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...]

Dan Brubeck Honors His Parents

Dan Brubeck CD cover

Dan Brubeck, Live From The Cellar: Celebrating The Music And Lyrics Of Dave & Iola Brubeck (Blue Forest Records) On the eve of his 60th birthday, Dave and Iola Brubeck’s drummer son releases his first album as a leader. A tribute to his parents, it is also a revelation of the quality of musicians in his adopted hometown, Vancouver, British Columbia. With his work in his father’s quartet, Two Generations of Brubecks, the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Larry Coryell and the Dolphins, Dan … [Read more...]

The Frank Strazzeri Film

Frank Strazzeri (Ears)

Thanks to Rifftides reader Marla Kleman for sending an alert to the posting of a film about one of the late pianist Frank Strazzeri’s loveliest albums. Strazzeri died last year at about this time. He was 84. The album was his Woodwinds West with saxophonists Bill Perkins, Bob Cooper and Jack Nimitz, bassist Dave Stone and drummer Paul Kreibich. In the 1993 film Frank talks about his approach to writing for a woodwind chamber ensemble, what it means to play “outside,” and the inspiration of … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Jack DeJohnette

DeJohnette Chicago

Jack DeJohnette, Made In Chicago (ECM) Listeners accustomed to hearing drummer DeJohnette in the comparatively restrained Keith Jarrett Standards Trio may be taken aback by the audacity and abandon of the group he heads here. This live recording from the 2013 Chicago Jazz Festival finds DeJohnette reunited with three of the adventurers he played with in his hometown a half century ago. Pianist Muhal Richard Abrams and saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill went on to become central … [Read more...]

Rosolino And Mingus On Bethlehem

Bethlehem Logo

A trove of jazz recorded in the 1950s became available again when Naxos of America acquired the Bethlehem Records catalogue a couple of years ago and began an extensive reissue program. Gus Wildi, who was born and grew up in Switzerland, founded the label in New York in 1953. Through the 1950s he recorded Dexter Gordon, Booker Ervin, Zoot Sims, Mel Tormé, Oscar Pettiford, Nina Simone, Chris Connor and a couple of dozen other major artists on both coasts. He provided outlets for substantial but … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Compatible Quotes—Coleman And Geller

Ornette Coleman

Rifftides reader David Perrine writes: In the spirit of your occasional feature, I offer the following quotes. (As you know, a notated F# on alto sax would normally be a concert A— except in the quantum physics-like world of harmolodics.) ‘Poise’ has an F# for its tonic on the Eb alto and a D concert for the transposed key.—Ornette Coleman [Ornette] took his saxophone out, and I notated what he played. I asked him what chord he was using, and he blew the arpeggio of a G chord thinking it … [Read more...]

Recommendation: Charles Lloyd

Lloyd Wild Man Dance

Charles Lloyd, Wild Man Dance (Blue Note) For the first three minutes of the opening “Flying Over The Odra Valley,” the Greek lyra of Sokratis Sinopoulos and the Hungarian cimbalom of Miklós Lucáks play what might be music for yoga meditation. Then the commanding tonality and rhythmic push of Lloyd’s tenor saxophone charge the atmosphere, and the exotic stringed instruments meld with his quartet in a suite fascinating in its variety and depth. In six movements, Lloyd, pianist Gerald Clayton, … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Compared To What


Pianist Les McCann and saxophonist Eddie Harris played the Gene McDaniels song “Compared to What” at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1969. Bret Primack, The Jazz Video Guy, recently put video of the performance on his Facebook page. It’s too good, too undated, not to share. Roberta Flack had minor success with the song on her first album, but McCann and Harris made it a hit when this version was a part of their Swiss Movement album. McDaniels conceived the song as a protest against inequality in … [Read more...]

Blossoms Are Early. Braff & Hyman Are On Time

Apple Blossoms 2015

From today’s cycling expedition through the hills of apple country, there is evidence that prospects seem good for a bountiful crop next fall. If a late snowstorm in the Cascade Mountains melts enough water into the high reservoirs that provide irrigation for the orchards in the valleys below, growers—and those of us who love Honey Crisps, Fujis, McIntoshes, Pink Ladies and Winesaps (to name a handful of hundreds of varieties)— should be happy come September. If you prefer … [Read more...]

Just Because: Dave Frishberg And Friends

In this 2012 video from the archives of veteran broadcaster Lynn Darroch's radio program Bright Moments!, pianist Dave Frishberg and two of the Pacific Northwest's fine tenor saxophonists play Al Cohn's "Mr. George." This harkens back to the days when Frishberg was a member of the Al Cohn-Zoot Sims quintet, a frequent attraction at New York's Half Note Cafe. Camera mobility was limited in the KMHD-FM studio, but the Al Cohn spirit was not. Dave Frishberg, piano; Lee Wuthenow and David Evans, … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Jack Teagarden

Think Well of Me

Jack Teagarden, Think Well of Me (Verve) Rifftides reader David Chilver, son of the guitarist Pete Chilver (1924-2008), writes from the UK that he recently found among his father's belongings a Jack Teagarden CD minus cover or liner notes. He listened to it, liked it and went online to see what he could learn about the album. What he found was my 1999 JazzTimes review. Mr. Chilver’s enthusiastic discussion of the recording encouraged me to listen to it for the first time in too long, and then … [Read more...]

When McRae Met Clarke-Boland

McRae-Clarke-Boland BB

Following the April 8 Rifftides post about Carol Sloane and Carmen McRae, Bill Kirchner sent us a link to a German television program featuring McRae in 1968 with the formidable Clarke-Boland Big Band. Co-led by drummer Kenny Clarke and pianist-arranger-composer Francy Boland, the band was a collection of prominent European and American musicians. It thrived for more than a decade in the 1960s and 1970s. It was notable for, among other things, having two drummers. The members: Benny Bailey, … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Ray Charles

Ray Charles singing

To me, music is entertainment - what else can it be? In fact, it's the only language I know of that's universal. What is a soul? It's like electricity - we don't really know what it is, but it's a force that can light a room. My version of 'Georgia' became the state song of Georgia. That was a big thing for me, man. It really touched me. Here is a state that used to lynch people like me suddenly declaring my version of a song as its state song. That is touching. … [Read more...]

Just Because: Ray Charles

Ray Charles performs a song written for the motion picture Ballad In Blue—Directed by Paul Henreid, the last of the actor's efforts as a film director. Playing himself, Charles comes to the rescue of a hard-luck family plagued by drinking problems. Their son is blind. Charles wants to pay for recovery of the boy's eyesight. The family worries about what could happen if the effort goes amiss. Charles's musical numbers, including "Light Out of Darkness," are definite highlights of this … [Read more...]

Billie Holiday At 100

Billie Holiday

Yesterday was Billie Holiday’s 100th birthday. Rarely has the centenary of a jazz artist received as much notice. There have been tributes galore, special television and radio reports and long articles in major publications. This Rifftides remembrance of Holiday is confined to a short period of her early career in which she extended with a big band what she started with small groups in the 1930s Holiday sang with Count Basie’s band for a year, but her contract with a different company from … [Read more...]