The Ystad Festival Is Underway

Per Helsas gard 73015

The Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival into its third full day. The concerts are scheduled so tightly that this is my first chance to break away to post a report. The weather in southern Sweden has alternated between rain, overcast skies and sunshine. During a break in the clouds, the courtyard of the ancient Per Helsas Gård overflowed with festival patrons listening to the Norbotten Big Band and their guest artist Jan Allan. At 80, Allan continues as one of Sweden’s most honored jazz artists. The ease … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Johnny Hodges


Thanks to Michael Cuscuna and Mosaic Records for the reminder that yesterday, Johnny Hodges (1906-1970) would have celebrated his 109th birthday. Hodges’ alto saxophone (and in his early career the soprano sax) were so closely associated with Duke Ellington’s orchestra, it is easy to assume that’s where he started. In fact, he left his native Boston in 1924 and worked regularly in New York with his mentor Sidney Bechet, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Lloyd Scott, Chick Webb and Luckey … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: JD Allen, Katie Thiroux

JD Allen Graffiti

JD Allen, Graffiti (Savant) Intrepid as ever in his power, cohesiveness and brevity of expression, tenor saxophonist JD Allen returns to the trio format that gives him all he needs as a soloist and a composer. Allen, bassist Greg August and drummer Rudy Royston are once again alone together in an album that has obstacle course tunes as well as simple ones, all composed by Allen. His “Indigo Blue (Blue Like)” is, indeed, like the blues, but because of its form it is not exactly the blues. It … [Read more...]

Ystad Sidebar: The Monastery…& More


Excitement about the impending trip to Sweden for the Ystad Jazz Festival grew a bit when the festival’s Itta Johnson sent Lucas Gohlen’s photographs of the monastery known as Gråbrödraklostret (Greyfriars Abbey). It is one of the oldest buildings in that ancient town. Its construction started in 1267. In the seven centuries since, it has been a Franciscan monastery, a poorhouse, a distillery, a granary, a candidate for demolition, a museum and one of southern Sweden’s most popular tourist … [Read more...]

Conover And The VOA: A Response

William Armstrong

Answering one word in my Wall Street Journal piece yesterday about Willis Conover, Matt Armstrong (pictured) posted on his blog a clarification of the effect of the Smith-Mundt Act. Mr. Armstrong is a member of the Broadcating Board of Governors, which oversees the U.S. Government's civilian international media, including the Voice of America. In the WSJ article, I wrote that the 1948 Smith-Mundt legislation forbids the Voice of America “from broadcasting within the U.S.” He defends my right to … [Read more...]

Losses: Rumsey, Alexander, Taylor

Howard Rumsey

Howard Rumsey, the 1940s Stan Kenton bassist who went on to become a key figure in southern California jazz, died on July 15. He was 97. Although he continued to play the bass, Rumsey became famous as the entrepreneur who led the band at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach south of Los Angeles. The club was at the center of a 1950s west coast jazz movement that gained audiences around the world. Over more than a decade, some of the music’s best-known players were members of Rumsey’s Lighthouse … [Read more...]

Back To Ystad


In a week or so, I will be heading to the Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival. Now in its sixth year, the festival in this ancient town on the Baltic shore has become one of Europe’s prime summer music events. The schedule includes established international stars as well as dozens of European musicians, many of whom I’ll be hearing for the first time. Among the visiting American performers will be pianist Robert Glasper’s trio, tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, bassist Dave Holland in duo with pianist … [Read more...]

Cal Tjader’s 90th

Tjader '56

This is the 90th birthday of Cal Tjader (1925-1982). Tjader may have been best known for his pioneering Latin jazz, but in the late 1940s and early ‘50s with the Dave Brubeck Trio, he was respected for his mainstream drumming. Pianist Hank Jones told me that when he played on Tjader’s 1953 record session for Savoy, Tjader became one of his favorite drummers. After he formed his own band and concentrated on vibraharp, Tjader’s Latin recordings with sidemen like Mongo Santamaria, Armando Perrazza … [Read more...]

