CD: Bob Dorough

Dorough Eulalia

Bob Dorough, Eulalia (Merry Lane Records) In addition to endearing vocal performances of several of his best songs, Dorough gives listeners what may come as a surprise to many; his ingenuity as an arranger. The deceptive simplicity of “Eulalia,” the album’s sole instrumental, is one of several instances of his melody lines and the tang of his voicings giving energy and richness to a mid-sized ensemble. Dorough plays piano. Other soloists include alto saxophonist Phil Woods, bassist Steve … [Read more...]

CD: Rudy Royston


Rudy Royston, 303 (Greenleaf Music) In his debut as a leader the young drummer from Denver (area code 303) fronts a septet of his generation’s more adventurous players. The eclecticism of the music encompasses Radiohead’s “High and Dry,” the Mozart motet “Ave Verum Corpus,” a drum feature inspired by Elvin Jones, and homage to Denver trumpeter Ron Miles. Even in “Bownze,” the Jones tribute, Royston refrains from drum exhibitionism. Throughout, he melds his work with the septet, which … [Read more...]

CD: Alan Broadbent

Broadbent Heart to Heart

Alan Broadbent, Heart to Heart (Chilly Bin) Broadbent’s first solo piano album, recorded in 1991, was a highlight of Concord’s Maybeck series. He has continued to perform with a trio and with Charlie Haden’s Quartet West, but to many he is known primarily as the arranger-conductor for Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Michael Feinstein and Paul McCartney. Producer George Fendel thought it was time for Broadbent to again record alone on a superb piano before an appreciative audience, so he presented … [Read more...]

CD: Frank Wess

Magic 201

Frank Wess, Magic 201 (IPO) The final track of the great tenor saxophonist and flutist’s final album is a lovely performance of Sammy Cahn’s 1937 standard “If it’s the Last Thing I Do,” giving the CD added poignancy. Wess died in October, 2013, after decades as one of the most respected members of the jazz generation that came to prominence after World War Two. No tempo in the album is above a medium walk, but you don’t go to Frank Wess expecting speed. You expect profundity, and that’s what … [Read more...]

Book: Derrick Bang

Guaraldi Book

Derrick Bang, Vince Guaraldi at the Piano (McFarland) Bang’s 2012 book is less a full-fledged biography than a comprehensive survey of Guaraldi’s career loaded with anecdotes. The pianist was a committed jazz artist who became famous through indelible identification with a major phenomenon of popular culture. Millions know him through his music for the Peanuts television specials. Yet, dedication to his work as an improvising musician lasted until the end of his life in 1976. Bang traces … [Read more...]

Passings: Alice Babs, Dick Berk

Alice Babs

Alice Babs, the Swedish singer whom Duke Ellington once called “probably the most unique artist I know,” died today in her native Sweden. She was 90. Her breakthrough came in 1940 in the Swedish film Swing it magistern (Swing It, Teacher!) She went on to make her name in stage, motion picture and television work, singing in several genres and collaborating with violinist Svend Asmussen and other Scandinavian jazz artists. Her pure soprano voice and rhythmic ability brought her to Ellington’s … [Read more...]

Kerouac On Gaillard

Moriarty and Kerouac

Before we leave our Slim Gaillard phase (at least for now), it seems appropriate to recall that he is a transcendental presence in Jack Kerouac’s definitive Beat Generation novel On The Road, published in 1957. One hallucinatory scene involves Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s roman à clef narrator, his traveling companion Dean Moriarty and Gaillard—or his apparition. Nobody knows where Slim Gaillard is. Dean once had a dream that he was having a baby and his belly was all bloated up blue as … [Read more...]

Vout! Meet Slim Gaillard

Slim Gaillard

In a gathering of people even younger than I, when I mentioned Slim Gaillard three of them said in unison, "Who?" "Flat Foot Floogie," I explained, "Cement Mixer, Putti Putti," "Matzoh ball Oroony," and—just to make sure they understood—"Poppity Poppity Poppity Pop Go De Motorcycle." Their blank stares made me realize that there must be other folks in the 21st century in need of remedial cultural education. We'll begin with an audiovisual aid. That was Slim Gaillard … [Read more...]


