Recent Listening: Lucky Thompson

Thompson NYC

Lucky Thompson: New York City 1964-65 (Uptown) Uptown’s two-CD Thompson set, released in 2009, inspired a brief flurry of comment and soon slipped under the radar. It deserves renewed attention. The album documents two live appearances of a musician who reached less fame than his ability and importance warranted. Thompson worked in the 1940s and ‘50s in Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet and with the big bands of Billy Eckstine, Tom Talbert and Count Basie. Hank Jones, Oscar Pettiford and Milt Jackson … [Read more...]

2014 JJA Award Winners

JJA Awards

Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Maria Schneider and Cecile McLorin Savant were among the winners announced at the Jazz Journalists Association’s awards ceremony this week. Hancock won the JJA’s 2014 award for Lifetime Achievement In Jazz. McLorin Salvant was named Up And Coming Artist of the Year and Female Singer of the Year. Shorter is another double winner; JJA members named him Musician of the Year and his Without A Net album of the year. Schneider (pictured) hit a triple: She won as … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Mount Adams

Mt. Adams 61114

This is Mount Adams, on the edge of the Yakama Indian Reservation, 60 miles southwest of Rifftides world headquarters, at 10 o'clock this morning. At 12,307 feet, Mount Adams is the second highest mountain in the Cascades chain, after Rainier at 14,410. The Yakamas call the mountain Pahto. Here's a line from the annals of the U.S.-Indian Treaty Councils: The great white mountain represents the ways of the past – the pursuit of game on the foothills, the gathering of wild plant … [Read more...]

Moscow Shadows And Igor Butman

Korbut shadow mini

Occasional Rifftides Moscow correspondent Svetlana Ilyicheva sent a dramatic photo by the Russian photographer Pavel Korbut. We show it to you with Mr. Korbut's permission. The shadows are those of trumpeter V. Eilenkrieg, saxophonist Dmitry Mos’pan and an unidentified third musician, possibly a bassist. Mr. Korbut caught them performing recently at the Igor Butman Club in Moscow. At 52, tenor saxophonist—and club owner—Igor Butman is one of the best known Russian jazz artists. … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: An Occasional Series

It bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem. It’s not. It’s feeling. —Bill Evans Originality’s the thing. You can have tone and technique and a lot of other things but without originality you ain’t really nowhere. Gotta be original. —Lester Young A chimpanzee could learn to do what I do physically. But it goes way beyond that. When you play, you play life. —Jaco Pastorius I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in … [Read more...]

When Sonny Met Frank

Sonny Stitt

After reading the May 24 Rifftides post about the passing of pianist Frank Strazzeri, producer Dick Bank sent a story from Los Angeles. Frank did a recording with Sonny Stitt in the Eighties at Sage & Sound studio in Hollywood. The engineer, Jim Mooney, remembers that Stitt had brought a big bottle with him, which he put next to the piano. He’d refresh himself during breaks. The bottle was emptying faster than it should have, but he said nothing. Finally, he came over to help himself and … [Read more...]

Davis And Dunbar: Summertime

Davis & Dunbar

On the calendar, summer is nearly three weeks away. In many parts of the United States, thermometers tell us that it is here. Whether you measure summer’s arrival by time or temperature, there are few better ways to greet it than with George Gershwin’s anthem to the season from Porgy and Bess. This duo interpretation was filmed at a 1972 Highlights In Jazz concert in New York. The bassist is Richard Davis, the guitarist Ted Dunbar (1937-1998). Respected among musicians for his theoretical … [Read more...]

Bea’s Flat

Russ Freeman, Chet Baker

As a companion to the Artt Frank-Chet Baker recommendation posted above, let’s listen to something from Baker’s early work. Here’s what I wrote about "Bea's Flat" in the notes for Mosaic’s box set The Complete Pacific Jazz Studio Recordings Of The Chet Baker Quartet With Russ Freeman (out of print). A book of transcriptions of Baker’s solos on “Band Aid,” “No Ties,” “Maid in Mexico” and several other Freeman pieces was published not long after the original 10-inch Pacific Jazz LPs hit … [Read more...]

Other Matters: How About A Little Courtesy?

