Monday Recommendation: Ahmed Abdul-Malik

Spellbound cover

Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Spellbound (Status) Of Sudanese heritage, the bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik (1927-1993) was born Jonathan Timms in Brooklyn. After working with Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk, among others, Abdul-Malik studied music of other cultures. He was among the first to incorporate Middle Eastern and Indian influences into jazz. Except for a straight-ahead blues, this 1965 album consists of themes from movies: “Spellbound,” “Never on Sunday,” “Body and Soul” and “Delilah.” Sudanese oud … [Read more...]

Off To Ystad

Ystad aerial

The Rifftides staff leaves tomorrow morning for Ystad on the southern Baltic coast of Sweden. The ancient seaside town will host the Ystad Jazz Festival in its fifth year. The festival will present such well known musicians as Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Roy Hargrove, Jan Lundgren, Diane Schur, Jon Scofield and Abdullah Ibrahim, plus an extensive sampling of veteran and youthful European artists. In addition to posting from Ystad for Rifftides, I will write a piece for The Wall Street Journal … [Read more...]

Happy 24th Of July

Naches Flag 1

Today’s cycling expedition through eastern Washington’s Naches Valley took me where orchard country and cattle country merge for a few miles. Waving above a prosperous looking ranch house was this enormous American flag. A mile or so up the road, another rancher was not to be outdone. The flags reminded me of two versions of “America The Beautiful” that I did not include in the 4th of July Rifftides post. There are several videos of the song by Ray Charles. This one with the … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Some Jazz A While…Revisited

Miller Williams (Clinton)

Events in Ukraine, Israel, Palestine and Nigeria—to name the locations of a few of the world's festering sores—make it appropriate to revisit a post from the Rifftides archive. It appeared during the first year of this blog. (July 22, 2005) Following the most recent rounds of atrocities—Iraq, London—a friend wanted to talk. He did not have comforting insights into mankind’s oldest philosophical question, nor did I. I don’t know whether Miller Williams has the answer, but in his … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Duke Ellington

Ellington Jazz Haus

Duke Ellington, BigBands Live (Jazz Haus) Watching the Ellington band perform in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the listener was likely to be struck by the contrast between the sidemens’ laconic demeanor and—on a good night—the joy of their performances. March 6, 1967 was a good night at the Liederhalle in Stuttgart, Germany. Beautifully recorded, the concert combines famous and barely known pieces. Good humor reigns in the ensemble performances, passion in the solos. Trumpet star … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Duke Ellington

Ellington head shot

My attitude is never to be satisfied. Never enough. Never. Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don't want it. Critics have their purposes, and they're supposed to do what they do, but sometimes they get a little carried away with what they think someone should have done, rather than concerning themselves with what they did. … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Brownie Speaks


Until recently, admirers of the great trumpeter Clifford Brown heard him speak only a few words on the album The Beginning and the End. Recently, however, a YouTube contributor who identifies herself as Nespasisi posted a segment of Brown being interviewed by Willis Conover of The Voice of America. Nespasisi explains that she found the fragment “on one of my dusty old cassette tapes.” The discussion was shortly before Brown died in an automobile accident on June 27, 1956, four months short of … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Royston and Svensson


Rudy Royston, 303, (Greenleaf Music) Since his emergence from Denver (area code 303) nearly a decade ago, Royston’s drumming has graced bands led by Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell, JD Allen, Tom Harrell and other leaders in 21st century jazz. With 303, Royston becomes a leader himself. As he has since he first attracted attention playing for Denver trumpeter Ron Miles, Royston is notable not only for the dynamics of his technique but for empathy with his fellow musicians and the reactive support … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Jarrett And Haden


Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, Last Dance (ECM) Following Haden’s death last Friday, this duet recording of the bassist with his former boss takes on poignancy even beyond the empathy that he and the pianist develop in nine standard songs. The exceptions to ballad tempos are a brisk bop excursion through Bud Powell’s “Dance of the Infidels,” and “Everything Happens to Me” at the pace of a leisurely walk. The session also produced Jasmine, released in 2010. It took place shortly before Haden’s … [Read more...]

Charlie Haden, Double Bass, 1937-2014

Charlie Haden

The announcement none of us wanted to hear came early this afternoon from Tina Pelikan of ECM Records. It is with deep sorrow that we announce that Charlie Haden, born August 6, 1937 in Shenandoah, Iowa, passed away today at 10:11 Pacific time in Los Angeles after a prolonged illness. Ruth Cameron, his wife of 30 years, and his children Josh Haden, Tanya Haden, Rachel Haden and Petra Haden were all by his side. Every note Charlie Haden played came from conviction. His sincerity … [Read more...]

Other Places: A Sideman Remembers Silver


Following the death of Horace Silver on June 18, Bill Kirchner called my attention to trumpeter John McNeil’s remembrance of his time in Silver’s quintet in the late 1970s. It appears on the New Music Box website. McNeil’s essay gives insights into traits and practices that formed Silver’s leadership qualities. For one thing, he insisted that his sidemen be on time. If they weren’t, he fined them twenty-five dollars. … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Denny Zeitlin Trio

Denny Zeitlin Stairway to the Stars

Denny Zeitlin, Stairway To The Stars (Sunnyside) Stairway To The Stars comes from the same engagement as Zeitlin’s Trio In Concert, released in 2009. If anything, the sequel finds the pianist even more intimately engaged with the veteran bassist Buster Williams and the young drummer Matt Wilson. When this was recorded in 2001 at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, Wilson’s drive, rhythmic inventiveness and humor were just becoming widely known. He and Williams give Zeitlin sensitive support on … [Read more...]

