Shameless Book Plugs

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The special arrangement with the publisher of my novel Poodie James has been extended. Rifftides readers may acquire autographed copies at a reduced price. To see a description of the book, read an excerpt and learn how to order, click on Purchase Doug's Books on the blue border above. The special price will be in effect until the limited supply runs out. Here are a couple of comments: Doug Ramsey is the John Steinbeck of apple country. Rich with sweet detail of the unique landscape of … [Read more...]

Recommendation: Sonny Rollins

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Sonny Rollins, Road Shows Volume 3 (Okeh) Thriving on the energy he gets back from his listeners, Rollins can electrify them. In the third volume of his Road Show series the formidable tenor saxophonist sends currents through audiences in Japan, the United States and four places in France. The solitary listener to the recording may find himself joining in the ovations for Rollins’s audacity, humor and explosions of creativity. From 2001 to 2012, his accompanists vary, although the stalwart … [Read more...]

The SRJO Meets Kenton And Mulligan

SRJO KentonMulligan

With considerable help from the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, Stan Kenton and Gerry Mulligan packed two halls over the weekend. Yesterday the SRJO played at the Kirkland Performance Center across Lake Washington from Seattle, the night before at the Nordstrom Recital Hall in downtown Seattle. The band is co-led by drummer Clarence Acox and saxophonist Michael Brockman. With one exception, everything they played was associated with Kenton and Mulligan. SRJO: Randy Halberstadt, piano; Phil … [Read more...]

Kenton And Mulligan In Seattle

Sparks, SRJO brass

Mrs. Ramsey and I are off across the Cascade Mountains tomorrow to the Seattle suburb of Kirkland to hear the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra recreate the music of Stan Kenton and Gerry Mulligan. I presume that the charts will be Kenton and Mulligan originals and the solos will be original, too. Pictured: Phil Sparks and members of the SRJO brass I'll try to remember to take notes. … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Catching Up With Darcy James Argue

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It has been too long since we checked to see what Darcy James Argue and his band of young New Yorkers—The Secret Society—have been up to. When we first took notice of Argue and his crew, they were indeed still pretty much a secret. Since then, the band has won awards in several polls. Argue, a Canadian who transplanted from Vancouver to New York, has been singled out for his compositions and arrangements. College and high school jazz and stage bands interested in performing music of … [Read more...]

On Horace Silver

Horace Silver # 2

Horace Silver, whom we lost yesterday, believed that worthwhile music arises from feeling. He thought that to be true to himself, he had a responsibility not to let fashion or artifice deflect him from what his feelings dictated. Fortunately for him, and for us, he had the skill and the imagination to transmit his feelings through his pen and his fingers. By the early 1950s, the top flight of modern jazz musicians had absorbed the theories and methods of bebop. Many were at the outer limits of … [Read more...]

Horace Silver, RIP

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Word has just come in that Horace Silver died today at the age of 85. For details, see Peter Keepnews’ obituary of Silver in The New York Times. Tomorrow, we will have reflections on Silver’s career and importance to music. … [Read more...]

Aaron Sachs & Jimmy Scott, Gone

Aaron Sachs

It is sad to hear of the recent deaths of Aaron Sachs and Jimmy Scott. Sachs was a gifted clarinetist and tenor saxophonist who never became as well known as many of his contemporaries despite yeoman work in bands led by Van Alexander, Red Norvo, Benny Goodman, Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, Tom Talbert and Buddy Rich, among others. In the 1960she became a stalwart in Latin jazz, playing for Machito, Tito Puente, and Tito Rodriguez. Sachs would have been 91 on the 4th of July. I recently saw him … [Read more...]

Moon Love

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Tired but not ready to go to bed, I wandered into the back yard at midnight, camera in hand, to see if the full moon was visible. Slipping in and out of cloud banks that looked hand-tinted, the moon gave the southeastern sky the look of an impressionist painting. As I gazed moonstruck, a number of songs came to mind, none more powerfully than “Moon Love,” adapted in 1939 by Mack David, Mack Davis and Andre Kostelanetz from the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Glenn Miller … [Read more...]

Happy Fathah’s Day

Earl Hines

One of Earl “Fatha” Hines’s greatest admirers, fellow pianist Dick Wellstood, wrote in the liner notes for Earl Hines: Quintessential Continued, Behold Earl Hines, spinner of yarns, big handed virtuoso of the black dance, con man extraordinaire, purveyor of hot sauce. Behold Earl Hines, Jive King, boss of the sloppy run, the dragged thumb, the uneven tremolo, Minstral of the Unworthy Emotion, King of Freedom. Democratic Transcendent, his twitchy, spitting style uses every cheesy trick … [Read more...]

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

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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

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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

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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...]

Monday CD Recommendation: Orrin Evans

O. Evans Mother's Touch

Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band, Mother’s Touch (Posi-Tone) Regulars at the uptown New York club Smoke relish not only the musicianship but also the slap-dash camaraderie that pianist Orrin Evans’ big band exhibits during performances. Without the fun and games, the band is just as compelling in this studio recording. Evans’ “In My Soul,” slow and slinky with gospel overtones, sets the high standard that his contingent of bright youngsters and experienced veterans maintains throughout. … [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...]

Recommendation: Artt Frank On Chet Baker

Artt Frank Book Cover

Artt Frank, Chet Baker: The Missing Years, A Memoir Frank’s personalized story is a valuable adjunct to James Gavin’s dark biography of Baker, Matthew Ruddick's balanced bio and Jeroen de Valk’s exploration of the trumpeter’s music making. In an unpolished, conversational narrative, the drummer tells of his long friendship with the trumpeter and of sharing exhilarating high points and depressing low points in Baker’s life. In more than one sense, Frank was instrumental in Baker’s late-1960s … [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

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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

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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...]