JazzWax On The Strazzeri Film


Marc Myers, as all explorers of the jazz blogosphere know, is the proprietor of JazzWax, a winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's Blog Of The Year award. He is the author of the valuable book Why Jazz Happened. He writes frequently for The Wall Street Journal on a range of arts-related topics. His frequent interviews and as-told-to articles in the Journal cover musicians, actors, sports figures and all manner of other interesting folks. I have asked Marc to divulge his formula for … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Andy Brown

Andy Brown

Andy Brown, Soloist (Delmark) In his liner note essay, Brown mentions ten guitarists he admires, some of them famous (Andres Segovia, Joe Pass, Chet Atkins), others heroes in the guitar community who are barely known to general audiences (Kenny Poole, Ted Greene). Having absorbed the work of all the players he credits with inspiration, Brown makes it plain that he has internalized their lessons and shaped an individual approach. Reminiscent of George Van Eps in terms of masterly chording and … [Read more...]

More Andy Brown

As an addendum to the Andy Brown recommendation in the previous exhibit, we have evidence that in addition to his achievement as a soloist, Brown plays well with others. The setting is a bookstore recital in Chicago in 2010 and a performance of “Cry Me a River.” His duo partner is Anat Cohen. … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Art Ensemble Of Chicago

Art Ensemble of Chicago copy

From the mid-1960s through the early years of this century, the Art Ensemble of Chicago crafted elements of free jazz into an ensemble personality that brought it extensive exposure. Often, as much attention went to the band’s costumes and makeup as to its wide range of influences from all eras of jazz and music of Africa, Asia, Latin America and other parts of the world. Apart from their primary instruments, the five musicians played an array of brass, reed, percussion and stringed instruments. … [Read more...]

Desmond…Not Forgotten, Not By A Long Shot


Thanks to the readers—far too many to send individual thank-you's—who responded to the weekend post about Paul Desmond. Your stories made great additions to the piece. The Rifftides staff is lucky to have you all along for the ride. To see the comments, which keep coming, go here and pan down. … [Read more...]

A Lew Soloff Memorial


Several prominent trumpet players and other well-known jazz artists are expected to perform next Monday in New York City at a memorial service for the late trumpeter Lew Soloff. Here is the announcement from the Manhattan School of Music. New York – A celebration of the life and music of Lew Soloff (Feb. 20, 1944-Mar 8, 2015) is scheduled for Monday, June 8, 2015 at the John C. Borden Auditorium, located at the Manhattan School of Music. This event is free to the public and begins at 7:00 … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Carmell Jones

Carmell Jones Quartet

Carmell Jones Quartet (Fresh Sound) Having proved himself in the jazz milieu of Kansas City, in 1960 the 24-year-old trumpeter Carmell Jones (1936-1996) quit his job as a railroad porter and moved to Los Angeles in search of full-time work in music. He was quick to impress bassist Red Mitchell, alto saxophonist Bud Shank and tenor saxophonist Harold Land. His recordings with them, with Gerald Wilson’s big band, and later with Art Blakey were to bring him attention and acclaim. Shortly after … [Read more...]

Paul Desmond: 38 Years

Des in Bronxille

Since Rifftides began, every year on May 30 I have posted something about Paul Desmond. He died thirty-eight years ago today. For reasons that I cannot clearly identify, this year I struggled with the idea. Until the last moment I put off the remembrance and finally concluded that the best option was to have Paul speak for himself with his playing. At the 1954 recording session for the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s album Brubeck Time, LIFE magazine photographer Gjon Mili shot the film you will see. … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Steps Ahead, Still Ahead

Steps Ahead

The modern jazz sub-genre called jazz fusion emerged in the 1960s, attracted a wide audience and received extensive radio air play through the second half of the twentieth century. The music combined elements of rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, funk and, often, time signatures that were challenging for both musicians and listeners. Fusion came in for criticism for traditionalists and purists. “Con-fusion, I call it,” the great bassist Gene Ramey once told me. Nonetheless, the category—like … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Today’s Cycling Expedition…

Cycling 1

…in 90-degree weather was illuminated by sun reflecting on clouds a few hours away from becoming thunderheads... (I managed to stay under 35 MPH). There were plenty of roadside attractions, including wildflowers blooming by a stream… …a monumental pump… …and a calf having lunch. It was a good ride. … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Tony Fruscella

Tony Fruscella

Tony Fruscella (Atlantic) Blogger and Rifftides reader JazzCookie commented that her Memorial Day song was “I’ll Be Seeing You.” That led to a reply including trumpeter Tony Fruscella’s 1955 recording of the Sammy Fain ballad. Frank Sinatra’s version with Tommy Dorsey had been a bestseller when millions of Americans were away fighting World War II. Fruscella made it the basis of a medium tempo excursion through the harmonies with no direct reference to Fain’s melody. Yet, in a masterpiece of … [Read more...]

Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2015

In an op-ed column in the weekend Wall Street Journal, Jerry Cianciolo urges readers to visit their local World War II memorials—nearly every town has one—look at the names, touch them and think about the sacrifices they symbolize. Hundreds of communities have monuments to American warriors who died in Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Cianciolo writes, Many young combatants who, as the English poet Laurence Binyon wrote, “fell with their faces to the foe” never set … [Read more...]

Ron Crotty, Bassist, 1929-2015


Following yesterday’s post about recently deceased musicians, a Rifftides reader who identifies himself only as Derrick sent a message: I just heard that Ron Crotty, the original bassist of The Dave Brubeck Quartet, died just a few days ago, too, but I have not seen anything written about it. Which leads me to ask, has Ron passed? Or is it another case of the internet burying someone who is still with us? The sad report that Derrick heard was accurate. Evidently, nothing has been … [Read more...]