Other Places: Cerra On Reid On Tjader

Reid Tjader bio

The latest post on Steve Cerra’s Jazz Profiles blog is about S. Duncan Reid’s biography of Cal Tjader (1925-1982). The subtitle of Reid’s book identifies Tjader as “The Man Who Revolutionized Latin Jazz.” There may be those who assert that Dizzy Gillespie, Machito and Tito Puente should get at least equal credit as revolutionaries in the field, but there is no question that Tjader’s pioneering attracted huge attention to Latin idioms. He was as successful in mainstream as in Latin jazz. Among … [Read more...]

Now You Can Hear That Kenton-Mulligan Concert

Jim Wilke gazing intently

On his Jazz Northwest program this Sunday, Jim Wilke (pictured) will play highlights of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra’s recent concert of the music of Stan Kenton and Gerry Mulligan. Jim put on his beret of a skilled audio engineer and recorded the June 22 concert. From Jim’s Jazz Northwest announcement: The concert includes music composed by Stan Kenton and Gerry Mulligan and played and recorded by both bands. Baritone saxophonist Bill Ramsay is featured prominently in Gerry … [Read more...]

Independence Day With Fischer and Cohn

Happy 4th of July

Today, the United States of America is celebrating the 238th anniversary of its independence. Rifftides observes the 4th of July with two versions of the song that many Americans wish was the national anthem. Pianist Clare Fischer arranged the first for his 1967 album Songs For Rainy Day Lovers. The second version is by tenor saxophonist Al Cohn with Barry Harris, piano; Sam Jones, bass; and Leroy Williams, drums. footnote: Al Cohn recorded “America The Beautiful” in 1976 as part of his … [Read more...]

Cool Music For Hot Weather: Sonny Clark

Sonny Clark

Now that wilting temperatures are here—at least in much of the northern hemisphere—Rifftides reader Larry Peterson suggests that Sonny Clark’s “Cool Struttin’” can bring welcome relief. Clark was a pianist who in a tragically short career attracted a substantial audience. His command of the keyboard and personalization of the style that he developed with Bud Powell as his initial model also earned him the esteem of his peers. Bill Evans created an anagram of Clark’s name as the title … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Theo Croker

Theo Croker cover

Theo Croker, Afro Physicist (Okeh) Much of the verbiage about the elimination of borders between musical categories is the work of publicists. It is marketable to be, or claim to be, cross-genre. However, in the case of Croker, an impressive 28-year-old trumpeter, his new album substantiates the claim. It touches on hip-hop, R&B, bebop and 1970s soul, but at its core his playing extends the mainstream jazz tradition of which his grandfather, the great trumpeter Doc Cheatham, was a vital part. … [Read more...]

NEA Jazz Masters: Joe Segal

Joe Segal

Joe Segal, who last week was named a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, has been at the heart of jazz in Chicago since the early bebop era. He began presenting jazz events following World War Two when he was attending Roosevelt College on the GI Bill. It was not unusual for name musicians, including Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins, to join local players in Segal’s afternoon sessions. When the Roosevelt sessions ended in 1957, Segal moved his entrepreneurial … [Read more...]

NEA Jazz Masters: Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd

This is a good year for jazz saxophonists from Memphis, Tennessee. Like his fellow Memphian George Coleman, who is three years older, Charles Lloyd (born 1938) has been named a 2015 Jazz Master of the National Endowment for the Arts. Along with Coleman, pianist-composer-arranger Carla Bley and Chicago club owner and entrepreneur Joe Segal, Lloyd will receive his NEA Jazz Master award next April in a Jazz At Lincoln Center ceremony in New York. Among Memphis musicians who mentored and … [Read more...]

NEA Jazz Masters: George Coleman

George Coleman

Tenor saxophonist George Coleman is one of four 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters named this week. He, Carla Bley, Charles Lloyd and Chicago’s Jazz Showcase impresario Joe Segal will be inducted in a ceremony next spring in New York. In our previous post, Rifftides presented Ms. Bley in performance. As a 17-year-old alto saxophonist in 1952, Coleman launched his professional career impressively in his native Memphis, Tennessee, landing a gig with bluesman B.B. King. While … [Read more...]

NEA Jazz Masters: Carla Bley

Carla Bley conducting

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced next year’s NEA Jazz Masters. They are composer, pianist, arranger and bandleader Carla Bley (pictured); saxophonists George Coleman and Charles Lloyd; and—for jazz advocacy—Joe Segal, whose Jazz Showcase in Chicago has presented the music for more than 60 years. They will receive their awards at Lincoln Center in New York City on April 20, 2015, during Jazz Appreciation Month.How better to recognize them now than to share memorable … [Read more...]

Shameless Book Plugs


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


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...]