Colligan And Shaw Play Shorter


Now that we have added pianist George Colligan’s stimulating Jazztruth to the Rifftides blogroll (the blogroll is ‘way down in the right column), the staff found a way to introduce Colligan’s playing to readers who may not be familiar with his vigor and inventiveness. He and alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw performed a tribute to Wayne Shorter a couple of years ago at the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival. It was a prescient booking by the Tel Avivians—two steadily rising younger artists playing music by … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Bennett/Brubeck


Tony Bennett/Dave Brubeck,The White House Sessions Live 1962 (Columbia/RPM/Legacy) Riding on the success of hit records, in August of ’62 Brubeck and Bennett had a good night in the shadow of the Washington Monument. They played in the Sylvan Theater for college students who had interned in the nation’s capitol that summer. That morning at the White House, President John F. Kennedy thanked the youngsters. The concert constituted an additional bonus for their work. In the last flowering of an … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Two Couples

Small Moments

Karolina Strassmayer & Drori Mondlak—Klaro, Small Moments (Lilypad) In their third album together, their second as co-leaders, the spaciousness and delicacy of Karolina Strassmayer’s alto saxophone meld with the understated power of her husband Drori Mondlak’s drumming. The results are creative tension and whirling currents of surprise beneath the often-placid surface of music made by the spare combination of saxophone, drums, guitar and bass. Strassmayer is Austrian. Mondlak is an … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Couples

One's not half of two; two are halves of one. ― E.E. Cummings Couples are wholes and not wholes, what agrees disagrees, the concordant is discordant. From all things one and from one all things. —Heraclitus What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life--to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Johnny Hodges’ Saxophone


The video below is about the horn played by the great Duke Ellington alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges (1906-1970). The voice in the commentary is that of Frank Wess, a major saxophonist of the generation following Hodges who is an active player at the age of 91. Mr. Wess explains that he owns the Vito saxophone, number 5000, and used it when he played lead alto for the Toshiko Akiyoshi orchestra. You needn’t be a saxophonist to appreciate the intricacy and beauty of the instrument. Tomoji … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Whaling

Male Orca

Rifftides has been more or less dormant the past few days, for good reason. You can't blog and herd whales at the same time. Well, truth be told, we weren't herding, just watching. Several Ramseys and other folks from various parts of the world watched orcas, also known as killer whales, off the coast of British Columbia and Washington State. Choppy waters south of Vancouver had the prow of the boat airborne and returning to the surface in a series of hull-shuddering slaps before the waters … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Players Who Sing

Nat Cole at the piano

A few jazz musicians who sang on the side became so popular as vocalists that their instrumental careers all but disappeared. The brilliant and influential pianist Nat Cole (pictured left) is the most prominent example. Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae began their professional lives as pianists. Diana Krall’s (pictured right) success as a singer dominates her career to the point that her ability as a pianist is often overlooked. In the cases of Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Fats Waller, Chet … [Read more...]

New Recommendations

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The new batch of Rifftides recommendations for listening, viewing and reading will appear immediately below until newer posts send them further down the queue. You will also find them under Doug's Picks in the right column. They cover CDs by two vibraphonists—one of whom has also published his life story—a gifted bassist in an intimate and moving chamber recital, and Lester Young in previously unissued radio broadcasts. The DVD choice is by a singer whose work is timeless. … [Read more...]

CD: Warren Wolf

Warren Wolf Wolfgang

Warren Wolf, Wolfgang (Mack Avenue) In a succession of vibraphonists that began with Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo, Wolf has come into his own. His new album finds him with one rhythm section of veterans—pianist Benny Green, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash—and another of young musicians from his own quartet. He and the increasingly impressive pianist Aaron Diehl play duets on two pieces. With Wolf on marimba, the two defy categories in variations on the 19th century … [Read more...]

CD: David Friesen

Dave Friesen Brilliant Heart

David Friesen, Brilliant Heart (ITM Archives) In this collection of chamber music improvised on original themes, bassist Friesen commemorates an adult son who died in 2009. His “Scotty” is an unaccompanied bass solo incisively intoned and infused with a deep sense of loss. In much of the rest of the album, the pleasure of discovery dominates as Friesen interacts with pianist Greg Goebel and drummer Charlie Doggett and, on some tracks, guitarist Larry Koonse. The piano trio piece “Purple … [Read more...]

CD: Lester Young

Lester Young 1950

Lester Young, Boston 1950 (Uptown) If it has been too long since you've listened to Lester Young, say a couple of weeks, this collection of club performances could be just what you need. The tracks are from radio broadcasts when Young’s quintet was appearing at Boston’s Hi-Hat in the spring of 1950. He may not have been the Lester of the late 1930s Count Basie band, but the exuberance and ingenuity of his playing counter claims that after WWII he was a burnt-out case. Young was always capable … [Read more...]

DVD: Anita O’Day

Anita O'Day, Tokyo '63

Anita O’Day Live In Tokyo ’63 (Kayo Stereophonic) The singer equals the heights she reached in her 1958 triumph at the Newport Jazz Festival. In this television broadcast there is no audience cheering her on, as at Newport, but O’Day shows that she needs no crowd to generate energy and enthusiasm. She has the backing of her pianist and musical director Bob Corwin and a superb big band of Japanese musicians led by Takao Ishizuka playing Buddy Bregman arrangments. Among the 15 songs, she … [Read more...]