Quil Lawrence

The other day in a National Public Radio story about the Veterans Administration mess and the resignation of its director, NPR correspondent Quil Lawrence (pictured) consistently spoke of “President Obama,” “Mr. Obama” and “the President.” Courtesy titles have become rare enough in journalism that I was struck by Mr. Lawrence’s use of them. Years ago, with few exceptions, print and broadcast news organizations began allowing references to presidents of the United States by their last names. It … [Read more...]

Desmond And The Cats

Cats Barbara Jones

Paul Desmond died 37 years ago today. Every year, as the anniversary approaches, my cerebellum senses it and the brain starts dialing up episodes. Playwright Jack Richardson (1934-2012) got it right when he spoke at the memorial service about what it was like to be Paul’s friend: I found him the best company of anyone I’d ever known in my life. I found him the most loyal friend I’ve ever had in my life. I found him the most artistic person I’ve ever known in my life. His leaving will make … [Read more...]

Herb Jeffries, Singer

Jeffries 1

After Herb Jeffries died on Sunday in Los Angeles, headlines around the world remembered him for his career as a singing cowboy in a succession of low budget 1930s Hollywood movies. Herb Jeffries dies at 100; Hollywood's first black singing cowboy—The Los Angeles Times Herb Jeffries, ‘Bronze Buckaroo’ of Song and Screen, Dies at 100 (or So)—The New York Times Appreciative listeners are more likely to recall Jeffries as the singer who worked with the Earl Hines Orchestra, … [Read more...]

Meet Kojo Roney

Kojo Roney

With hardly a week going by in which we don’t lose a venerable musician, it may be natural to wonder whether the art form will wither. That is unlikely. New players emerge and enrich the music. It is rare, however, that they emerge quite as young as Kojo Roney of the Philadelphia Roneys. He is the son of tenor saxophonist Antoine and a nephew of trumpeter Wallace. He plays drums. He is nine years old. He recently sat in for Al Foster at the Village Vanguard in New York. Although the rest of the … [Read more...]

Memorial Day Remembrance Of A Friend

This piece first appeared on Rifftides on Memorial Day, 2011. There is someone I think of every Memorial Day, and many other days. Cornelius Ram and I were among a collection of young men who accepted the United States Marine Corps’ bet that we weren’t tough or smart enough to wrestle commissions from it. It quickly became apparent to everyone, including the drill instructors charged with pounding us into the shape of Marines, that Corky Ram would have no problem. He was a standout in the … [Read more...]

In Memoriam: Frank Strazzeri

Frank Strazzeri

Reports that the veteran pianist Frank Strazzeri had died began circulating a couple of weeks ago. They were impossible to confirm until now. Strazzeri died at 84 on May 9 in his hometown, Rochester, New York, but he spent most of his career in Los Angeles. He moved back to Rochester in late April following a final engagement at the Glendale club Jax, where he often played in his final years. After attending the Eastman School of Music, in 1952 the 22-year-old Strazzeri worked as house … [Read more...]

Remember Gregory Herbert?

Gregory Herbert

Gregory Herbert, one of the most talented saxophonists of his generation, was born in Philadelphia 67 years ago this month. After a brief engagement with Duke Ellington when he was 17, Herbert spent four years as a music major at Temple University in his hometown, concentrating on alto saxophone, clarinet and flute. In 1971 he joined Woody Herman’s Herd, that perpetual incubator of young talent, and began to specialize as a tenor saxophonist. Based on his work with Herman, conventional wisdom in … [Read more...]

Bill Holman: 87 And Swinging


This is Bill Holman’s birthday. At 87, the great arranger shows no inclination to sit around basking in the glow of his achievements. He and his band are gearing up for a concert tomorrow night at the Los Angeles Jazz Institute’s Adventures In Big Band Jazz, a four-day celebration featuring music associated with 13 big bands. In the course of his career, Holman has written for at least half of them, including those of Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson and Terry Gibbs, not … [Read more...]

Bees Followup: Lionel Hampton


Rifftides reader Ted Arenson writes in response to yesterday’s posting about bees and a piece of bee-oriented music: How about Hamp and the Ellingtonians great recording of "Buzzin 'Round with the Bee?" That’s a fine reminder of the many all-star sessions that Lionel Hampton recorded for RCA Victor in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Victor usually listed the records as by “Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra,” suggesting a studio full of musicians. In fact, the bands were combos of … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Bees

Bees at Conways 51514

This morning a man came to the door, introduced himself as Francisco and said he was cutting the neighbors' lawn. The neighbors were away. “Do you know about bees?” Francisco said. “Let me show you.” We walked over to a tree and there were two huge clumps of bees hanging from a branch. Francisco said, “When I was a kid, one time I was out playing and disturbed a nest of bees and they started to come after me. We lived near a river, and the only way I could escape them was to jump in the river … [Read more...]

