Autumn Comes

autumn-leaves

In most of the Northern Hemisphere, this is officially the first day of fall. In a weblog devoted primarily to jazz, it seems fitting to welcome the advent of the new season with music. The pleasant problem is that there are so many wonderful recordings of songs with autumn themes, it’s impossible to choose just one. So, here are three. Nat Cole, 1948 Woody Herman, 1948 Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane, 1963 Have a pleasant autumn season or—if you’re in the Southern … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Ali Jackson

Ali Jackson Amalgamations

Ali Jackson, Amalgamations (Sunnyside) In this appropriately titled collection, the irrepressible drummer and 13 colleagues from the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra and elsewhere combine in groups as small as two. Jackson's precision and drive stimulate trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, pianist Eldar Djangirov and saxophonists JD Allen and Ted Nash, among others. Performances include the laconic “Done Tol’ You Fo’ Five Times” in which trombonist Vincent Gardner and electric pianist Jonathan Batiste … [Read more...]

The Way Kenny Wheeler Worked

Kenny Wheeler at the piano

Anne Braithwaite alerted me to Kenny Wheeler’s account of how he prepared when he was searching for inspiration. The trumpeter and composer died this week. See yesterday’s Rifftides post for details. The story came from Ken Schaphorst, chairman of the Jazz Studies Department at the New England Conservatory in Boston. Mr. Schaphorst told me this afternoon that in the fall of 2002, Wheeler gave a master class at NEC. Famously shy, nervous about speaking in public, he wrote out his talk. Mr. … [Read more...]

Kenny Wheeler Is Gone

Kenny Wheeler, Smiling (!)

Kenny Wheeler, a Canadian who became a towering figure in British music and an icon of jazz musicians around the world, has succumbed to a long illness. He was in a London nursing home for several months and was moved recently to the hospital where he died. He was 84. Wheeler's brilliance as a composer and arranger, dating from from the 1960s, came to be generally acknowledged fairly late in his career. From the 1968 suite based on Don Quixote that he wrote for the John Dankworth … [Read more...]

Report From Russia: Арфа и джаз (Take Five)

Esse, Moscow

Rifftides reader Svetlana Ilyicheva (pictured right) brings us up to date from time to time on musical events in and around Moscow. Her latest report concerns an organization founded by and for jazz listeners, and one of its concerts by an unusual group. Recently, the Moscow 'Jazz Art' Club celebrated the closing session of its 20th concert season. The club has presented nearly 1,500 weekly concerts, to say nothing of its vocal festivals and fascinating jazz cruises. There is much for the … [Read more...]

Losses: Jackie Cain, Joe Sample

Jackie & Roy

Following a long illness, Jackie Cain died Monday afternoon in her New Jersey home. She was 86. She and Roy Kral combined their talents in 1946. They incorporated the spirit of bebop in their work with Charlie Ventura’s sextet, capturing the public imagination with “East of Suez” and “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” Recorded with Ventura at a concert in Pasadena, California, in 1949, the records received widespread radio airplay in the days when that was still a route to jazz stardom. Following … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Mark Turner

Lathe of Heaven

Mark Turner, Lathe Of Heaven (ECM) The tenor saxophonist bases the CD’s title on an Ursula K. LeGuin sci-fi novel in which dreams seem to change reality. Her story line turns on unclear perceptions, but Turner’s music is unambiguous in its extension of modern mainstream jazz tradition. Though the harmonized lines he plays with trumpeter Avishai Cohen bear intimations of Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter, Turner’s compositions and the emotional unity of the quartet’s playing, particularly in … [Read more...]

Three Listening Tips And A View

Cables & Friends at PT

Tip 1. Jim Wilke’s Jazz Northwest program on Sunday will broadcast the tribute given pianist and composer George Cables at this summer’s Centrum Jazz Port Townsend festival on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Mr. Wilke recorded the concert in July. For years, as performer and teacher, Cables has been an integral part of the festival and its jazz workshops. From Mr. Wilke’s announcement: Three pianists, Geoffrey Keezer, Benny Green and Dawn Clement take solo turns playing compositions by … [Read more...]