Listening Tip: Maria Schneider

Schneider conducting

Patrick Goodhope reports that on this evening's broadcast of his program Avenue C his guest will be Maria Schneider. He will talk with her at 9:00 pm EDT about her recent album The Thompson Fields. To hear the discussion, go to University of Delaware Public Radio here (that's a link) and choose one of the "Listen Here" options. For the recent Rifftides review of Ms. Schneider's album, go here. To remind you further of her talent, here is the Maria Schneider Orchestra at the Vienne Jazz … [Read more...]

The Mouthpiece Placement Question

Bill Hardman

Steve Provizer’s comment about Bill Hardman’s off-center trumpet embouchure in last weekend’s Horace Silver video reminded me of other trumpeters with unconventional mouthpiece placement. There are many examples. Hardman’s, Jon Faddis’s and Ruby Braff’s mouthpieces go to the left, Louis Armstrong’s and Wild Bill Davison’s slightly to the right. In all cases, what comes out the other end of the horn is beautiful, leading to Steve’s conclusion that there are no rules. Here’s Wild Bill leading … [Read more...]

Other Matters: The Universality Of Jon Vickers

Jon Vickers

In art, there is a bright line of quality above which categories do not matter. The best works of Mozart, Picasso, Charlie Parker and Laurence Olivier—to pick four names out of the stratosphere—are at a level of expressiveness, humanity and emotion to which anyone with open mind, ears and heart can respond. With the death of Jon Vickers on July 10, we lost a tenor whose presence, magnetism and sheer vocal ability had the power to reach listeners who thought opera pointless, … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Horace Silver

Horace Silver

In the course of his career as a leader, Horace Silver (1928-2014) included in his band many of the most prominent young jazz musicians of the twentieth century. The quintet he took to Denmark in 1968 for the Jazz Omkring Midnat (Jazz Around Midnight) series was not together long, but the chemistry they developed made it one of the pianist’s most satisfying groups. Here are Silver, piano; Bill Hardman, trumpet; Bennie Maupin, tenor saxophone; John Williams, bass; and Billy Cobham, drums, playing … [Read more...]

Eddy Louiss, 1941-2015

Eddie Louis

Organist Eddy Louiss died on June 30 in a Paris hospital. He was 74. His long career included widely praised albums with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and pianist Michel Petrucciani. Louiss became an organist when he was a member of the vocal group The Double Six Of Paris in the early 1960s. He quickly developed into a virtuoso on the instrument and won the Prix Django Reinhardt of the Academie du Jazz in 1964. Louiss had a long struggle with circulatory problems that led to the amputation of a … [Read more...]

Sunday Listening Tip: No Net Nonet

The 2015 Ballard Jazz Festival concludes with the Mainstage Concert at the Nordic Heritage Museum. The show opens with Lucas Pino's No Net Nonet.
Lucas Pino, saxophone;
Roxy Coss, saxophone;
Richard Cole, baritone sax;
Jay Thomas, trumpet;
David Marriott, trombone;
Dawn Clement, piano;
Gregg Belisle-Chi, guitar;
Michael Glynn, bass;
John Bishop, drums

On his weekly broadcast today, Jim Wilke presents a band of New Yorkers and Seattleites whose performance was a highlight of an increasingly important Seattle jazz festival. Here is Jim's announcement: The Lucas Pino No Net Nonet played an exciting concert of original music at the 2015 Ballard Jazz Festival, and the concert was recorded for broadcast on KPLU's Jazz Northwest. Pino is a New York-based tenor saxophonist who has been leading a similar band in monthly concerts at Smoke in New York … [Read more...]

An Annual Rifftides Independence Day Reminder


Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. –Benjamin Franklin America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. –Abraham Lincoln Happy Fourth of July … [Read more...]

4th Of July Music—Lots Of It

Yankee Doodle

The Rifftides staff devoted a meeting to choosing a piece of music to bring you on this most American of holidays. After what seemed like hours of discussion, we bogged down in disagreement. Feelings may not have been running as high as in the Greek referendum campaign, but failure to reach a compromise had everyone on edge. We had a four-way tie. No one was giving in. Finally, the senior vice president for internal affairs came up with a plan that broke the tension. “Play them all,” she said. … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Dave Bass, Tiempo Libre

