Buddy Catlett, 1933-2014

Buddy Catlett

I was saddened to learn on the road that Buddy Catlett died yesterday. I remember him looking as he does in this photograph made around the time we were both involved in Seattle’s vibrant jazz community in the early-to-mid 1950s. He left town to work with a variety of large and small bands. By the end of the decade Buddy had joined the big band his childhood friend Quincy Jones took to Europe that also included Seattleites Floyd Standifer and Patti Bown. For an obituary, read the Seattle Times … [Read more...]

Vacation Note: Brother Thelonious And Friends

Brother Thelonious Ale

On the way south, we spent a couple of nights in Fort Bragg on the northern California coast. In addition to admiring the bird pictured in the post below, we took time to visit with Mark Ruedrich and Doug Moody. They are the president and senior vice president of the North Coast Brewery, the biggest—and by far the hippest—employer in that Mendocino County town, population 7,200. Among his other achievements, Brewmaster Ruedrich developed a Belgian ale inspired by a pianist (pictured) … [Read more...]

Vacation Shot # 1

Pacific gull

You never know who you'll run into when you're on vacation. This morning, this guy was on the balcony railing outside our room in Fort Bragg on Northern California's Mendocino coast. He's a Pacific Gull, I believe. He was good at looking hungry. We had nothing to contribute to his breakfast. … [Read more...]

Chet Baker And Bruce Jenner: Separated At Birth?

Chet BakerBruce Jenner 1

Sorry about the headline. While I waited in line at the supermarket, I was infected by tabloid newspapers. Jenner didn't play trumpet or sing. Baker is not known for decathlon victories. What he is famous for is captured in a video made in Laren, The Netherlands, in 1975, 13 years before his death. He was captured in concert with alto saxophonist Bob Mover, pianist Harold Danko, bassist Dave Shapiro and drummer Beaver Harris. The guest artist is soprano saxophonist and flutist Jacques … [Read more...]

A Rifftides Respite

vacation sign

Not terribly sorry, actually. The Rifftides staff needs a vacation, so we're taking one. There may be occasional blogging through the magic of digital delays, so please check in once in a while. There's a Chet Baker piece coming up In a day or two, for instance. If anything of interest takes place or comes to mind along the way, we may overcome the objections of family members who point at the laptop and say, "You're not taking that thing with you, are you?" We will occasionally examine email … [Read more...]

Sunset, Without And With Mockingbird

Sunset 11 9 14

The weather around here has been what meteorologists call, for lack of a more scientific term, variable. That means warm, cold, cloudy, sunny, rainy and—while all that is going on—fierce wind gusts blowing the beautiful fall leaves off the trees. Last evening, the cloudy and sunny elements combined to paint a sunset that lasted barely long for me to dash inside from the deck, grab a camera and get back in time to catch the final seconds of the show. It was too windy for any … [Read more...]

Other Places: Desmond Profiled

Desmond w cup

On Steve Cerra's Jazz Profiles blog, today's subject is Paul Desmond's Complete RCA Victor Recordings featuring Jim Hall, a fine companion to your morning coffee. Steve put together one of his celebrated videos incorporating photographs and music, in this case Desmond's recording of "I've Got You Under My Skin" with strings, and pictures by Chuck Stewart, Ray Avery, William Claxton and Ted Williams. The written matter consists of essays by Paul and me. To visit Jazz Profiles click here. Enjoy … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Shelly Manne And Friends

Shelly's Manne Hole

From 1960 to 1972 in Hollywood, drummer Shelly Manne operated Shelly’s Manne Hole, one of the great jazz clubs in the world. It was headquarters for his quintet known as Shelly Manne And His Men, which over the years included many of the era’s premier players, among them Charlie Mariano, Bill Holman, Richie Kamuca, Conte Candoli, Joe Gordon, Stu Williamson, Leroy Vinnegar, Russ Freeman, Victor Feldman and Monty Budwig. Now and then, though, Manne brought in a few friends for short-term … [Read more...]

