Zeitlin On Shorter, On The Radio

Zeitlin at piano

Listening Tip The Denny Zeitlin concert mentioned here recently will be broadcast this week. It was recorded December 5 at the Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland. Zeitlin’s solo piano explorations of Wayne Shorter compositions will be on Jim Bennett’s program on KCSM-FM in the San Francisco Bay Area from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. PST Thursday, January 8. Local listeners may find it at 91.1 FM. On the web, the program will be streamed live at kcsm.org … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Nat Hentoff

Hentoff Doc.

The Pleasures Of Being Out Of Step: Notes On The Life Of Nat Hentoff (First Run Features) In his 89 years, Nat Hentoff has melded defense of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution with his love of jazz. His writings on those passions have made him a powerful voice in music journalism and in the turbulent arena populated by those who debate what the American founders intended in the Bill of Rights. This David L. Lewis film presents Hentoff reflecting—often … [Read more...]

Weekend This & That: DeFranco, Gibbs, Peck, Ziskind

Gould and DeFranco

Perhaps best know for his work with Vince Guaraldi, Cal Tjader and Earl Hines, Dean Reilly plays bass in the San Francisco Band Swing Fever. For a time, the band included Buddy DeFranco. In observance of DeFranco’s passing last week, Mr. Reilly sent a remembrance written by Bryan Gould, Swing Fever’s trombonist and leader (pictured with DeFranco). Here’s an excerpt: “Here’s a little something to think about,” Buddy said to me one time, “contrary to what everyone thinks, Charlie Parker did … [Read more...]

New Years Eve With Ellington

2015 Happy New Year

When Duke Ellington's band worked on New Years Eve—and it usually did—at midnight Ellington nodded casually to his musicians and they performed the newest variation on their head arrangement of “Auld Lang Syne.” As you listen to the 1962 studio version, please know that the Rifftides staff does love you madly and wishes you a perfect 2015. … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Edward Simon

Simon Venezuelan Suite

Edward Simon, Venezuelan Suite (Sunnyside) Few jazz albums have been devoted to the music of Venezuela. Victor Feldman’s superb The Venezuelan Joropo (1967) was an exception. Latin musicians were impressed with the authenticity that Feldman achieved using Los Angeles colleagues to interpret traditional Venezuelan music. When it comes to authenticity, however, Edward Simon has an advantage. He is a native of Venezuela who has established himself in the US as a versatile pianist, composer and … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Buddy DeFranco

DeFranco head shot

I learned the feeling of playing a melody and playing long phrases from Tommy Dorsey. (On Charlie Parker)I decided to play the clarinet like Bird articulated on the sax. It wasn’t so easy to imitate Artie Shaw, and even more difficult to copy Bird... I learned more about the idea of rhythm and swing with Art Blakey than any other drummer in my career. Tatum made me feel at ease, even though it was very difficult to work with him because he had a chord progression every two beats. Keys … [Read more...]

Passings: DeFranco, Bedford, Belletto


The past seven days have seen the deaths of three musicians who came to prominence as young men and had long careers in the swing, bebop and post-bop eras. Buddy DeFranco, who in the 1940s was the first to successfully adapt the clarinet to the complexities of bebop, died the day before Christmas at age 91. In recent years he and his wife Joyce lived in Panama City, Florida. DeFranco was the principal influence onvirtually every major clarinetist who played the instrument in modern jazz. Born … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Sultanof On The Blu-ray Nat King Cole

Cole Extraordinary

Nat Cole (1919-1965) was one of the most admired young jazz pianists of the late 1930s and early ‘40s. In nightclubs, he occasionally included vocals in numbers with his trio, and patrons began requesting more of them. The King Cole Trio’s 1943 recording of his composition “Straight Up and Fly Right” became a significant hit because of his vocal. It wasn’t long before Cole’s singing dominated his career. His 1946 records of “The Christmas Song” and “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” made him one of … [Read more...]