Gerald Wilson And Harmony

Gerald Wilson head shot

In the September 8 Rifftides post about this week’s passing of Gerald Wilson, I mentioned his enhanced harmonic palette and its importance to modern jazz arranging (Photo courtesy of Gordon Sapsed). It is one aspect of the Wilson craftsmanship that continues to influence those who write for big bands. When I was working on the essay that accompanies the Mosaic box set of his Pacific Jazz recordings, Mr. Wilson and I discussed his development of eight-part harmony. He applied it to the piece he … [Read more...]

Gerald Wilson, 1918-2014

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Word has come that Gerald Wilson died today in Los Angeles. A swing era trumpeter, he became the pioneering leader, composer and arranger of a modern big band that was a significant presence for more than sixty years. Wilson enriched the language of large ensembles by employing expanded harmonic structures. He was noted for, among other things, his colorful music inspired by Mexican bull fighting. For an obituary, see Don Heckman's article in today's Los Angeles Times. In a post to come, … [Read more...]

We’re Back

server problems

Web server problems resulting in massive slowness interfered with Rifftides today and, evidently, with all other blogs under the artsjournal.com umbrella. As a result, it was not possible to prepare and post new items. I would be happy to report that the crack Rifftides technical staff wrestled the problem to the ground and eliminated it, but there is no Rifftides technical staff. The difficulty seems to have fixed itself, and we're back up and running, witness the next exhibit. I believe the … [Read more...]

Thad, Mel And Co. In Belgium

T.JONES & M.LEWIS1

In response to the recent Rifftides recommendation of the new album by the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Bill Kirchner sent a link to video featuring the VJO’s progenitor. About the clip of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band in Belgium, in 1973, Bill writes: So-so, though acceptable, sound, but great playing and interesting camera work. Note the repair tag hanging from Knepper's trombone. The program includes one of Brookmeyer’ greatest arrangements and three pieces composed and arranged by Jones. 1. … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Finger-Pickin’ Good Sousa

stripessousa

Bobby Shew sent a link to a performance by a guitarist named Doug Smith. After listening to Smith’s introductory story about his dad, no former Marine could be expected to ignore the video. Anyone who can finger-pick Sousa’s famous piccolo part in “Stars and Stripes Forever” while also playing the harmony and melody must be taken seriously. This is an opportunity to see and hear a man who enjoys his work. I must confess to having known nothing about Doug Smith before Mr. Shew alerted me … [Read more...]

Recommendation: Brookmeyer For The Vanguard

Over Time, Vanguard

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Over Time: Music of Bob Brookmeyer (Planet Arts) This is the album Bob Brookmeyer was preparing for the Vanguard orchestra before he died at the end of 2011. As a composer and arranger, Brookmeyer was a creative force in the Vanguard’s predecessor, the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, and its forerunner, the big band co-led by Lewis and Thad Jones. With Jones-Lewis, he was also a principal soloist, on valve trombone. Brookmeyer's rich history with all of the band’s … [Read more...]

Labor Day # 2: Workin’

Labor-Day-US

As pointed out in the previous exhibit, Americans and Canadians are taking a three-day holiday to observe Labor Day, which this year is Monday, September 1. On this occasion established nearly a century-and-a-half ago, they do their best to get sunburned, exhausted and happy—the latter with or without the aid of beer, which sells in oceanic quantities as summer winds down and people populate beaches, mountain meadows, national parks, RV camps and back yards. There are several versions … [Read more...]

Labor Day #1: Struttin’

labor-day

This is Labor Day weekend or, if you prefer the Canadian spelling, Labour Day weekend. Monday will see official observance of the day established in Canada in 1872 and the US in 1887 to honor the economic and social contributions of working people. It long ago expanded to a three-day holiday weekend that marks the unofficial end of summer, the return of children to school and huge sales at department stores, automobile dealerships and sellers of electronics. Millions of Americans celebrate … [Read more...]

Happy Bird Day To You

Charlie Parker smiling right

Here it is Charlie Parker's 94th birthday, and I'm just getting around to observing it. The photograph captures Bird in a moment of happiness. Such moments came fairly often in his troubled life, more frequently when he was at work than when he was pursuing, or pursued by, his problems.       So, let's listen to him at work. First, one of his magical transformations of George Gershwin's "Embraceable You." This is Take 2 of the tune from his Dial session of October … [Read more...]

