Listening Tip: Mays, Stamm And The WDR In Cologne


Pianist Bill Mays and trumpeter-flugelhornist Marvin Stamm are just back from a European tour. One of their trip’s highlights was a March 20 concert in Cologne, Germany, with the formidable WDR Big Band. The theme was New York State Of Mind, with compositions by Mays, Stamm, George Gershwin, Billy Joel and Duke Ellington, among others. The pair’s exhaustive preparation for the concert included Mays arranging Thelonious Monk’s “52nd Street Theme” with complexity, irony and wit that I can imagine … [Read more...]

Gerry Mulligan At Brecon

Mullligan Head Shot

Gerry Mulligan would have been 88 years old today. Until a year or so before his death in 1996, Mulligan was playing and writing at the top of his game. To remember him, let’s listen to one of the classic compositions played by his quartet at the Brecon, Wales, Jazz Festival in 1991. Here’s Mulligan’s “Walking Shoes” with Bill Mays, piano; Dean Johnson, bass and Dave Ratajczak, drums. For an entire Mulligan concert a year earlier at the Bern, Switzerland, Jazz Festival, with Bill Charlap … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Rudresh Mahanthappa

Mahanthappa Bird Calls

Rudresh Mahanthappa, Bird Calls (ACT) Listeners steeped in the music of Charlie Parker may be able to detect clues to the inspirations for Mahanthappa’s new compositions in this stimulating collection. If doing so adds to their enjoyment and appreciation of the album, so much the better. But in approaching the collection as a blindfold test, literalists may miss the point. Alto saxophonist Mahanthappa has taken Parker, his primary muse, as the point of departure for compositions and playing … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Brasileiras

Elaine Elias Cover

The bossa nova phenomenon infused jazz and popular music with fresh ways of thinking about rhythm and about story telling through music. It arrived when rock and roll was firmly established, the Beatles were beginning to dominate music on the radio and hardly a week passed without another boy band taking its place in the pop firmament. Brazilian music was a distinct contrast and, to many, a relief. Fortunately, it has remained a small but rewarding strain in popular music and a vital part of … [Read more...]


Presley Monk cover

I suppose it figures that on April Fools' Day, something like this would be making the rounds of web pranksters. You may have difficulty finding it in your corner record store or online—unlike this early Monk gem from his Complete Blue Note Recordings. Thelonious Monk, piano; Idrees Sulieman, trumpet; Danny Quebec West, alto saxophone; Billy Smith, tenor saxophone; Gene Ramey, bass; Art Blakey, drums. October 15, 1947. Yes, "Humph" is based on "I Got Rhythm." … [Read more...]

Jazz Appreciation Month 2015


April 2015 is the twelfth observance of National Jazz Appreciation Month. Founded at the Smithsonian Institution in 2002 by the jazz scholar, Duke Ellington biographer and musician John Edward Haase, the celebration is intended, in the words of Quincy Jones, to “…recognize that our indigenous music — jazz — is the heart and soul of all popular music, and that we cannot afford to let its legacy slip into obscurity." Jones’s quote is on this page of the National Endowment for the Humanities … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Thad Jones Revisited

Thad Jones by Wolff

The master trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader Thad Jones would be 92 if he had lived to celebrate his birthday yesterday. He died in 1986. Fortunately for us, Jones practiced his profession in an age of ubiquitous recording. There is a living museum of CDs, LPs and videos of the work he did in many contexts, including the magnificent band that Jones and Mel Lewis co-led for nearly 15 years. His "Central Park North" rarely failed to stoke the fires that burned in the hearts and souls of … [Read more...]

“Played Twice” Played Twice

Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)Jazz pianist, photo: 1968

When Stan Kenton was asked where jazz was going next, he said, “Tomorrow night we’ll be in Detroit.” It is in the nature of creative music that the question cannot be answered. Still, it would be less than human for someone who takes jazz—or any important music—seriously, not to speculate. It is impossible to know whether the present generation of musicians in their teens and twenties includes people who will advance the evolution of jazz into an important new phase. There are … [Read more...]