Hannah Svensson

Since we first encountered her at Sweden’s Ystad Jazz Festival in 2012, Hannah Svensson has toured with pianist Jan Lundgren, formed a quartet with the harmonica player and composer Filip Jers and is preparing to release a new album. With Lundgren and Ms. Svensson on the CD will be the guitarist with whom she appeared in Ystad, her father Ewan. They performed together recently in recital at a guitar shop in Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast. Mr. Svensson composed the piece several years ago and … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Language–“Going Forward”


Occasional Rifftides grumping about torture of the English language goes back eight years or so, nearly to the earliest days of the blog. It has been months since the last grump, but yesterday as the Denver Broncos were presenting Super Bowl victory to Seattle on a silver platter, a commentator reminded me that it is time to rejoin the losing battle. He speculated about quarterback Peyton Manning’s future “going forward.” The sports guy is in good, or at least prominent, company. Diplomats and … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: A Brownlow Blues

Bruno in Bronxville

Despite a career that began in the 1940s, the Pacific Northwest pianist Jack Brownlow recorded only two albums under his own name. When he died in 2007 Bruno, as he was known to his friends, left a stockpile of tapes from rehearsals, casual encounters and record dates. It is unlikely that any of them will ever emerge on commercially available albums, but by special arrangement with the Brownlow estate we can now and then play a piece or two on Rifftides. Here is an untitled blues that Bruno … [Read more...]

Potpourri: Roach, Mays, Kelly, Puredesmond, Grammys

Max Roach, Jimmy Carter

Anyone aware of the importance of jazz to the structure and fiber of American culture must be pleased by the news about Max Roach and reassured that his country treasures his contribution. (Pictured, Roach and President Jimmy Carter on the south lawn of the White House in 1977.) This week, the Library of Congress acquired the great drummer’s personal papers, musical scores, tapes and recordings. The Max Roach collection will be preserved in the library’s archives and available for research and … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Beethoven In Cowichan


Cowichan is a region on Vancouver Island in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer. Put them together and you get a promotional video. It is not the Rifftides custom to present promotional videos, so please do not send yours unless it is this brilliant, melodic, mouthwatering and noncommercial. Let’s all move to Cowichan. Thanks to friend Hal Strack for alerting me to the Cowichan video. Brigadier General Strack, … [Read more...]

The Young Eric Alexander

Eric Alexander, young

Rifftides outgoing traffic has slowed in the past few days because the proprietor—or is it perpetrator?—has been nose-to-the-grindstone, meeting a deadline for a liner essay to accompany the tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander’s next album. The young Alexander (pictured) spent his first round of salad days in Chicago. The CD commemorates that period and the Chicago jazz tradition. The performances are by Alexander’s current band, which includes one of his college teachers—the veteran … [Read more...]

Other Places: Teachout And Iverson On Ellington

Teachout smiling

If you have been following the myriad formal and informal critiques of Terry Teachout’s Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, you will be interested in Ethan Iverson’s long interview with Teachout (pictured left). The book has attracted great praise and not a little denigration. I recommended it here as important for Teachout’s exhaustive research and for his usual grace and clarity in the writing of Ellington’s story. Others have expressed reservations. They include Iverson, who generally lauded the … [Read more...]

MLK And Freedom Suite

Sonny Rollins ca 1958

It is late on Martin Luther King Day to be posting an MLK tribute, but it would be an even more serious oversight not to do so. To one who reported on the civil rights movement in the American South and was sometimes in the midst of its demonstrations, marches, brutality and occasional elation, the images and emotions never entirely fade. Nor does the melding of sadness and adrenalin-driven urgency in our New Orleans newsroom on the April evening in 1968 when a wire service bulletin announced … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Two Things

Sunset, January 2014

1. Seattle beat San Francisco and goes to the Super Bowl to play Denver (to puzzled readers outside the US—It's football. This is a big deal, like the World Cup). 2. So far, we don't have snow, but we have beautiful January sunsets. That's Mount Adams just above the rose arch, through the apricot tree. It was a good day in the Pacific Northwest. … [Read more...]

Bicoastal Weekend Listening Tips

Pee Wee Russell

If you are planning your weekend activities, you may wish to work in these presentations by two leading champions of jazz on the air (and the web). On his Sunday broadcast of Jazz Northwest this week, Jim Wilke will feature a musician who achieved recognition and critical acclaim in his days on the national scene, then moved back to the Northwest to concentrate on music education. Jon Pugh, the trumpeter in tenor saxophonist Don Lanphere’s quintet three decades ago, is still making music in … [Read more...]

