Labor Day Work Song


Monday, September 2, is Labor Day in the United States. Congress established it in 1894 as a national holiday to honor working people. Decades ago, the observance expanded into a long weekend during which Americans celebrate the end of summer by going to beaches, swimming pools, mountains, campgrounds, parks and backyard barbecues. Detroit honors the occasion by holding a massive who's-who jazz festival, one of the biggest in the world. It is not unlikely that during the course of the festival, … [Read more...]

Correspondence: On Stan Kenton

Stan Kenton

Rifftides reader Fred Augerman writes: Hi Doug, I was kind of surprised that there was no mention of the passing of Stan Kenton, which was on August 25, 1979! Here's Shelly Manne's very poignant tribute at the time of Stan's passing. _________________________________________________________________________________________________ He was a friend to all musicians. He was like a Father. He was like a psychiatrist. He was the guy next to you on the bus. He ate the same lousy … [Read more...]

Charlie Parker, 8/29/20 – 3/12/55

Charlie Parker ca 1950

Reminding us all that today is Charlie Parker’s 93rd birthday, Rifftides reader Mark Mohr sent a message. We have been going through a siege of major losses in jazz, so it is of considerable comfort to be cheered by Mr. Mohr’s message, which, in its entirety, is: Bird Lives … [Read more...]

Poodie James Special


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. Doug Ramsey is the John Steinbeck of apple country. Rich with sweet detail of the unique landscape of Washington State, Poodie James … [Read more...]

Bill Mays, Historian: Surprise Video


The piece below ran earlier this month. After it was posted for a few days, the videos were removed. No one at Rifftides or the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts has been able to find out why. Several readers have asked what happened and whether we can restore the videos. The answers are: I don't know and, yes. Let's hope that the mystery remover doesn't strike again. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Originally posted … [Read more...]

Other Places: de Barros And McPartland

McP facing left

A week after her death at 95, Marian McPartland is still on my mind. She’ll be there for a long time. In his biography of the pianist published earlier this year, Shall We Play That One Together? Paul de Barros did a splendid job of blending the facets of McPartland’s personality. He contrasts her famous elegance and charm with determination and crudeness never evident on Piano Jazz, the radio program that made her famous. As de Barros tells it in a Seattle Times blog post, getting Marian’s … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Bing And Trane

Crosby, Bing_01

I don’t know whether “Love Thy Neighbor” is the most unlikely song John Coltrane ever recorded, but his 1958 version is one of the most delightful. Mack Gordon and Harry Revel wrote it for the 1934 movie We’re Not Dressing, a classic of the shipwreck survivor genre. Bing Crosby sang it beautifully in a contrived sequence that also involved Carole Lombard, Ethel Merman and Leon Errol. Listen to Crosby’s bluesy phrasing and inflection in the verse. He was, after all, a friend of Bix Beiderbecke … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Wayne Shorter Quartet

shorter without a net cover

Wayne Shorter, Without A Net (Blue Note) About seven minutes into Shorter’s first soprano saxophone solo on the monumental “Pegasus,” someone in the band says, “Oh, my God!” The interjection stands as reaction not only to that track by Shorter’s quartet and the Imani Winds but also to his quartet throughout the album. “Pegasus,” commissioned by the Imani Winds, is the piece de resistance of this collection of performances recorded in concert on a 2011 tour. Weaving together the quartet … [Read more...]

Marian McPartland, RIP

Marian McPartland

Two days following Cedar Walton’s passing, we have lost another splendid pianist, one of the world’s best known and best loved jazz artists. Marian McPartland died in her sleep just before midnight Tuesday in her home on Long Island, New York. A message from family members reports that she passed away, “smiling, knowing that she was surrounded by family and friends.” Ms. McPartland was 95. She developed from a shy English schoolgirl into a major influence in the music. It is the story of … [Read more...]

The 2013 Rifftides Crop Report And A Bonus

Apples #1 2013

  In late summer each year, the Rifftides staff photographer puts a camera in the bike bag and heads out to orchard country to see how the apples are coming along. It seems there will be a crop.       Some apples are taking on color sooner than others.     Most peaches have been harvested, but there are exceptions in the higher elevations.       And, then, there are the … [Read more...]

Cedar Walton, 1934-2013

Cedar Walton

Cedar Walton died this morning at his home in Brooklyn at the age of 79. Family members confirmed his passing but have not announced the cause of death. A pianist admired for his adaptability and thorough musicianship, Walton wrote tunes that became jazz standards, among them “Firm Roots,” “Bolivia,” “Ugetsu,” “Midnight Waltz” and “Something in Common.” My notes for his 2009 CD Voices Deep Within summarize Walton’s career from the time he was a high school music student in Dallas, … [Read more...]

