave the music. President of the Czech Republic from 2003 to March of this year, Klaus succeeded the Republic’s first president, Václav Havel. He hosted 90 monthly concerts known as Jazz na Hradě, at the Prague Castle. This 2011 Rifftides post reports on one of the events. Here on the left, we see Klaus with the Czech pianist Emil Viklický, who … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Joel Miller, Wallace Roney

Al Cohn Eh

The story goes that a friend who hadn't seen the great tenor saxophonist Al Cohn in a long time encountered him on the street in New York and said, "Hey, Al, where are you living these days?" "Oh," Al said, "I'm living in the past.” Looking over a string of recent posts, it is clear that Rifftides has been living in the past, too. For the most part, our retro residency has been dictated by events. For one thing—as James Moody told me his grandmother once said—“Folks is dyin’ what ain’t … [Read more...]

Sunday Fun

Screen shot 2013-06-02 at 5.19.52 PM

“Groovin’ High”: James Moody, alto saxophone; Al Haig, piano; Ray Brown, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums. That is from a PBS Sound Stage program, Dizzy Gillespie’s Bebop Reunion 1975. Gillespie sat out one of his most famous compositions, but there is plenty of him in the complete show, along with Moody, Milt Jackson, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Carroll and that incomparable rhythm section. Happy Sunday … [Read more...]

Two Bennies Busting Out


You might assume that “June is Busting Out All Over,” an exuberant Rodgers and Hammerstein show tune from Carousel, is unsuitable as a jazz vehicle. Two Bennies, Goodman and Carter, might argue—if they were around to argue—that there are no bad songs, only bad interpretations. Benny Goodman recorded "June is Busting Out All Over" with a pleasant vocal by Kay Penton in 1945, the year the show debuted on Broadway. Goodman’s record includes his clarinet solo and a 16-bar interlude by the … [Read more...]

Other Places: More, In Depth, On That Desmond Solo

Thomas Cunniffe

Educator and jazz researcher Thomas Cunniffe has posted analysis and additional information about Paul Desmond's solo on "The Way You Look Tonight" from the Dave Brubeck Quartet's Jazz At Oberlin. It was after correspondence with Tom that I began looking into the disparity between the solo on the original LP issue and that on all reissues. (See the item and comments two exhibits below). In his blog, Jazz History Online, he investigates possible reasons for the cut and aspects of the solo's … [Read more...]

Jean Bach, 1918-2013

Jean Bach

The death this week in New York of Jean Bach at 94 spurred memories of her role in the jazz community going back to the early 1940s. Ms. Bach was not a musician but an advocate whose enthusiasm for and understanding of the art endeared her to several generations of musicians. Her knowledge of the music and its creators made her unusual among other society figures who sometimes amused themselves by dabbling in the jazz scene. She was known for hosting in her home on Washington Mews in Greenwich … [Read more...]