Correspondence: Mickey Leonard

Mickey Leonard

The Rifftides webmaster received a communiqué from the distinguished songwriter Mickey Leonard (pictured) about the Fred Astaire-Rita Hayworth videos in the next exhibit. This is the absolute best thing I've ever seen/heard with “Stayin' Alive” & those two spectacular dancers. Bravo for such a wonderful thing to do. Without question, fantastic!!! Thank you from a most appreciative composer who generally doesn't like anything. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! Mr. … [Read more...]

Astaire To The Rescue


Article 235, section 17-a of the Web Logger Handbook: When other duties preclude blogging, inspiration flags or the dog days of summer make you listless and you haven’t posted lately, just tap dance or play a drum solo. How about both. And how about if I get someone else to do them. Fred Astaire from A Damsel in Distress, 1937. … [Read more...]

Lionel Ferbos In His Second Century


On July 17 Lionel Ferbos broke his own record as the world’s oldest working jazz musician. The New Orleans trumpeter is now 102. Ferbos celebrated by playing a gig at the Palm Court, where he has performed for a substantial number of his ten decades. This shot of Ferbos recently won Skip Bolen the Jazz Journalists Association’s photo of the year award. Associated Press writer Stacy Plaisance’s birthday article about Ferbos (pronounced Fair-boh) quotes him on his longevity. "Isn't … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: The Mary Ann McCall Video


Bill Kirchner’s choice of Mary Ann McCall (1919-1994) as the artist to feature on his return to Jazz From The Archives (see the post below), led the Rifftides staff to search for videos of her performing. A fuzzy kinescope from 1962 may be the only one in existence. It comes from Frank Evans’ Frankly Jazz program on KTLA, the pioneering independent television station in Los Angeles. McCall shared a broadcast with The Jazz Crusaders. What survives is “After You’ve Gone” with the Crusaders rhythm … [Read more...]

Two Losses, One Gain

Peter Appleyard

This week, jazz lost two artists who made substantial contributions to the music. The vibraharpist Peter Appleyard was one of Canada’s best known jazz musicians. Laurie Frink was a New York jazz community insider, honored as a masterly lead trumpeter, revered as a teacher. Born in England in 1928, Appleyard (pictured left) moved to Canada in his early twenties, established himself in Toronto’s jazz community and became a popular figure on Canadian television. He toured for nearly a decade as a … [Read more...]

Kickstarting The Jazz Session

Jason Crane

For many years, among the Other Places on the Rifftides blogroll has been Jason Crane’s The Jazz Session. Crane uses his radio experience, knowledge of music and focused curiosity to help readers and listeners understand jazz and jazz musicians. That is, he did until a few months ago when circumstances ended five years of The Jazz Session. The program had guests—hundreds of them—as varied as Maria Schneider, Sonny Rollins, Marian McPartland, Wadada Leo Smith, Terry Gibbs, The Dirty … [Read more...]

Leonard Garment

Leonard Garment

Most of the obituaries of Leonard Garment mention his background as a jazz musician but not the key role he played in arranging White House honors for Duke Ellington. The former White House adviser died July 13 at the age of 89. Garment’s clarinet and tenor saxophone skills helped pay his way through college and law school. His gigs included a stint in Woody Herman’s saxophone section, but he opted for a career in law and public service. For a full review of Garment’s career, see his New York … [Read more...]

Terry Teachout: The First Decade

Terry Teachout

Today is the 10th anniversary of Terry Teachout’s weblog About Last Night. For much longer than his digital decade, I have been amazed by the quantity, quality and insightfulness of Terry’s work on the web, in The Wall Street Journal, in Commentary and in his books (his biography of Duke Ellington is on the verge of publication). No one can be that prolific, that fast, that accurate, that concise, that good a writer. But he is. I would be offering him hearty congratulations even if he hadn’t … [Read more...]

Bengt Hallberg And Friends

Bengt Hallberg smiling right

The light response stimulated by the news of Bengt Hallberg’s death was puzzling. Go here for the Rifftides post about the great Swedish pianist. In his later years, Hallberg used restraint and conservatism that sometimes disappointed listeners who became devoted to him for his refined bebop sensibility of the 1950s. Nonetheless, he never played with less than intriguing harmonic ingenuity and the rhythmic flow that distinguished his work from the beginning. Those unfamiliar with Hallberg’s work … [Read more...]

It’s All Music

Daron Hagen

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (it was called New Orleans) I took a break from two television and several radio newscasts a day and also broadcast a weekly program called Jazz Review. It did what the name suggests. Once in a while I deep-sixed the review format and put together a special called “It’s All Music.” The show might consist of recordings by artists as diverse as Charlie Parker, Waylon Jennings, Spike Jones, Percy Sledge, Artur Rubenstein, Jo Stafford, the Juilliard String … [Read more...]