Other Places: Stryker On Whitaker

Rodney Whitaker

Detroit is gearing up (they’re good at that in Detroit) for the 2013 edition of its massive free jazz festival over the Labor Day weekend. A central performer at the festival and a major figure in the city’s jazz community is the 45-year-old bassist Rodney Whitaker, internationally known as a player and as an educator of new generations of musicians. He is the head of jazz studies at Michigan State University. In today’s Detroit Free Press, its music editor, Mark Stryker, writes: Whitaker … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Billy Hart, Zoot Sims

Ear Trumpet

We continue in our doomed effort to keep up with recent (more or less) releases. Billy Hart, All Our Reasons (ECM) For months I have been listening repeatedly to this CD, one of last year’s best. Somehow, I didn’t get around to writing about it until now. Hart, a drummer of flexibility, wide range and exquisite sensitivity, is billed as the leader of a quartet formed in 2003 by the tenor saxophonist Mark Turner and the pianist Ethan Iverson. The bassist is Ben Street. The four have … [Read more...]

Weekend Listening Tips: Cohen & Davis

Hamilton & Cohen

On opposite coasts of the US, Jim Wilke (Washington State) and Bill Kirchner (New Jersey) will present stimulating jazz listening this Sunday. Here’s Wilke’s announcement: Anat Cohen has been winning both critics and readers national jazz polls for several years and she tours continually, playing major jazz festivals and clubs around the world. The last week of July found her in Port Townsend, WA where she was teaching and performing at Centrum's annual jazz workshop and festival at Fort … [Read more...]

Bill Evans’ 84th Birthday

Bill Evans headshot

It is Bill Evans’ birthday. He was born on August 16, 1929 and died on September 15,1980. Evans influenced pianists in all genres of music. With bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, he changed the concept of the jazz piano trio. From their 1959 album … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Wofford, Mahanthappa, Pelt


A few major record labels survive, but most jazz albums come from independent companies, many of them one-man or one-woman operations. Digital technology makes recording relatively simple and inexpensive for small independent labels. It also makes it easy for musicians to be their own record companies. Some record at home in living rooms or basements. Those with good gear and a modicum of engineering skill can achieve high quality sound. The business of making records has come a long way since … [Read more...]

Sandoval, Gillespie And The Medal

Sandoval and Gillespie

Now that the White House has announced President Obama’s Medal of Freedom winners for 2013, the sniping begins over his choices. Here is my snipe. Whatever Arturo’s Sandoval’s merits as a musician, they are put in perspective by his biography in the White House announcement, which notes that the trumpeter and pianist was a protégé of Dizzy Gillespie. (They are pictured together). That shines a bright light on the fact that while he was alive and in the 20 years since his death, Gillespie has … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Denny Zeitlin

Zeitlin BothAnd

Denny Zeitlin, Both/And (Sunnyside) One-man bands have come a long way since 1941, when Sidney Bechet recorded “The Sheik of Araby.” Playing clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones, piano, bass and drums, Bechet and the RCA engineers laboriously added an instrument in each of a succession of takes until the band was all present and accounted for on one master 78 rpm disc. Today’s digital electronics simplify the process and expand the possibilities, but one thing has not changed since Bechet’s … [Read more...]

Making Records The Hard Way

Master 78 Record

For an idea of what the RCA post-production crew went through half a dozen times to make the two-and-a-half-minute Sidney Bechet record mentioned in the Zeitlin review in the post above, watch these films about the complexities of the record-making process 72 years ago. The narrator is Milton Cross, for 43 years the host of the Metropolitan Opera's weekly live radio performances. … [Read more...]

Louis Armstrong’s Birthday


Louis Armstrong was born on this day in 1901. When he was 26, he recorded King Oliver’s “West End Blues” with an opening cadenza that put the world on notice that this new music was an art form to be taken seriously. How big was Armstrong’s impact on the development of jazz in the late 1920s? No one has described it more succinctly than one of his greatest admirers, the cornetist Ruby Braff. Braff said that Armstrong “changed everything.” Louis Armstrong and his Savoy Ballroom Five: … [Read more...]

Bill Mays, Historian: Surprise Video

In one of my Rifftides posts on last October's Oregon Coast Jazz Party, I told you a little about the remarkable program in which Bill Mays traced the development of modern jazz piano. Here's that section from October 12, 2012 Bill Mays’ History of Jazz Piano concert for a morning audience covered pianists from James P. Johnson to Herbie Hancock. Teddy Wilson, Bill Evans and Bud Powell were among the 13 whose styles Mays summoned without surrendering his individuality. Tommy Flanagan and … [Read more...]

Weekend Listening Tip: The Clayton Brothers

Clayton Brothers PT 2013

As reported in this Rifftides coverage last fall, a concert by the Clayton Brothers is likely to become a party. John and Jeff Clayton and their band partied again at the recent Jazz Port Townsend festival on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. Jim Wilke, a fine recording engineer as well as an award-winning broadcaster, captured the Claytons and will feature their performance on his Jazz Northwest program this Sunday. Here is Jim Levitt’s photograph of the band and a guest at the … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Woody Shaw


Woody Shaw: The Complete Muse Sessions (Mosaic) In a couple of record dates when Woody Shaw was 21 and in a dozen years through the 1970s and ‘80s, Muse Records captured some of the trumpeter’s most innovative and inspired work. When Shaw emerged, it was clear that Freddie Hubbard had influenced the younger man but, as he was to demonstrate, the model Shaw reflected most profoundly was not a trumpeter but a saxophonist, John Coltrane. The characterization of Shaw as a Hubbard clone persists … [Read more...]