Remembering Joe Wilder

Joe Wilder

Joe Wilder, admired for his trumpet tone, range, stylistic flexibility and for his elegance as a musician and person, is gone. Wilder died at the age of 92 last Friday in New York. Despite his modesty and disinclination to assert himself, his skill put him in demand by big band leaders including Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman, as well as a wide range of Broadway and television producers. Among the dozens of musicians with whom Wilder recorded were Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy … [Read more...]

Rushing River

Yakima River Spring 2014

The winter of 2013-2014 was relatively mild in the Pacific Northwest. Still, there was plenty of snow in the Cascades. It is melting and filling the rivers, not to overflowing, but with water high and fast enough to pull trees out of the banks. Here, you see the Yakima River at noon today carrying one of those trees southeast toward the Columbia. The National Weather Service reports that the Yakima is near flood stage in the river canyon between the towns of Yakima and Ellensburg, but no … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Nobody Else But Kern

Jerome Kern

Jerome Kern (pictured) wrote his last song nearly 70 years ago, but the freshness of its melody, hipness of its harmonies, surprise of its extended form and charm of Oscar Hammerstein II’s lyric make it seem perpetually new. Jan Clayton sang the new song, “Nobody Else But Me,” for Kern’s and Hammerstein’s 1946 Broadway revival of their 1927 masterpiece Show Boat. Lou Dinning had the vocal in Paul Weston’s popular early recording. Among the countless musicians entranced by the piece since then … [Read more...]

Remember Mr. P.C.?

Mr. PC wide

It has been slightly more than two years since the Rifftides staff has alerted you the invaluable work of Mr. P.C. He is a counselor to musicians who takes to the web to address problems that are often so sensitive that his clients find it necessary to use clever pseudonyms (“Ted,” for instance) to protect their livelihoods and reputations. “Mr. P.C.,” of course, is not a pseudonym. It is the given name of the Seattle pianist “Bill Anschell,” which is a pseudonym. Here is an exchange from Mr. … [Read more...]

About Clark Terry

Gwen & Clark Terry

Gwen Terry told me today that at 93 her husband continues “as a tribune of survival.” The trumpeter, singer and NEA Jazz Master continues to confront his mobility and vision problems at home under ‘round-the-clock care paid for in great part by fans and admirers. For details about how to help, go here. To the left, we see Mrs. Terry congratulating her husband last fall on his induction into Lincoln Center’s Neshui Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame. She said today that his physical difficulties and an … [Read more...]

Down At Small’s


Smalls Jazz Club is in the eighth year of its most recent incarnation as a bastion of uncompromising jazz in New York City. A couple of blocks down 7th Avenue from the Village Vanguard, a couple up from The Garage, it is in a part of Greenwich Village that may be as close as we’re going to see to a 21st century equivalent of the 52nd Street of the 1940s and ‘50s. In addition to presenting established musicians—Jimmy Cobb, Ethan Iverson, Jeremy Pelt and Peter Bernstein, among … [Read more...]


Evening 4414

All day, we had fierce winds, grey skies threatening rain—and then at sunset: An evening like ours might have made Jimmy Rushing feel a little better about things than when he recorded this with Count Basie in 1936: Basie, piano; Lester Young, tenor saxophone; Jo Jones, drums; Walter Page, bass; Freddie Green, guitar. You'll find it in this comprehensive package of early Basie. … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Jim Stephenson’s Kid Stuff


Rifftides was at ebb tide most of this week while I jumped in to help the Yakima Symphony Orchestra teach a couple of thousand children about music. The Chicago composer James Stephenson (pictured) was scheduled to be the narrator for his Compose Yourself, a 50-minute tour through instruments of the orchestra, long scheduled for the YSO’s annual children’s concert. An unforeseen development—the need for the orchestra’s musical director and conductor Lawrence Golan to be elsewhere—meant … [Read more...]