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...]

Weekend Listening Tip: Going Green

Benny Green PT

If you were not one of the four- or five-hundred people who attended pianist Benny Green’s concert at the Oregon Coast Jazz Party last weekend—or perhaps especially if you were—here’s a Rifftides listening tip. Jim Wilke’s Jazz Northwest broadcast on Sunday will present Green’s trio with bassist David Wong and drummer Rodney Green. Mr. Wilke recorded their concert this summer on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. This is from his announcement of the program: …Green leads his … [Read more...]

Catching Up: Logan Strosahl & Nick Sanders

Strosahl ca 2006

Eight years ago, when Rifftides was young, I posted this item from New York following one of the last conventions of the lamented International Association of Jazz Educators. January 19, 2006 It is impossible to predict the course of an artist’s career, but here’s a name to file away: Logan Strosahl. He is a sixteen-year-old alto saxophonist with the Roosevelt High School Jazz Band from Seattle, Washington. Strosahl has the energy of five sixteen-year-olds, rhythm that wells up from … [Read more...]

Newport (Oregon) Report

Daniels & Stripling

The Oregon Coast Jazz Party titled one segment “Saturday Morning Chamber Jazz.” In the event, most of the weekend celebration had the character and intimacy of a chamber music festival. The proceedings began with flutist Holly Hofmann—the OCJP’s music director—walking on stage alone, playing “Strike Up The Band.” Chorus by chorus, musicians who were to perform over the two and a half days joined her to improvise on that piece and a good old blues in F. Pictured left to right: a Rifftides … [Read more...]

Listening Tip: Kirchner And Friends, In Person


For those in or planning to be in New York City next week, here’s a live listening tip from soprano saxophonist, arranger, composer, bandleader and jazz educator Bill Kirchner. He writes, On Tuesday, October 7, at 8 p.m., I'll be doing one of the most unusual concerts of my career, sharing the stage with three wonderful artists. Here are the details: Bill Kirchner, soprano saxophone Holli Ross, voice Jim Ferguson, voice, double bass Carlton Holmes, piano About 2/3 of the songs will … [Read more...]


In the previous exhibit, I failed when I attempted humor—or something resembling it—in characterizing Holly Hofmann's artistic direction of the Oregon Coast Jazz Party. I apologize to Ms. Hofmann, whose leadership of that festival I admire, and to anyone else who may have been offended. … [Read more...]

That Newport Party


In a few hours, the Rifftides staff will be hitting the road—a lot of roads—to the Oregon shore of the Pacific Ocean. The occasion is our first visit in a couple of years to the Oregon Coast Jazz Party. The compact weekend fête was once known as the Newport, Oregon, Jazz Festival. Strong hints concerning copyright law and possible legal remedies suggested the practicality of changing to a title that did not include the name of the town in which the festival is held. Whatever it’s … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Dee Daniels

Dee Daniels Intimate

Dee Daniels, Intimate Conversations (Origin) Accompanied only by Martin Wind’s forthright bass lines, the singer sets her story-telling course with the imperishable 84-year-old “Exactly Like You.” She and Wind are so convincing again in “I Wish You Love” that this listener found himself wishing for an entire album with just the two of them. However, Daniels is equally effective accompanying herself on piano and coloring “All The Way” with blues feeling as Wycliffe Gordon provides wa-wa … [Read more...]

Recent Viewing And Listening: Charles Lloyd

Lloyd today

Charles Llloyd, Arrows Into Infinity (ECM) Charles Lloyd, Manhattan Stories (Resonance) The steadfastly independent saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd stepped out of the limelight more than once, but even when he was inactive his recordings remained in demand. Lloyd is drawing renewed attention because of a film about his life and music, and an album of previously unreleased performances from a fertile early period of his career. His million-selling 1966 album Forest Flower and the … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Autumn


No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.—John Donne, The Autumnal But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done … [Read more...]

Autumn Comes


In most of the Northern Hemisphere, this is officially the first day of fall. In a weblog devoted primarily to jazz, it seems fitting to welcome the advent of the new season with music. The pleasant problem is that there are so many wonderful recordings of songs with autumn themes, it’s impossible to choose just one. So, here are three. Nat Cole, 1948 Woody Herman, 1948 Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane, 1963 Have a pleasant autumn season or—if you’re in the Southern … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Ali Jackson

Ali Jackson Amalgamations

Ali Jackson, Amalgamations (Sunnyside) In this appropriately titled collection, the irrepressible drummer and 13 colleagues from the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra and elsewhere combine in groups as small as two. Jackson's precision and drive stimulate trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, pianist Eldar Djangirov and saxophonists JD Allen and Ted Nash, among others. Performances include the laconic “Done Tol’ You Fo’ Five Times” in which trombonist Vincent Gardner and electric pianist Jonathan Batiste … [Read more...]