New Recommendations (it’s about time)

green checkmark

In the right column and for a while directly below, you will find the latest batch of Doug's Picks: two new CDs, a classic album on CD at last, a DVD documentary about a giant of the piano who should not be forgotten, and a book that examines non-musical factors in the evolution of jazz. As always, reader comments are welcome by way of the "Speak Your Mind" box at the end of each post or the "Contact" button on the blue stripe. … [Read more...]

CD: Keith Jarrett

Jarrett Somewhere

Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette, Somewhere (ECM) The first release in four years by Jarrett’s Standards Trio captures interaction among the pianist, bassist Peacock and drummer DeJohnette that is like the activity of one mind. Their exploration of Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” melds into “Everywhere,” a mantra that builds hypnotic fascination. In the quirkiness of his fragmented first bars of “Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” and his unaccompanied ruminations leading … [Read more...]

CD: Bill Potts

Potts Porgy & Bess

Bill Potts, The Jazz Soul of Porgy & Bess (Fresh Sound) In jazz, 1959 was a watershed, milestone, landmark (choose your cliché). Clichés embody truths; that’s how they become clichés. The truth is that this all-star recording of Porgy & Bess was one of the most important of the final year in a golden decade of jazz in New York. Potts’s arrangements are his most celebrated, for good reason. There is passion and commitment in the playing of the 19-piece ensemble and in solos by Art Farmer, Bill … [Read more...]

CD: Cécile McLorin Salvant

Savant Woman Child

Cécile McLorin Salvant, Woman Child (Mack Avenue) In this November post, I observed that it was going to take a while to catch up with Cécile McLorin Salvant. It will take a while longer because she is moving fast, but her first CD portrays a singer who has emerged in her early twenties full of talent, versatility, taste and rare artistic judgment. With pianist Aaron Diehl’s trio, Salvant is unfailingly on target interpreting a collection of 12 dissimilar songs. She is equally affecting in … [Read more...]

DVD: Erroll Garner

Garner DVD

Erroll Garner, No One Can Hear You Read (First Run Features) This compact, well-made documentary leaves the viewer a puzzle: only 36 years after his death, how can memories of a stunningly original, universally admired pianist have grown so dim? Many, perhaps most, young listeners don’t know about Garner. The film’s abundant performance clips provide reasons that he should be an icon —his spontaneity, his irresistible swing, the witty deceptiveness of his introductions; the joy he took … [Read more...]

Book: Marc Myers


Marc Myers, Why Jazz Happened (University of California Press) A respected jazz critic and blogger with a masters degree in US history, Myers assesses the effects of social, political and business forces on the development of the music. He provides context in chapters on the influences of recording technology, radio, race relations, the G.I. Bill, the musicians union and rock culture, among other phenomena. Myers confines discussion of jazz’s first two decades to the introduction, but he is … [Read more...]

A Sunday Serendipity

Clare-Fischer facing right

YouTube says that 42,793 people have seen a clip of Clare Fischer (1928-2012) conducting what seems to be a master class. I came across it this evening while looking for something else. I abandoned the something else; Fischer was more interesting. At the piano, he plays Duke Elliington’s “I Didn’t Know About You” to set up an observation about the quality of Johnny Hodges’s alto saxophone playing. Without mentioning it he also demonstrates the quality of his own harmonic conception. In the … [Read more...]

What Do You Miss?

Naches Hwy W 1

People aware of my life as a news gypsy sometimes ask, “Don’t you miss New York—New Orleans—San Antonio—San Francisco—Portland—Washington, DC—Los Angeles—Cleveland—?” (Pick one). There are things I miss about each of them. But on a day like today, cycling mile after mile through the back country—the recent 106 degree heat a mere memory—I didn’t miss them at all. Still, this evening in my chair with a book, a glass of something … [Read more...]

Compatible Independence Day Quotes


An annual Rifftides reminder Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. —Benjamin Franklin America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. —Abraham Lincoln … [Read more...]

Bengt Hallberg RIP

Bengt Hallberg at Microphone

Bengt Hallberg, honored as one of the finest pianists in modern jazz, died today in Uppsala, Sweden, of congestive heart failure. He was 80 years old. Hallberg’s keyboard touch and harmonic inventiveness came to the attention of musicians and listeners outside his native Sweden on Stan Getz’s 1951 recording of the traditional song “Ack Värmeland du sköna,” released in the US as “Dear Old Stockholm.” He made a further impression internationally with his playing on Quincy Jones arrangements for … [Read more...]

Paul Smith, 1922-2013

Paul Smith B&W

Another pianist, primarily noted for his impeccable accompaniment of singers but who was also a soloist of wide ranging abilities, died today. Paul Smith was 91. He was probably best known for his work with Ella Fitzgerald. He also played for Mel Tormé, Sarah Vaughan and Doris Day, among others. Early in his career, he worked with Ozzie Nelson, Les Paul and Tommy Dorsey. For a quarter of a century, he was the music director for Steve Allen’s television program. With his 1954 album Liquid Sounds, … [Read more...]