Dave Bass

Dave Bass, NYC Sessions (Whaling City Sound) In the 1970s when pianist Dave Bass thought that a broken wrist had ended his career, he dropped out of music and into law school. Eventually, he became deputy attorney general of California. Through the years Bass continued to play, but not publicly until he agreed in 2005 to sit in at a party. He told liner note writer Bob Blumenthal that one of the musicians invited him to a jam session, where he discovered how much he missed music, “and it just … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: It’s The Heat

Hot dog

Here in the deep interior of Washington State, we are in our third day of heat above 100° F (43.3° C). Today's predicted high is 110°. Public health officials are urging people to seek air conditioning, walk slowly, drink lots of water, be cautious when cooling off in the rapidly flowing rivers and think twice before accepting outdoor gigs. We are assured that blessed relief is on the way. The forecasters predict that by Wednesday, we’ll be down to 104°. To celebrate, we listen to two pieces … [Read more...]

Ornette Coleman, Traditionalist

Ornette facing right

There will be a funeral service for the saxophonist, composer, bandleader and iconoclast Ornette Coleman in Manhattan at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning, June 27. Coleman died on June 11 at the age of 85. Rifftides noted his passing that day. The service at The Riverside Church, between W. 122 St. and W. 120 St., will be open to the public. Thoughts of Coleman took me to a day in the 1960s not long after the release of his album Free Jazz. I was living in New Orleans. The alto saxophonist Al … [Read more...]

Greg Reitan: Recording Where He Lives

Reitan House

In 1997 pianist Greg Reitan faced a problem familiar to many musicians. Practicing and trio rehearsals in his Los Angeles apartment building were bothering the neighbors. In their search for more private quarters Reitan and his wife—Meredith Drake, a PhD in urban planning—saw a listing for an artists retreat. They investigated and found a house on a ridge in Highland Park, overlooking Pasadena. It was well away from the nearest neighbors. The prototype Concept 2 modular home … [Read more...]

Gunther Schuller On Book 3

Gunther-Schuller-photo 2

Gunther Schuller wrote two books about the history and development of jazz. The first, published by the Oxford University Press in 1968 was Early Jazz. The second —in 1989—was The Swing Era. They were detailed histories, deeply researched and bolstered with musical examples painstakingly annotated by Schuller as he listened to and analyzed thousands of recordings. Schuller died yesterday at 89 (see the previous Rifftides post). For 25 years listeners, musicians and scholars have been … [Read more...]

Farewell To Gunther Schuller

Gunther Schuller

Gunther Schuller, who was prominent in classical music and stimulated attention to a hybrid movement in jazz, died today in Boston. He was 89. In addition to his authorship of influential modern classical pieces, Schuller in the late 1950s melded jazz and classical influences and came up with a label for it that stuck: Third Stream. In the l960s and l970s he was president of the New England Conservatory. His classical composition “Of Reminiscences and Reflections” won a Pulitzer Prize in … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: James Moody, Flutist

James Moody, flute

One of the pre-eminent alto and tenor saxophonists of his time, James Moody (1925-2010) was also a flutist of extraordinary technique and imagination. Dozens of saxophonists have doubled on flute and a few—Sam Most, Eric Dolphy and Paul Horn, among them—have become as well-known for their flute playing as for their saxophone work. Moody was celebrated equally for both. For eight years in the 1960s and 1970s he was the other horn in Dizzy Gillespie’s quintet. From the mid-forties they … [Read more...]

Maria Schneider: The Thompson Fields


Maria Schneider Orchestra, The Thompson Fields (artistShare) Maria Schneider leads a band of eighteen of the best musicians in New York and keeps winning awards for being on the leading edge of composers and arrangers. Yet, her orchestra’s first album in eight years does not draw its primary inspiration from big city life or the yeasty New York jazz scene. The music reflects the peacefulness and the sometimes-volatile atmosphere of the heartland where she grew up. Memories of the small … [Read more...]

Just Because: Evans, Konitz, NHØP & Dawson

Konitz and Evans

In the fall of 1965 pianist Bill Evans, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, bassist Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen and drummer Alan Dawson toured parts of Western Europe. It was both a time of Cold War tension and a time when jazz enjoyed popularity in every part of the continent. In countries behind the Iron Curtain, jazz devotees risked being caught at their shortwave radios listening to Willis Conover on the forbidden Voice of America. In Western Europe, nowhere was openness to jazz more evident than … [Read more...]