Recent Passings: Belden, Lundvall, Zinsser, King

B.B. King

Rifftides was never meant to be an obituary service, but who might have expected that so many people of high accomplishment and value would die in a so short a period. Ignoring their departures would be impossible. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Death comes to all, but great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold.” That consoling thought applies to four men whom we have lost in the past several days. Bob Belden died yesterday of a massive heart attack at his … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Luis Perdomo, We Float

Perdomo Twenty-Two

Luis Perdomo, Twenty-Two (Hot Tone Music) The title observes the number of years since the pianist moved from his native Venezuela to New York City. In that time Perdomo has established a musical personality apart from the influential leaders for whom he has worked—Ray Barretto, Ravi Coltrane, Miguel Zenon, Brian Lynch among them. His early studies in New York with pianists Roland Hanna and Harold Danko, powerful teachers and examples, emphasized the importance of developing an … [Read more...]

That Old East Coast-West Coast Thing

charlie shoemake

Following yesterday’s Rifftides post announcing the Jazz Journalists Association poll winners, vibraharpist Charlie Shoemake commented: Randy Weston has had a long and distinguished career as have many of the other deserving award winners. Just curious, though, if any jazz artists from the west coast have ever been or ever will be recognized. It always seems in these things as though we’re an invisible group. One recent positive note, though. Four of my young students here on the … [Read more...]

Randy Weston, Lifetime Achiever

Randy Weston

The Jazz Journalists Association has named 89-year-old pianist, composer and bandleader Randy Weston winner of the JJA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2015. Weston’s 66-year career began in his native New York. In his early years it included work with Art Blakey, Bull Moose Jackson, Eddie Vinson, Kenny Dorham and his childhood friends Cecil Payne and Ray Copeland. He was a key figure at Music Inn in Lenox, Massachusetts, during the institution's influential years in jazz education. Also in the … [Read more...]

Catching Up With Bobby Shew

Bobby Shew, CWU 1

When trumpeter Bobby Shew left Los Angeles after years of work in big bands and the film and recording studios of L.A., he made a major commitment to education. From his home in New Mexico, he travels in the US, Asia and Europe for classes and workshops with college and high school music students. Among visits to schools in places as far-flung as Tokyo, Prague, Oulu in northern Finland and—recently—the US Pacific Northwest and southern British Columbia, he manages to also squeeze in … [Read more...]

All In Favor Of A Willis Conover Stamp, Say Aye

Willis Conover, White House

An international campaign is underway to win national recognition for Willis Conover, the Voice Of America broadcaster who sent American jazz to millions of listeners around the world. A petition drive is aimed at persuading the United States Postal Service to issue a stamp honoring Conover (1920-1996). Efforts to win him a posthumous Presidential Medal Of Freedom have yet to yield results. Admirers established a Conover Facebook page in 2010, but recognition by the US government has been … [Read more...]

Doubling; A History (Of Sorts)

Doubling # 1

A recent discussion among jazz researchers centered on the evolution of instrumentation as big bands changed through the decades. The conversation developed into exchanges about not only the makeup of band sections—rhythm, brass and reeds—but also the matter of doubling, in which individual musicians played more than one instrument and sometimes several. In the 1920s and 1930s doubling was a requirement in many bands, among them Sam Gooding’s, Jean Goldkette’s, Jimmy Lunceford’s, Paul … [Read more...]

Weekend Listening Tip: Maqueque & Others


Jim Wilke’s Jazz Northwest promises a potpourri of music so interesting that wherever you're planning to spend the weekend, you might want to have along a radio, cell phone, iPad or other listening device. Mr. Wilke's announcement serves as a reminder that Seattle has a busy jazz scene. The broadcast will include organist Barney McClure with the Central Washington University Big Band, a prize winning composition by David Friesen, an original song by Ana Velinova who will be at the Seattle … [Read more...]

Another Take On New Orleans

Larry Blumenfeld

Following yesterday's Rifftides commentary about the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, I heard from fellow jazz journalist Larry Blumenfeld (pictured). Larry is a New Yorker who in recent years has spent much of his time in New Orleans. He writes from there for The Wall Street Journal and other outlets about the city’s recovery following Hurricane Katrina, about its legacy of music and, frequently, about its mores and politics. In a report from this year’s festival, he observed, Beyond … [Read more...]

Thoughts On New Orleans And Jazz

Jazzfest '68 program

The 2015 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival wrapped up last Friday. Mark Hertsgaard’s Daily Beast review of the festival includes this lament. Yet for all of Jazz Fest’s celebration of the music, food and culture of New Orleans, some locals complain that a central element is missing: the people. The daily ticket price of $70 is just too high in a city where many folks struggle to get by. In recent years, Jazz Fest’s crowds have become increasingly affluent, old, and white as the … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Steve Coleman

Synovial Joints Cover

Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance, Synovial Joints (PI Recordings) Steve Coleman’s edgy alto saxophone and flute playing, iconoclastic composition methods and founding of the 1970s and ‘80s M-Base movement led the inattentive to classify him with free-jazz adventurers. In fact, he was and is dedicated to precision and control in applying his theories. At the heart of the CD is a four-movement suite as intricate as its inspiration—the interaction of the system of bones and sinews that … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Whitfield And Greensill


Like any good independent self-promoting professional, Mike Greensill sends occasional email messages about what he and his wife, Wesla Whitfield, are up to. He’s a pianist. She’s a singer. They live in California’s Napa Valley, near San Francisco. Now and then they fly to New York City to work at Joe’s Pub and Carnegie Hall, among other places. Mr. Greensill’s most recent communiqué contained a link to a song of the kind in which they specialize——established, familiar, … [Read more...]