Updating The Rifftides Look

Doug McLennan

You may have noticed that, as of yesterday, Rifftides looks different and, I think, better. The clean, crisp, spacious redesign is by commander-in-chief Doug McLennan (pictured), who is making similar changes to all or most of the blogs under the artsjournal umbrella. You may see further examples of his handiwork by going to the AJ home page, which has connections to an array of weblogs concerned with music, theatre, literature, dance, the visual arts and all manner of cultural … [Read more...]

Followup: Rowles on Shearing


David Sherr's comment on the Jimmy Rowles drawing of Art Tatum in the post below included mention of Rowles's George Shearing drawing. He offered to share it, but it is not possible to include pictures with comments as it is in posts by the Rifftides staff, so here's a new exhibit of Jimmy's wit, wisdom and sketch ability. Thanks to David Sherr, Charlie Shoemake and Bill Crow, all of whom submitted the drawing from their collections. Pictured left, Sir George being knighted by Queen Elizabeth … [Read more...]

Rowles on Tatum


Many stories about jazz heroes are apocryphal. This is one is true. One night in the late 1930s, Fats Waller And His Rhythm were playing at the Yacht Club on 52nd Street in Manhattan. Art Tatum, the other half of the Tatum-Waller mutual admiration society, came in to listen. When he first moved to New York, Tatum’s almost superhuman virtuosity at the piano had bowled over every pianist in town, including Waller. Introducing his friend to the audience, Fats said, I just play the piano, … [Read more...]

“Does Anyone Remember Conrad Gozzo?”

Gozzo, Ferguson

In response to the Rifftides post about the death of Al Porcino, reader Dick Vartanian sent a comment: I remember Al Porcino well and had deep regard for his playing. But does anyone remember a equally great countryman of his named Conrad Gozzo? Jack Greenberg responded with this: Everyone who is my age (70 years old) and plays trumpet remembers Conrad Gozzo. As the most sought after lead trumpet player in Hollywood up until his death in 1964, his recorded output is … [Read more...]

The New NEA Jazz Masters: Jamey Aebersold


With a 1962 Indiana University master’s degree in saxophone, Jamey Aebersold might have carved out a career as a performer. He has never stopped playing, but a casual request set him on a course that led to success as the best-known third-party teacher in jazz. In 1966, a student at a workshop asked Aebersold, who is also a pianist, to record accompaniments that would help him practice. That recording and a companion book morphed into How to Play Jazz and Improvise, the first volume of 133 … [Read more...]

The New NEA Jazz Masters: Keith Jarrett

Jarrett, eyes closed

Pianist Keith Jarrett is one of the four new NEA Jazz Masters who will accept their awards at Lincoln Center Monday evening. In its advance publicity, the National Endowment for the Arts says that Jarrett has a “talent for playing both abstractly and lyrically, sometimes during the same song.” True as that assessment is, it doesn’t begin to describe the brilliance of his work when he is at his peak of inspiration, as in the most recent recording with his trio—one of five albums he released … [Read more...]

The New NEA Jazz Masters: Anthony Braxton

Braxton, soprano sax

There has been disagreement for more than forty years about whether the saxophonist, composer and sometime pianist Anthony Braxton is a jazz musician. With many others, he long insisted that the music he wrote and played was not jazz, but in 1993 he told author Cole Gagne… …even though I have been saying I'm not a jazz musician for the last 25 years; in the final analysis, an African-American with a saxophone? Ahh, he's jazz! Maybe that concession is part of what led the National … [Read more...]

The New NEA Jazz Masters: Richard Davis

Richard Davis 1974

The 20014 NEA Jazz Masters will receive their awards in a ceremony at New York’s Lincoln Center Monday evening, January 13. The four recipients are pianist Keith Jarrett, saxophonist Anthony Braxton, bassist Richard Davis and— in the jazz advocacy category—publisher, recording executive and musician Jamey Aebersold. They will be the 32nd group in the jazz community to be so honored since the National Endowment for the Arts established the recognition program in 1982. The affair will … [Read more...]