Listening Tip: Desmond on the BBC

Desmond BBC headshot

In the wake of the British Broadcasting Corporation's recent programs about Bill Evans, Rifftides reader Brenton Plourde notifies us of a new BBC series to be streamed on the internet. Beginning tomorrow, Geoffrey Smith's Jazz on BBC Radio 3 will air a weeklong series about Paul Desmond and his music. The BBC's preview page does not make clear whether the shows will be available to web listeners outside the United Kingdom. For an advance look at the program rundown, go here. … [Read more...]

Thanksgiving 2013


This is a national holiday in the United States, important ever since the newly arrived Pilgrims and the native Wampanoag gave thanks in 1621. To Americans observing it, the Rifftides staff sends wishes for a happy Thanksgiving. To readers in the US and around the world: thank you for your interest, readership and comments. … [Read more...]

Paul Desmond: Take Eighty-Nine

Ellington BD All Stars

Every November 25th since Rifftides debuted in 2005, we observe Paul Desmond’s birthday. He was born in San Francisco on this date in 1924, which, that year, was Thanksgiving. To the left, we see Desmond six months before he died in May of 1977. He’s watching Jim Hall carve the turkey that Jim’s daughter Devra prepared when she hosted her parents and Paul for a 1976 Thanksgiving dinner at her New York apartment. Longtime recording partners, Desmond and Hall were close friends. One of their rare … [Read more...]

Other Matters: That Day

Kennedy in Motorcade

Nearly all Americans who were alive when President Kennedy was murdered remember how and where they got the news. In announcing her revitalized blog, Carol Sloane asked her contacts to recall what they were doing on November 22, 1963. This is what I sent her: My camera crew and I were in the ballroom of the Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon, interviewing Denise Tourover, the national head of Hadassah. Mrs. Tourover was from Washington DC. She was a friend of the Kennedys. I had just … [Read more...]

Recent Listening In Brief: Free Scott Robinson


In a pair of duo albums the protean Robinson confines himself to 10 instruments from his arsenal. Alphabetically, they range from alto sax to zither, sonically from the rumbling contrabass saxophone to the altissimo twittering of the sopranino sax. His accompanists are pianists, although in Záhadná Emil Viklický also plays organ and solovox and in Afar Frank Kimbrough doubles on electronic harpsichord, clavioline and two kinds of organ. As for the music, you were expecting maybe the Great … [Read more...]

More On Krall

Diana Krall head shot

It dawned on me this evening that the post below was not the first time that Rifftides has addressed the question of Diana Krall's popularity in the context of arguments about the quality of her artistry. An item from three-and-a-half years ago makes some of the same points. More important, it contains a video clip from a Paris concert that is worth seeing and hearing. It also has a quote from and a link to an astute article about Ms. Krall by the late Gene Lees. To find the May, 2010 post, … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: The Diana Krall Phenomenon

Krall Montreux

Most of the sniping about Diana Krall follows the pattern of fire that successful jazz artists have long drawn when they achieve even moderate success in the commerce of show business. The list of those charged with selling out when they became solvent includes Nat Cole, Dave Brubeck, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Wes Montgomery, Cannonball Adderley and, in his final crossover phase, Miles Davis. In recent years, market demand for jazz has not been high enough to develop many targets for critics who … [Read more...]

Listening Tip: The BBC’s Bill Evans Series


Pianist, composer and Bill Evans expert Jack Reilly alerts us to a five-part program about Evans. Donald Macleod hosts the Composer Of The Week series about Evans's life, with three of the episodes devoted to his work with Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and the producer Helen Keane. The BBC is making the series available on the internet for a short time. The opening segment will be heard for only two more days. The remaining four expire on successive days. To listen to them, Go here. … [Read more...]

Rockin’ And Rollin’ In Santa Barbara

l to r Lewis, Perkins, Presley, Cash

Visiting Santa Barbara, California, I was offered a ticket to last night’s performance of the traveling theatrical production Million Dollar Quartet. It is unlikely that I would have sought out a rock and roll musical, but my hosts took me along. The magnificent Granada Theater on State Street was nearly overflowing. The crowd’s appearance indicated that most people in the audience were of high school age when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were in the first wave of … [Read more...]

Odds And Ends: L.A. And New York

Studio City

Every time I return to Los Angeles, I am reminded why my years living there were often surprisingly interesting in small ways. Somewhere in the accompanying postcard photograph is Moorpark Street in the Studio City section. Among Studio City’s 35,000 residents are show business figures, and among its businesses are the kinds that help give L.A. its cultural flavor. On one side of one block of Moorpark between Tujunga and Kraft avenues, these are these businesses nestled cheek by … [Read more...]

Update: That Holman Documentary project

Bill Holman Vitello's 2

The producer of the Bill Holman documentary was concerned that the Holman band’s live performance of his Thelonious Monk arrangements would be lightly attended. Kathryn King and her crew were to film the concert, and she was hoping for enthusiastic response by a big crowd. As it turned out, she needn’t have worried. Vitello’s, a little club in the Studio City area of Los Angeles, was packed on Friday evening. The response was indeed enthusiastic, ending with a standing ovation answered by an … [Read more...]

Autumn Leaves (and other tunes) In Central Park


Across the country from warm and sunny Los Angeles tomorrow, New York’s Central Park will be full of leaves turning color and 30 bands serenading the season. It is the park’s annual Jazz And Colors celebration. The photograph is from last year’s event. For information, including a list of the bands and a map, go here. … [Read more...]

Holman Revisits Monk

Bill Holman Conducting

Watching and listening to Bill Holman put his big band through its paces was a rare treat. The 86-year-old leader was preparing his troops for a rare public performance of his arrangements of the ten Thelonious Monk compositions in his celebrated Brilliant Corners album. Allowed to drop out of sight, never reissued, Holman’s Monk CD recorded in 1997 is one of the large-ensemble masterpieces of the second half of the twentieth century. Nor has there been anything that I know of to match it in the … [Read more...]

Stars In The East

S. Kuhn Sort of Smiling

If I weren’t flying south today, I might very well be looking for a plane headed east. If you live in the northeastern US, you may want to know about these events: Steve Kuhn has lined up a rarity in these days of one-shot engagements; four nights in the same club, Thursday through Sunday at the Jazz Standard in New York City. For decades a pianist of uncommon depth and inventiveness, Kuhn has in his trio Buster Williams on bass and Billy Drummond on drums. That’s all the information it would … [Read more...]

A Bill Holman Project, A Rifftides Hiatus


Rifftides is going into partial suspension for a few days. I’m involved in a documentary about Bill Holman (pictured), the composer, bandleader and NEA Jazz Master universally regarded as one of the greatest of all jazz arrangers. I will be in Los Angeles for a few days to interview Mr. Holman. Kathryn King Media, a veteran producer of projects related to music, is making the film. Ms. King reports that the production will be supported in part by a fundraising campaign and that information about … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Wess And Coles

Frank Wess, Johnny Coles

During the week when we lost Frank Wess, it has been impossible not to keep thinking about him—and listening to him. Today’s listening was to Uptown Records’ marvelous two-CD set of Wess in his partnership with trumpeter Johnny Coles (1926-1997). Their quintet was a 1980s band that reflected trends of the previous three decades. It was a platform not only for two nonpareil horn soloists but also for rhythm sections made up of some of the music’s brightest younger players. The first disc, … [Read more...]