Spike Wilner On Playing For Listeners


Spike Wilner is a pianist who operates two jazz clubs in New York City with his partners Mitch Borden and Lee Kostrinsky. Smalls and Mezzrow are within a short walk of one another in Greenwich Village. They present familiar artists like Lew Tabackin, Frank Lacy, Pete Malinverni, Johnny O’Neal and Wilner himself, as well as those emerging in the jazz community—trumpeter Phillip Harper, pianist Ehud Asherie and singer Marianne Solivan among them. Of Small’s, The New Yorker wrote, This … [Read more...]

News: A Jan Lundgren Compilation

Lundgren, hand up

Blogging has been slow recently, or some days nonexistent, because I am deep into the writing of notes for a compilation of recordings by pianist Jan Lundgren. The project is less demanding than the annotation for his recent album All By Myself, but is nonetheless consuming most of my attention. The tracks will come from albums produced by Dick Bank for the Fresh Sound label and include highlights of Lundgren's productive career over the past 25 years. They feature Jan in trio settings and as a … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Duke’s Bread…Homemade

Duke's River Whole Wheat Bread

In 1990, Concord Records put together a collection of recipes provided by jazz artists, writers and other folks associated with the music. The project came up when I was in the thick of my bread-making phase. There were weeks when I experimented with two or three new kinds of bread. The variety that got the biggest response around the house was popular enough that it received a name. The name is explained below. Here is the recipe. Duke’s River Whole Wheat Bread 1 package yeast 1/8 tsp … [Read more...]

May The Leprechauns Be Near You

St. Patrick's Day Hat 2015

St. Patrick’s Day arrives bringing a reminder of a record that never was. In the 1960s Paul Desmond and guitarist Jim Hall, frequent collaborators in those days, came up with an idea for an album of Irish music. In their planning—and possibly—drinking session, they decided on some of the tunes they would record, “The Tralee Song,” “Lovely Hoolihan” and “Fitzhugh or No One” among them. That, regrettably, is as far as the project went. Ben Webster to the rescue. Although the Irish … [Read more...]

A Listening Tip, And A Request Fulfilled

Anat Cohen, SRJO

Jim Wilke keeps producing broadcasts on his Jazz Northwest that are hard to resist, so it’s hard to resist alerting you to them. Here’s his announcement about tomorrow’s program. The poll-winning, critically acclaimed international clarinet star Anat Cohen played two concerts with The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra in February. The concerts, billed as "A World Viewof Jazz" were among the highlights of the 20th anniversary season of the SRJO, co-directed by Clarence Acox andMichael … [Read more...]

Strosahl, Sanders And Monk: Nutty—Twice

Logan Strosahl, alto sax

The Rifftides staff now and then checks in on alto saxophonist Logan Strosahl and pianist Nick Sanders, intrepid young musicians based in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, where so many rising jazz artists are headquartered. Sanders, a New Orleans native, leads his trio in a new album produced by the veteran pianist Fred Hersch. Strosahl’s debut album is planned for midyear. A recent installment of Strosahl’s and Sanders’ occasional series of … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker Head Shot

Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art. You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail. Any musician who says he is playing better either on tea, the needle, or when he is juiced, is a plain, straight liar. … [Read more...]

Charlie Parker, 8/29/20 – 3/12/55

Charlie Parker 3 12 15

Charlie Parker died 60 years ago today. But, as John O'Hara said when he heard that George Gershwin was gone—I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to. Neither do you. Charlie Parker, alto saxophone; Miles Davis, trumpet; Duke Jordan, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Max Roach, drums. New York, 1947 Thank you for Charlie Parker. … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: The Surprising Tom Varner

Varner Nine Surprises

Tom Varner, Nine Surprises (Tom Varner Music) In writing for his nine-piece ensemble, Tom Varner layers and interleaves parts for the seven horns so that his textures of harmony and rhythm often create the illusion of a larger band. His skill as a composer and arranger equals his virtuosity as one of the few first-rate French horn improvisers in jazz history. “Seattle Blues,” the sixth movement in this 15-part suite, is a prime example of his achievement in both areas. In the decade since he … [Read more...]

Other Places: Mr. P.C. On Jazz Wage Economics

Mr. P.C. 2

When the news is discouraging, when—to quote James Moody quoting his grandmother—”Folks is dyin’ what ain’t never died befo',” it’s good to have someone to turn to for reassurance. Whether in the close jazz community or in the great world at large, we need the balance and wisdom of an adviser who can place things in perspective. And who do we call? No, we don’t have ghosts to bust; we want to banish the feeling that the center is not holding. Of course: we call Mr. P.C. … [Read more...]

