Akiyoshi-Tabackin, Frishberg-Dorough

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Midway through Lew Tabackin’s tenor saxophone solo on “Long Yellow Road,” Toshiko Akiyoshi smiled at a particularly vigorous passage in his improvisation. The two have put a lot of miles on that Akiyoshi composition since it was the title tune of a classic 1975 album. It has worked for Akiyoshi as a big band vehicle and as a solo piano piece, and at the Portland Jazz Festival it worked for their quartet. Bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Mark Taylor joined Akiyoshi and Tabackin in a 90-minute … [Read more...]

Buster Williams, Cécile McLorin Salvant

Cecile McLorin Salvant

The Portland Jazz Festival booked Cécile McLorin Salvant to open for bassist Buster Williams’s “Something More” quintet, but she and her trio headed by pianist Aaron Diehl came close to stealing the show. The 24-year-old singer captivated an audience most of whose members were hearing her for the first time. As noted last summer in the Rifftides recommendation of her only album, she emerged, virtually unknown, as a fully developed artist. Salvant’s contralto, impeccably in tune from sub-basement … [Read more...]

Jack Berry RIP

Jack Berry

Today as the Portland Jazz Festival was at its midpoint came the call I’ve been dreading. Jack Berry is dead. Since we were in the early stages of our careers during my Portland years in the 1960s, Jack and I have been friends whose closeness was never affected by distance. As I batted around the country from news job to news job, our friendship was not allowed to dim. He was a perceptive writer on jazz and any other subject he chose to approach, and over the years he has been quoted many times … [Read more...]

Darrell Grant And The Territory

Grante, Locke

According to the Oregon Encyclopedia, Darrell Grant moved to the state in 1997, “in search of a place where his music could have a greater impact.” Not that the pianist had been ignored. He had worked for Roy Haynes, Tony Williams and Betty Carter, among others, and recorded successful albums as a leader. The encyclopedia article quotes him, “I was looking for a sense of community, a place where I could make a contribution and serve.” Grant became a professor of music at Portland State … [Read more...]

Ahmad Jamal At The Newmark

Riley, Jamal, Veal

Ahmad Jamal’s Portland Jazz Festival concert focused primarily on pieces from his recent Saturday Morning CD. Since early in his career, Jamal has been a master at making rhythm work for him. That hasn’t changed, although in his current quartet he and rhythm have plenty of help from drummer Herlin Riley, the ingenious percussionist Manolo Badrena and bassist Reginald Veal. In “Saturday Morning,” “Back to the Future,” and the standards “Blue Moon” and “The Gypsy,” Jamal’s exchanges with his … [Read more...]

Brian Blade Fellowship

Blade, Brian at PDX

For the 2014 Portland Jazz Festival’s second concert, drummer Brian Blade reassembled his band called the Brian Blade Fellowship. Some of the music was from the past of the group that he founded in 1997. Other pieces previewed their next album, Landmark, to be released in April. Blade, pianist John Cowherd, bassist Chris Thomas and saxophonists Myron Walden and Melvin Butler have played their ruminative, stately music together for so long that it often seems to unfold independent of their … [Read more...]

Elias Gives Festival A Joyous Launch

Elias 2

Last evening’s opening concert of the 2014 Portland Jazz Festival found the pianist and singer Eliane Elias in joyous spirits that led her to, but never quite over, the edge of giddiness. With bassist Marc Johnson, guitarist Graham Dechter and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli, Elias concentrated on music from her and Zottarelli’s native Brazil, with side trips into pieces from her … [Read more...]

Gorge Update

Gorge in rain

The Columbia River Gorge looked like this today, only wetter. Motoring through the Gorge even in a driving rainstorm is one of the world's great travel experiences. Portland is only a bit rainy at the moment—par for the course at this time of year. The Rifftides staff is off to listen to a conversation with Brian Blade and John Cowherd, then to take in an early concert by Eliane Elias and her trio and and a late one by drummer Blade's all-star band. … [Read more...]

To Portland

Columbia Gorge

Tomorrow morning, I will have the thrill of driving through south central Washington State and along the Oregon side of the magnificent Columbia River Gorge (pictured) to the Portland Jazz Festival. My schedule permits attending only the first four days of the festival, which runs nearly two weeks. I’ll take in major concerts by Ahmad Jamahl, Eliane Elias, Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band, Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough together, Toshiko Akiyoshi with Lew Tabackin and as much other music as I … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Bernstein, Seriously

Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein took a bit of a thrashing here recently in the Sid Caesar spoof and some of the comments that followed it. So, it is only fair to let Maestro Bernstein (1918-1990) redeem himself. The Rifftides recommendation of Rudy Royston’s new album mentions that he includes Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus.“ The opening seconds of the performance that you’re about to watch show the sort of Bernstein mannerism that was fodder for Caesar’s satire. Still, eight months before his death, Bernstein … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Sid Caesar

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The guy who invented the first wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other three, HE was a genius. The remote control changed our lives, ... The remote control took over the timing of the world. That's why you have road rage. You have people who have no patience, because you got immediate gratification. You got click, click, click, click. If it doesn't explode within three seconds, click click, click. The trouble with telling a good story is that it invariably reminds the other fellow … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Another Dorough

Aralee Dorough

The new Rifftides recommendation of Bob Dorough’s CD Eulalia mentions that his daughter Aralee, who appears on the recording with him, is a symphony musician. Ms. Dorough has been the principal flutist of the Houston Symphony since 1991. Aside from a few chamber music ensemble performances, little of her work is accessible on the internet. The exception is video of a 2011 recital of Béla Bartok’s Romanian Folks Dances. Bartok’s effect on jazz musicians is not only direct but also through the … [Read more...]

New Recommendations

Laurel-Thumbs-Up

The latest Rifftides recommendations include four CDs, three by established artists and one by a young drummer who has captured the attention of major musicians and a wide audience. We also call your attention to a book about a pianist whose unanticipated hit trio record led to an association that made his music among the world's best known. You'll find the recommendations in the right column under Doug's Picks and, for a day or so, immediately below. … [Read more...]

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

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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...]

Svenssons

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”

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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...]