From The Archive: Remembering A Fall Day

This piece ran on Rifftides eight years ago. In those early days of the blog, I hadn't learned how to add pictures and relied on words to create images. October 28, 2006 OTHER MATTERS: OCTOBER Any day now could be the last good one of the year for cycling, so I said goodbye to work and took advantage of a late October afternoon so perfect that to have left it out there by itself would have been a shame. Deciding not to pit the road bike against heavy, skitterish Friday traffic, I … [Read more...]

Maple Leaves

Sunset Maple # 1, 2014

Immediately outside the west wall of Rifftides world headquarters is a magnificent Sunset Maple. Each fall, the tree puts on a show. The show is in its final act. With luck, we have a week before the curtain of leaves falls. In the meantime, this is what we wake up to. You probably suspect that I’m going to use the foliage as an excuse to play a piece of music, and you’re right. It’s from a television special, Those Ragtime Years, narrated by Hoagy Carmichael. It aired on November 22, … [Read more...]

Red Mitchell: Simple Isn’t Easy

Red Mitchell Simple...

The governing principle of the Dayna Stephens album recommended in the post below brought to mind the philosophy of Red Mitchell (1927-1992). “Simple isn’t easy,” the great bassist often said. He wrote a song and made an album using that title. The album is a quirky jewel of his discography, as endearing as when it first appeared 30 years ago. It’s Mitchell all the way; just Red, his bass, his piano, his singing and his compositions. In addition to the title tune, the songs include “I’m a … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Dayna Stephens

Dayna Stephens Peace

Dayna Stephens, Peace (Sunnyside) With blissful slowness, Stephens explores ballads in the company of superior sidemen. On soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones, he plumbs the emotional and harmonic content of 11 songs. Among them are Horace Silver’s title tune, Dave Brubeck’s “The Duke,” two Ennio Morriconne film themes and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Zingaro.” In “Body and Soul, with spare accompaniment by Larry Grenadier’s bass, Stephens’ baritone playing emphasizes the brilliance of Johnny … [Read more...]

The “Strange Fruit” Radio Drama

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday’s recording of “Strange Fruit,” shocked listeners in 1939. Seventy-five years later, the song’s portrayal of racist lynching retains its disturbing power as commentary on a shameful part of the American past. Trumpeter, bandleader, blogger and broadcaster Steve Provizer’s radio drama about the singer and the history of the record is debuting this fall. It will air on stations across the country. The story involves not only Holiday, but also the song’s composer, and the club and … [Read more...]

The Desmond Bio, eBook Version

Desmond, happy

Queries still arrive about where to buy Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond. As hardened Rifftides readers know, but newcomers may not, new clothbound copies are history, unless you are lucky enough to spot one on the shelf of your corner bookstore. And if your town still has a corner bookstore, congratulations. Desmond—pictured left with Dave Brubeck and Gene Wright—loved technological advances; he would no doubt be at least this happy if he knew that his biography … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Halloween

'Tis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world. -- William Shakespeare   One need not be a chamber to be haunted;One need not be a house;The brain has corridors surpassingMaterial place.   -- Emily Dickinson   There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin. -- Linus Van Pelt From ghoulies and ghosties And long-legged beasties And … [Read more...]

Chica Chica Boom Steps?

Coltrane tenor

Conventional wisdom in jazz is that the harmonies in the bridge section of Rogers and Hart’s “Have You Met Miss Jones?” inspired John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” Recently Mark Gilbert, the editor of the British magazine Jazz Journal suggested that a more likely source was composer Harry Warren’s “Chica Chica Boom Chic,” from the 1941 film That Night In Rio. Pianist Jan Lundgren followed up with a letter to the magazine calling Gilbert’s proposition a “sensational discovery.” Lundgren said his … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Hush Point, Blues And Reds

Hush Point

Hush Point, Blues And Reds (Sunnyside) Suspended ageless between neo-traditionalism and the iconoclasm of free jazz, trumpeter John McNeil and alto saxophonist Jeremy Udden continue adventures in the Shangri-La of their pianoless quartet. Blues And Reds picks up more or less where the first Hush Point album left off in 2013, but with even more attention to sound dynamics, and with deepened symbiosis between the horns. Replacing Vinnie Sperrazza, drummer Anthony Pinciotti brings his own brand … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: John Marshall’s “Warm Valley”

John Marshall trpt.