Christmas Extra: Bley, Swallow & Partyka In Concert

Bley Christmas

Doing a bit of holiday morning web surfing, I discovered a live version of one of the pieces from Carla Bley’s delightful 2008 album Carla’s Christmas Carols. Ms. Bley and Steve Swallow performed it in Montenegro in 2010 with Ed Partyka’s Brass Quintet. Partyka has the plunger trombone solo. The other members of the quintet are Adrian Mears, trombone; Tobias Weidinger, trumpet; Axel Schlosser, trumpet; Christine Chapman, French horn. Merry Christmas … [Read more...]

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Frohe Weihnachten, Feliz Navidad, Christmas Alegre, Lystig Jul, メリークリスマス, Natale Allegro, 圣诞快乐, Καλά Χριστούγεννα, 즐거운 성탄, C Pождеством Xристовым


The Rifftides staff’s present to you is a masterpiece from John Lewis’s rare 1958 album European Windows. Thank you for being with us in 2014 and for the reader comments that are essential to what makes blogging for you so rewarding. … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Holly Hofmann

Hofmann Low Life

Holly Hofmann, Low Life (Capri) Holly Hofmann made her reputation concentrating on the C flute, an instrument whose flexibility and three-octave range are suited to her customary orientation toward the bop tradition. Here, she sets it aside in favor of its relative the alto flute. Pitched in G, the alto is capable of bewitching resonance and dynamic presence at the low end of its range. Ms. Hofmann takes full advantage of those qualities in a collection that tends toward romanticism tinged … [Read more...]

Recent Listening In Brief…

CD Stacks

Frank Zappa (1940-1993), a gifted musician who dipped his toe into jazz, never demonstrated more than a smidgeon of what he knew about the genre. But he left us with the memorable observation, “Jazz isn’t dead. It just smells funny.” A web search shows that lesser wits have adapted Zappa’s line to all kinds of topics from politics to marketing management and, of all things, science journalism. None of those endeavors seems to be dying, either. For years, people have been predicting the end of … [Read more...]

Les Paul Over The Rainbow

Paul & McCartney

Thanks to Rifftides reader Greg Curtis for flagging a performance by Les Paul of Harold Arlen’s best known song. This was at Fat Tuesday’s in New York, most likely in the 1990s. Paul’s accompanists were rhythm guitarist Lou Pollo and bassist Gary Mazzaroppi. … [Read more...]

Recent Listening, Vinyly: Broadbent, Lowe, Horvitz, Chemical Clock, Kanda

Turntable and Vinyl

Once during a listening session, I apologized to Paul Desmond for the pops and scratches on a worn LP. “I don’t care if it’s on a cellophane strip,” he said, “ as long as I can hear what everybody is doing.” When it comes to sound quality, high-end audio perfectionists tend to be more demanding than Desmond was that evening, and there are getting to be more of them. In an artist’s note on the inside jacket of his new album, Just One Of Those Things, pianist Alan Broadbent writes, “With so … [Read more...]

Weekend Listening Tip: Holiday Jazz

Wilke Christmas

If your listening mood has shifted to Christmas, veteran jazz broadcaster Jim Wilke is ready to accommodate you. He has prepared a wide-ranging program by artists from his neck of the woods, the Pacific Northwest. Here’s Jim’s announcement about tomorrow’s program. Jazz musicians are often an unconventional lot, and when it comes to holiday music you can expect re-harmonizations, different tempos, unexpected rhythms and other surprises as they find new ways to play old music and old … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Risk And Playing From The Heart


How do you get to Carnegie Hall? "Practice," the violinist Fritz Kreisler famously told a tourist who asked him that question on a New York street. But can a performer practice too much—practice the life out of a piece of music? No and yes, said one of Kreisler's great contemporaries, pianist Artur Rubinstein (1887-1982). Here is Rubinstein in a clip from a PBS documentary hosted by Robert MacNeil, discussing a proposition that serious musicians of all genres will always confront. … [Read more...]

Recent Viewing: Films About Hersch, Brown And McFarland

My Coma Dreams

The new video recording of an acclaimed theatre piece recounts the surreal workings of pianist Fred Hersch’s mind during a long medically induced coma. Documentaries about trumpeter Clifford Brown and the composer, arranger and vibraharpist Gary McFarland recall major artists who died as their brilliant careers were flowering. Fred Hersch, My Coma Dreams In 2008 Hersch had been feeling unwell and one day found himself unable to get out of his bathtub. His partner Scott Morgan rushed him to … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Stefano Bollani

Bollani Joy In Spite...

