Happy New Year

Happy New Year 2014

Deadlines and an unimaginable series of technical snafus have put blogging aside for the past few days. The good news is that a whole new year of opportunities is upon us. The Rifftides staff thanks you for being with us this year and sharing your thoughts with us in your comments. We wish all of you the best possible 2014. … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Four Pianos, Eight Hands

Tommy Flanagan, small head

 Just for fun. In the first video, Tommy Flanagan on the left, Barry Harris on the right; with respect to Thelonious Monk, sometime, somewhere, in the 1970s.     In the second video, Dave Frank on the left, Dick Hyman on the right, remembering Lennie Tristano, in New York, in 2011.         Have a pleasant holiday weekend. … [Read more...]

Young Coleman Hawkins Speaks And Plays

Coleman Hawkins, young

After Coleman Hawkins left Fletcher Henderson in 1934, he spent nearly five years touring in Europe. Having established the saxophone as a serious jazz instrument, he provided significant inspiration among European musicians as jazz took a solid foothold on the continent and in the British Isles. Hawkins appeared with bands in England, Switzerland, France and Holland, recording often. Records he made in Paris with Benny Carter, Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli are among the finest of the … [Read more...]

A Bill Evans Rehearsal

Bill Evans, head down

Rifftides reader Mike Harris (more about him later) alerts us to a little-known piece of video catching Bill Evans in rehearsal for a 1966 Danish television broadcast. The 21-minute sequence lets us see and hear Evans and his trio preparing pieces he frequently included in his playlists: “Very Early,” “Who Can I Turn To,” “If You Could See Me Now” and, toward the end, “Five,” his rhythmically demanding original based on the “I Got Rhythm” chord progression. The trio includes bassist Eddie Gomez, … [Read more...]

No Christmas Is Complete Without Bird

Charlie Parker ca 1950 Small

Sixty-five years ago today in the early hours of the morning, Charlie Parker and his quintet were close to wrapping up their broadcast from the Royal Roost in New York City when someone requested a Christmas song. Parker obliged. Christmas 1948 with Charlie Parker, Kenny Dorham, Al Haig, Tommy Potter and Max Roach. I hope that your Christmas 2013 has been equally merry. … [Read more...]

Joyeux Noel, Frohe Weihnachten, Feliz Navidad, Christmas Alegre, Lystig Jul, メリークリスマス, Natale Allegro, 圣诞快乐, Καλά Χριστούγεννα, 즐거운 성탄, И к всему доброй ночи And С Новым Годом


The Rifftides staff wishes you a Merry Christmas, a splendid holiday season and happy listening. The bonus winter scene is of the magnificent Mount Adams in southwestern Washington State, about 60 miles away and easily visible from Rifftides world headquarters. … [Read more...]

Yusef Lateef, R.I.P.


The roll call of distinguished jazz artists leaving us seems to grow longer by the day. Now comes news of the passing of Yusef Lateef, who died today at his home in Massachusetts. He was 93. As a youngster in Detroit, Lateef mastered several reed instruments and early in his career became a respected performer, composer and educator. He was an inspiration and model for a generation of young Detroit musicians who in the 1950s moved to New York and themselves became influences in the burgeoning … [Read more...]

Herb Geller, 1928-2013

Herb Geller looking right

We have word from Herb Geller’s family that the venerable alto saxophonist died on Thursday in a Hamburg, Germany, hospital. He succumbed to pneumonia. Geller had been under treatment for the past twelve months for a form of lymphoma. He turned 85 in November. As noted in this Rifftides post last June, Geller remained not merely active but energetic until fairly recently, performing in clubs and at festivals throughout Europe. He had lived in Hamburg since 1965. Until his mandatory retirement at … [Read more...]

Snyder On Hall

Jim Hall Smiling

John Snyder, who produced some of Jim Hall’s best albums, sent a comment on Hall’s passing. It appears with the dozens of other observations sent by readers following the Rifftides remembrance posted on December 10, but the staff decided that the poetic eloquence of Mr. Snyder’s tribute stands on its own. We reproduce it here, followed by a performance from Jim Hall Live, the 1975 Hall trio album with bassist Don Thompson and drummer Terry Clarke recorded at Bourbon Street in Toronto and … [Read more...]