Weekend Listening Tip: Holman At Port Townsend

Holman at Port Townsend

At 87, Bill Holman still hits the road occasionally. He did this summer and unveiled a major work. Sunday on his Jazz Northwest program, the veteran jazz broadcaster Jim Wilke will present his recording of the new piece and others by Holman conducting a big band loaded with stars. In the Jim Levitt photo below, you see Holman at work. Baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan is visible on the left end of the reed section. Here is part of Mr. Wilke’s announcement, including information about how … [Read more...]

Jan Lundgren’s Newest…And (Maybe) A Nomination

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News has arrived that my notes for the new Jan Lundgren solo piano CD have been submitted to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for a possible Grammy nomination. I hasten to emphasize that a submission is not a nomination. The essay required some of the most exhaustive research I have ever done for an album annotation. It involved the pleasure of listening repeatedly to All By Myself and investigating the history of each of its 14 pieces, classics from what we have all come to … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Apples And “Scrapple”

Apples 2014 2

It’s time for the annual Rifftides apple crop outlook, with evidence snapped this week on a cycling expedition. Stacks of bins the size of apartment complexes sit waiting to be filled with what Executive Director Jon DeVaney of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association says will be a “good-sized crop of high quality.” He predicted to the Yakima Herald-Republic that Washington State’s apple farmers will harvest 140 million boxes of apples, an increase of eight-and-a-half percent over … [Read more...]

New Recommendation: Tom Harrell

Harrell Trip

Tom Harrell, Trip (HighNote) A dozen compositions by trumpeter Harrell provide a framework for variety and surprise in this recording by the pianoless quartet he calls Trip. The centerpiece, “The Adventures of a Quixotic Character,” is a six-part suite inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ 15th century novel Don Quixote. Harrell’s solo on “The Ingenious Gentleman” is a highlight among highlights. If some of the tracks summon thoughts of Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, it may be more than a … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Copenhagen

Copenhagen Canal

In an attempt to get the Europe virus out of the bloodstream (fat chance), here is the final report on our Ystad-Copenhagen adventure. Following the Ystad Jazz Festival in southern Sweden, son Paul and I spent three days in Copenhagen. Denmark’s capital is an hour to the northwest of Ystad by way of a long, spectacular bridge and tunnel across and under an arm of the Baltic. Copenhagen is full of music, but we didn’t need more; our ears were ringing with five days of music. We wanted rest and a … [Read more...]

Ystad Jazz: The Wrapup

YjazzMuS

It has been two weeks since I returned from Europe, but the Ystad Jazz Festival is still on my mind. It was impossible to hear all of the young Swedish musicians who played at the festival and there was not enough space in my Wall Street Journal report to cover all those I did hear. Here are thoughts about some whose names you may want to remember; their talent and potential staying power could make them known well beyond Scandinavia. Norwegian electric bassist Anne Marte Eggen led the … [Read more...]

John Blake, Jr., RIP

CS_JohnBlake_large

From Philadelphia comes news of the death of John Blake, Jr., a violinist who combined his classical training, love for the African-American musical tradition and sense of adventure to become prominent on the forward edge of jazz in the 1970s. Blake was 67. He made his mark recording with tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp and soon won the Violinist Deserving Wider Recognition category in the Down Beat Critics Poll. His fame widened when he toured with Grover Washington, Jr’s band and then with … [Read more...]

Bill Evans And George Russell

Following the Bill Evans birthday piece three days ago, a note from Alan Broadbent about Evans reminded me of a Rifftides post from five years ago. The piece placed Evans in the context of his work in the 1950s with George Russell. It appeared on the occasion of Russell's death, and it included video of some of Evans' most stimulating playing. This appeared on July 29, 2009. George Russell, 1923-2009 George Russell died Monday night. Here are some of the facts of his life, outlined by … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Mehmet Ali Sanlikol

Sanlikol, WhatsNext

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, What’sNext? (Dünya) Using orchestral techniques that stem in part from his early training as a classical pianist, Sanlikol blends aspects of music of his native Turkey and of Arabic countries into contemporary jazz. A graduate of the Berklee School of Music and the New England Conservatory, he studied arranging with Bob Brookmeyer, whose influence is one ingredient in Sanlikol’s eclecticism; the audacious “On the Edge of the Extreme Impossible” is a dramatic instance. … [Read more...]