Lew Soloff, 1944-2015


The sad notes keep coming. Trumpeter Lew Soloff died early today. His daughter, Laura Solomon, reported on her Facebook page that Soloff was with her and her family on their way home from a New York restaurant when he collapsed with a massive heart attack . He was 71. Born in New York City, a trumpeter from age 12, Soloff developed into a stalwart in jazz who was also in demand in New York’s studios. He reached his greatest general renown as a member of Blood, Sweat and Tears from 1968 to 1973. … [Read more...]

Weekend Listening Tip: Jensen & Co. Salute Kenny Wheeler

Jensen & Treseler

On his Jazz Northwest broadcasts, Jim Wilke frequently features recordings of live performances that we feel compelled to tell you about. One of them will be aired later today. Here is Mr. Wilke’s announcement about a tribute to a great musician by a band of distinguished colleagues. Kenny Wheeler (1930-2014) was born in Toronto but lived in London from the 1950s on, playing trumpet and flugelhorn and composing in a unique style that ranged from soft lyricism to explosive free … [Read more...]

Still Thinking Of CT

Clark T. flugel right profile

Clark Terry’s fans, friends and admirers around the world will no doubt be thinking of him, and listening to him, for a long time. Since his death on February 21 at the age of 94, CT’s vast legacy of recordings is coming in for extensive play on the air, and on home turntables, CD players, iPods, and mobile sound systems of all kinds. His bequest to listeners also includes many videos, a few of them from the memorable 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. That year, impresario Norman … [Read more...]

Just Because: Dizzy Gillespie, 1987

Dizzy head wtrumpet

In the year of his 70th birthday, Dizzy Gillespie toured extensively in Europe with prominent jazz artists who had played with him in various phases of his career. On February 27, 1987, he gave a concert at the Theaterhaus in Stuttgart, Germany. It included a set by his quintet with Sam Rivers, tenor saxophone; Ed Cherry, guitar; John Lee, electric bass; and Ignacio Berroa, drums. It also had a memorable interlude with pianist Hank Jones and Gillespie playing a duet on the trumpeter’s … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Terry, Keepnews & Monk

In Orbit

Clark Terry, In Orbit (Riverside) The coincidence of trumpeter Clark Terry and producer Orrin Keepnews passing within a few days of one another brings to mind a timeless album on Keepnews’s Riverside label. Terry’s 1958 In Orbit featured a special sideman. He asked for Thelonious Monk on piano. For a reissue of the album the producer wrote that, to his surprise, “…Monk agreed without hesitation, did not ask for a heavy fee (I believe he was paid no more than twice the union-scale maximum) and … [Read more...]

Orrin Keepnews, RIP

Orrin Keepnews wGrammys

The influential jazz producer, record company head and author Orrin Keepnews died today at his home in El Cerrito, California. He would have been 92 tomorrow. Keepnews guided the recording careers of Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins and many other leading jazz artists of the 20th Century. The announcement of his death came from his son Peter Keepnews, who with his brother David had flown from New York to their father’s bedside two days earlier. Keepnews is pictured with … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: That Swinging Eighth Note Illustrated

Swinging 8th Note illustrated

In answer to a Rifftides reader’s request, pianist Alan Broadbent expanded here last month on a concept that he mentioned in an earlier comment. The reader wanted to know what Broadbent (pictured below, left) meant by, “a swinging eighth note.” Here is part of his answer. The pushing and pulling of a musical phrase over a steady beat by a soloist, the tension and release of a phrase, is what creates a profound feeling of swing. This is not what singers call “back phrasing”, which is a … [Read more...]

After Portland

East side of Mt. Hood

For those Mount Hood devotees who enjoyed seeing the mountain’s west side the other day, here’s how it looks facing east. This is the view from the town of Mount Hood, Oregon, The original post misidentified Mount Adams as Mount Hood. The real Mount Hood replaces that shot. Apologies to fans of both mountains in the Cascades chain and thanks to Rifftides readers Larry Peterson, Paul Morris and Karen Merola Krueger for catching the goof (me). … [Read more...]