The clock says it’s still the weekend (barely) way out west. John Marshall, the American expatriate who is the longtime principal trumpet of the WDR Big Band in Germany, sent links to performances from his recent quintet tour in Germany, Switzerland and Holland. His front line partner was Grant Stewart, the Canadian tenor saxophonist based in New York. Their rhythm section had Leo Lindberg, piano, Kenji Rabson, bass; and Phil Stewart, drums. Here they are at the Jazz Schmiede in Düsseldorf … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Kristin Korb

Korb Finding Home

Kristin Korb, Finding Home (Double K) Korb, whose singing matches the high quality of her bass playing, releases Finding Home after previewing some of its pieces this summer at the Ystad Jazz Festival in Sweden. The nine songs she wrote for the album recount the changes in her life after she moved in 2011 from Los Angeles to Denmark, her new husband’s native land. Most of them project celebration, optimism and the elation of new love. A samba, “It’s Spring,” has a lyric that includes, … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Joshua Redman

Redman Trios

Joshua Redman, Trios Live (Nonesuch) Redman opens with an unaccompanied tenor saxophone introduction to “Mack the Knife.” The fluidity, power and quixotic imagination of his playing prepare his listeners for the album’s hour of adventure. At New York’s Jazz Standard and Washington DC’s Blues Alley, he is in the intimate company of just bass and drums—and of audiences who listen closely and respond with enthusiasm. When Redman is in the midst of rhythmic displacements and chord … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Good Old Zoot

Zoot Down Home Cover

Zoot Sims, Down Home (Bethlehem) One of the later albums in Bethlehem’s reissue series presents the tenor saxophonist in a rollicking 1960 quartet session. Sims and pianist Dave McKenna were often together in the New York loft scene of the fifties and sixties. Bassist George Tucker broke in with Earl Bostic, Sonny Stitt and John Coltrane. Drummer Dannie Richmond was most often employed with Charles Mingus. What might have seemed an unlikely combination of musicians from different branches of … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Zoot Sims & Friends in Cannes

Zoot Facing left

Of the dozens of young tenor saxophonists inspired by Lester Young (see the previous post), Zoot Sims (1925-1985) may have reached prominence at the youngest age. His 19th birthday was five months ahead of him when he recorded with pianist Joe Bushkin for the Commodore label in early 1944. That was three years before he joined Herbie Steward, Stan Getz and Serge Chaloff in Woody Herman’s celebrated Four Brothers saxophone section. By the middle of 1950, Sims had recorded with an aspiring jazz … [Read more...]

When Shorter Met Young

Lester Young facing right

Michael Cuscuna alerted us to a video on the Mosaic Records site in which Wayne Shorter tells about his only meeting with Lester Young. It was in the late 1950s, most likely 1958. Shorter had played briefly with Horace Silver before he began his two years of service in the US Army, but at 25 he was still largely unknown. Ahead of him was his early career as a tenor saxophonist, composer, and sideman with Maynard Ferguson, Art Blakey and Miles Davis. To see and hear him tell his Lester story, … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Art Jackson

Underground Masterpiece

Art Jackson: Underground Masterpiece (Independent) The CD is in general release, and its title claim of masterpiece status could be questioned. Nonetheless, it is impressive music from contemporary Latin bands arranged and led by Jackson. From track to track, the groups range in size from a percussion-voice trio to a nine-piece ensemble. The musicians include some of the west coast’s most able Latin and studio musicians, among them drummer Alex Acuña, pianist John Beasley, tenor saxophonist … [Read more...]

Happy Columbus Day


Fats Waller, piano and vocal; Gene Sedric, tenor saxophone; Heman Autrey, trumpet; Al Casey, guitar; Charles Turner, bass; Yank Porter, drums. April 8, 1936. RCA Records. … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Meeting Dexter Gordon

Dexter Gordon

Greg Curtis, author, former editor of Texas Monthly, former TIME magazine special correspondent, knowledgeable jazz listener and occasional Rifftides reader, writes about meeting Dexter Gordon. He encountered Gordon at a used record store in San Francisco in the late 1970s. I was aware that there was some discussion going on in small groups here and there around the store when I saw a very tall, elegant black man in an immaculate trench coat and a blue beret riffling through the records in a … [Read more...]