Stefano Bollani, Joy In Spite Of Everything (ECM The Italian pianist, his Danish rhythm section mates and two American stars emphasize the joy of the title, but Bollani’s album also has moments of thoughtful stateliness. Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund join Bollani in various combinations from duo to quintet. Bollani’s eight compositions reflect inspiration from the Caribbean, Africa, bebop and his fertile imagination. … [Read more...]

Brubeck A La Russe, Part 2: A Story From Moscow

Russian Story illustration

Alexander Eydelman, who founded the Moscow Jazz Art Club in 1993 and has been its only president, writes stories under the name Aleksander Antoshin. Through the help of Rifftides Moscow correspondent Svetlana Ilicheva, Mr. Eydelman has agreed to our publishing one of his stories.  The tale set in the 1960s helps put in perspective some of the ways in which Russian jazz fans bucked the Soviet system's suppression of their efforts to hear American music. GETTING TO KNOW BRUBECK By Aleksander … [Read more...]

Brubeck A La Russe


On this second anniversary of Dave Brubeck’s death, an animated cartoon from Russia is a reminder of the impact that his music has had in many, perhaps most, parts of the world. Occasional Rifftides Moscow correspondent Svetlana Ilicheva called it to my attention. The cartoon is a creation of the Russian artist Ivan Maximov. Its quirkiness and charm are typical of his work. Whether he captures the spirit of the Brubeck Quartet’s music may be up to the eye and ear of the beholder, but there is no … [Read more...]

Steinbeck And Condon


Pianist Spike Wilner, the proprietor of Smalls and Mezzrow’s in New York’s Greenwich Village, sends occasional email newsletters about who is playing at his clubs. Now and then he includes sidebar items about things that interest him. It’s a list that jazz listeners may enjoy being on for the asides as much as for the schedules. Here’s an entry from a recent issue: Been reading further from Eddie Condon's (and Hank O’Neal’s) Scrapbook of Jazz—wonderful anecdotes. But the best thing … [Read more...]

Billy Strayhorn

Billy Strayhorn

Billy Strayhorn was born 99 years ago today. He wrote the music and the wan, world-weary lyric of “Lush Life” when he was a sixteen-year-old in his native Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Having arranged to meet Duke Ellington backstage at a concert when he was in his early twenties, he demonstrated the song and others he had written. Impressed, Ellington said that he would send for Strayhorn. Before long, he called the young man to New York and launched a collaborative partnership that further … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Language.


Three cheers, five stars and a slap on the back for Sony. I was trapped interminably in the electronics company's voice mail system. Sony made up for it when I finally got a robot voice that said, Due to an unusually high volume of calls, all of our associates are busy with other customers. Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received. The robot did not say, as nearly all voice mail robots do, "... in the order it was received." A victory for clear … [Read more...]

Zeitlin Alone

Zeitlin, D., at piano

Into his waking hours Denny Zeitlin manages to work fly fishing, mountain biking, master-level wine connoisseurship, the practice of psychiatry and—let’s see, there was something else. Oh yes, he plays the piano. In his mid-seventies, Zeitlin shows no inclination to slow down in any of his pursuits, least of all at the keyboard. Following a remarkable recording debut with the flutist Jeremy Steig in 1963, the pianist went on to record frequently with trios that have included some of … [Read more...]

Other Places: Kirchner’s New School Concert

Kirchner thinking

Nearly two months ago, I alerted you to a concert that the soprano saxophonist Bill Kirchner was going to play on October 7 at the New School in New York City. I regretted that it was 3,000 miles away. Now, my regret is that I didn’t jump on a plane and attend. Fortunately for me and for you, fellow blogger Marc Myers of Jazz Wax was in the audience. For Marc, it was an easy trip. He lives in the neighborhood, give or take a few dozen long Manhattan north-south blocks. One of his recent posts is … [Read more...]