Other Places: Cerra on That Desmond Book


Steve Cerra, the proprietor of the endlessly interesting Jazz Profiles blog, has posted a new piece about Take Five: The Public And Private Lives Of Paul Desmond. In it, he says that the book would make a good Christmas present, a suggestion that I wouldn't dream of challenging. Steve observes that any stocking the book might stuff would have to be huge. That was true in the days when Take Five existed only as a hard cover volume. Now, it is an eBook, meaning that the recipient's stocking can be … [Read more...]

The Critics’ Choices

Shorter 2013

Try as I might to ignore requests to vote in polls, I don’t seem to be able to say no to Francis Davis. This year, the eminent critic persuaded 136 people to take part in his annual critics poll, which he has moved to the website of National Public Radio. He asked writers, broadcasters, bloggers and others to name their choices for the best jazz recordings of the year. The results are in. The overall winner, hands down, is Wayne Shorter, 80 years old and, evidently, indefatigable. In his … [Read more...]

It’s Eddie Palmieri’s Birthday

eddie palmieri 4

This is the 77th birthday of Eddie Palmieri. The pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader moved with his family to New York from Puerto when he and his older brother Charlie were children. By the time Eddie was eight, he and Charlie were performing in talent contests. Both became major figures in the Latin jazz movement. As a teenager, Eddie Palmieri worked with experienced Latin bands, including that of Tito Rodriguez. At fourteen, he had his own band. In the early 1960s, his Conjunto La … [Read more...]

Passings: Stan Tracey, George Buck

Stan Tracey

Stan Tracey, the pianist sometimes called the godfather of British jazz, died on December 6. He was 86. Tracey helped to draw international attention to jazz in the United Kingdom and influenced the development of scores of younger players. Through most of the 1960s he was the house pianist at Ronnie Scott’s club in London and frequently accompanied visiting American musicians. Of that period, he told The Guardian’s John Fordam, …with people like Rahsaan Roland Kirk or Sonny Rollins and Charlie … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Holiday Albums

70046 christmas music

Every year, albums of Christmas music by jazz artists pop up in late October or early November, provide pleasure through the season, then are mostly forgotten. Once in a while, we get lucky with new releases that not only entertain us for the holidays but also leave music of permanent value. Think of Duke Ellington’s and Billy Strayhorn’s adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite (1960), Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas (1964) or Alan Broadbent’s lush arrangements of Christmas songs … [Read more...]

Grover Washington, Jr.

Grover Washington, Jr.

Grover Washington, Jr., was born on this day in 1943 and died on December 17, 1999. He was a tenor, alto and soprano saxophonist who had huge success as a popular artist, in great part because his 1974 album Mister Magic was high on the pop, soul and R&B charts for weeks. He followed with additional best-selling albums and singles. Predictably, his ability as a hit-maker had critics reaching for their sharp knives, but far from being a sellout, Washington was a superbly inventive jazz soloist … [Read more...]

Guest Column: A Brubeck Anniversary

Brubeck 2 heads

The two volumes of Dave Brubeck’s Jazz at the College of the Pacific on the Fantasy label have never received quite the degree of acclaim that met Jazz at Oberlin, recorded earlier in 1953. That’s a puzzle; The C.O.P. albums often equal the brilliance of Oberlin and of the phenomenally successful Jazz Goes to College, the quartet’s first LP for Columbia. Having blazed the trail that opened college campuses to performances by major jazz groups, Brubeck's C.O.P. concert was a triumphal return … [Read more...]

Jim Hall, 1930-2013

Jim Hall, 2013

Devra Hall Levy informed friends this morning that her father died last night in his sleep at home in New York, six days following his 83rd birthday. In her message, Ms. Levy wrote from Los Angeles, “He was not feeling well, but had not to my knowledge been diagnosed with any particular illness.” Jim Hall was born in Buffalo, New York, raised in Cleveland and received his formal musical education at the Cleveland Institute of Music. The guitarist performed steadily into his eighties, … [Read more...]

Jack Sheldon: He’s Alive

Sheldon Playin' It Straight

The cover photo of the out-of-print 1981 album to the left appears to show Jack Sheldon playing his trumpet left-handed. Whether someone reversed the picture by mistake or as an ironic turn on the album title is beside the point. It turned out to be prophetic. Left-handed is the only way Sheldon can play now. His ability to do so is a testament to his courage in fighting his way back following a stroke that deprived him of the use of his right arm. He was forced to retool or stop playing. … [Read more...]

Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

Nelson Mandela

In millions of ways, the world tonight is remembering Nelson Mandela. Music is one way. I have found no more powerful expression of what Mandela fought for and against in South Africa all of his life than this performance by Hugh Masakela. It was at a festival on Clapham Common south of London in 1986, four years before Mandela’s 27-year prison sentence ended. Eight years later, Mandela became South Africa's first democratically elected black president, changing his nation and in many … [Read more...]

Dave Brubeck: One Year


1. Today, a year following Dave Brubeck’s death, a new website celebrates his life and music. 2. We relay an announcement that one of the finest jazz repertory orchestras will broadcast a program of Brubeck compositions. As John Bolger’s Dave Brubeck Jazz.com debuts, the Irish Brubeck maven has unveiled an impressive site. In the “About” section, he outlines his ambitious goal: The primary purpose was to detail the entire catalogue of Dave‘s music, recorded over eight decades, so that … [Read more...]

Chico Hamilton


Chico Hamilton’s drumming with the original Gerry Mulligan Quartet and his own small groups helped introduce many young listeners to jazz in the 1950s. His death last week in New York brought a reaction from Don Conner that may strike a chord with other Rifftides readers. R.I.P.Chico Hamilton! Chico died recently at 92. This was meaningful to me as Chico's group was the first live band I'd ever heard. I was 18 and L.A. was dark and mysterious. I was in the military. Needless to say, my … [Read more...]

Hear Ye! New Recommendations

Bell Ringer

It's December and the gentleman to the left is calling your attention to the new Rifftides batch of things that we recommend you hear, watch and read. The CD suggestions include an indispensable collaboration finally being reissued after half a century, a mainstream trio and a decidedly un-mainstream quartet. The DVD catches Thelonious Monk concertizing in Paris. The book is a biography of one of the most public and most elusive of major jazz artists. The notices will appear under Doug's Picks … [Read more...]

CD: Jeremy Steig, Featuring Denny Zeitlin

Flute Fever cover

Jeremy Steig, Flute Fever (International Phonograph) The Rifftides campaign for a reissue of the 1963 debut recording of flutist Jeremy Steig and pianist Denny Zeitlin got underway with this observation in a 2005 post: On Sonny Rollins’s “Oleo,” each of them solos with ferocious thrust, chutzpah, swing and—one of the most challenging accomplishments in jazz—a feeling of delirious freedom within the discipline of a harmonic structure. Fifty years after it appeared, Flute Fever … [Read more...]

CD: Christian McBride

C. McBride Out Here

Christian McBride Trio, Out Here (Mack Avenue) Bassist McBride was so accomplished so young, it’s natural that at 41 he is an elder statesman grooming emerging players. Pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., are the impressive young members of McBride’s new trio, working beautifully with him in all of the areas in which he excels; rhythmic power, melodic inventiveness and unity of purpose. Highlights: the bone-deep swing in Oscar Peterson’s “Easy Walker” and McBride’s “Ham … [Read more...]

CD: Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp

Perelman Enigma

Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, Whit Dickey, Gerald Cleaver, Enigma (Leo Records) Perelman, a Brazilian living in New York, is a tenor saxophone virtuoso who does not allow standard jazz operating procedure to dictate his approach. In other words, he plays free jazz. His frequent partner is pianist Matthew Shipp, whom the critic Neil Tesser has identified as Perelman’s “blood brother.” The two record together so often —I count 12 albums in the past two years—that keeping up with them … [Read more...]

CD/DVD: Thelonious Monk

CD cover, "Paris 1969" by Thelonius Monk. Credit: Blue Note Records

Thelonious Monk, Paris 1969 (Blue Note) Dismiss claims that Monk was a burnt-out case after about 1965. There was already evidence to the contrary in the Black Lion recordings, his work with the Giants Of Jazz and the brilliance of his unexpected 1974 Carnegie Hall concert. Now, there is also this DVD assembled from film of a concert at the elegant Salle Pleyel. Monk still had his stalwart tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse. His new young sidemen on bass and drums had broken in nicely. … [Read more...]