Book: Gary Burton

Gary Burton LearningToListen

Gary Burton, Learning To Listen (Berklee Press) At the outset of his autobiography, as he turns 70 Burton makes it official again (the first time was in 1994): he’s gay. The vibraphonist then delivers an entertaining, informative and well-written account of his career, returning occasionally but not obsessively to his gayness. He is even-handed about the difficulties and rewards of working with Stan Getz, full of admiration for Duke Ellington, generous but clear-eyed in discussing colleagues … [Read more...]

Finding Focus

This is getting complicated—but encouraging. Rifftides reader Mike Kaiser sent a comment regarding the Stan Getz/Eddie Sauter Focus video discussed in the previous item: A little Google-sleuthing turned up this residual copy of the now-missing YouTube video. Watch and listen here before it, too, disappears. Let us hope that the mysterious unidentified remover doesn't strike again. … [Read more...]

Losing Focus

Focus 2

Almost two years ago I disclosed with some excitement that videotape existed of portions of a television performance of Focus, the classic collaboration between Stan Getz and the brilliant composer and arranger Eddie Sauter. The Rifftides staff tracked down the clip and posted it. I hope that you got a chance to see it because whoever put the video on YouTube seems to have been in violation. The copyright holder took offense. New Zealand Reader Tom King forwarded this report from his friend John … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Sonny Rollins

Rollins skeptic

. . .this is my dilemma. I’m a guy who makes things up as I go along, so nothing is ever finished; there are so many layers. So when you solo, yeah, you might get into one thing, but then, hey, everything has implications! You can hear the next level. And that’s how I feel about improvising—there’s always another level. No one is original. Everyone is derivative. I’ll know when I find the ultimate sound. … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Gerald Wilson

gerald-wilson chalk trumpet

I wanted to be able to write for the symphony orchestra. I wanted to write for the movies. I wanted to write for television. I wanted to be able to do it with great speed, great accuracy, and that’s what I did. Jazz, to me, has to be loose. You can’t be tight. When you get too tight in jazz, it isn’t making it. Same thing with Duke Ellington. He let his band be relaxed, be loose, take it easy. Nobody gets excited here. You’re late. Okay, so you’re late. Let’s play. … [Read more...]

Other Matters: A Followup On Journalism Ethics


Response to the recent Rifftides post about courtesy titles in news stories made it clear that readers care about ethical practices affecting the news reports they read, hear and watch. A post from 2006, in the Pleistocene era of this blog, dealt with journalism ethics at large. Here it is again, revised a bit because of changes: For one, FACS (the Foundation for American Communications) no longer exists. For another, the book Journalism Ethics: Why Change? is out of print, available only from … [Read more...]


Sonny Rollns with President

Yes, yes, I know. Sonny Rollins is 83 today, and Rifftides is joining the celebration late. There is a reason but no excuse. We jump on the birthday bandwagon by bringing you Rollins playing an extended version of a tune his mother remembered from her girlhood in the Virgin Islands. "St. Thomas" has been an essential and beloved part of his repertoire for more than 50 years. The rhythm section Is Kenny Drew, piano; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, bass; Albert "Tootie" Heath, drums. The video is … [Read more...]

Other Matters: How About A Little Courtesy?

Norman Isaacs 1985

For a couple of hundred years, newspapers used courtesy titles. Many papers that equated Abraham Lincoln with the devil often wrote about “Mr. Lincoln” or “The President,” even as their editorials pilloried him. Up until about the time of Ronald Regan, in news columns and in radio and television newscasts, whoever was president received the respect of title. The operating theory in most of US journalism was that the office warrants respect regardless of the politics and policies of its occupant. … [Read more...]

Gerald Wilson Is 95

Gerald Wilson conducting

Gerald Wilson celebrated his 95th birthday yesterday. He looks back on a career studded with achievement as a trumpeter, bandleader, composer and pioneering arranger. Early on in his writing Wilson achieved the unexpected, incorporating daring classical harmonic techniques in his big band arrangements and making them accessible to general audiences. He is the personification of a lifelong learner. Following big successes capped by a sold-out tour with Ella Fitzgerald, Wilson dissolved his … [Read more...]

What Happened In Detroit

Billy Hart by R. Blanquart

If you, too, did not make it to Detroit over the weekend for the city’s jazz festival, reading about it may be small consolation. Nonetheless, Mark Stryker’s account in The Detroit Free Press conveys his excitement and covers the highlights as he heard and saw them. Stryker is not a sports reporter, but he named a most valuable player. ■MVP Award: The majestic drummer Billy Hart brought his extraordinary ability to both respond to and spontaneously shape a band’s conception to three … [Read more...]

Odds And Ends

Red Garland, DR shot

Rifftides readers have developed the recent Bing And Trane post into a colloquy on Red Garland (pictured). Garland was the pianist on “Love Thy Neighbor,” the Coltrane recording featured in the piece, and in the Miles Davis Quintet of the second half of the 1950s. His 1970s Texas comeback brings considerable attention in comments that follow the Crosby-Coltrane post.   Friday’s Stan Kenton correspondence attracted news that composer Terry Vosbein has prepared an archive of most of NBC … [Read more...]