Recent Listening: Boshnack, Powell, Akinmusire, Hamilton

Recent Listening (ear horn)

There is no possibility of keeping up with the flow of albums pouring out of what is often described, absurdly, as a declining jazz scene, but it can be interesting to try. Here are brief observations on a few more or less recent CDs. Sam Boshnack, Exploding Syndrome (Shnack Music) Sam Boshnack is an aggressive, rowdy, uneven trumpeter who heads a quintet of adventurers from Seattle’s avant jazz community. She (Samantha) contains her and her band mates’ wildness within carefully balanced … [Read more...]

We’re Back

hacker bot

For more than two days, Rifftides and all of the other arts blogs have been taken down by software robots—hacker bots. The attackers have been vanquished, security measures are being put in place and we look forward to the resumption of regular posting. Say goodbye to this rascal. By way of celebration, let's see and hear the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra in Copenhagen in 1969, playing Thad's "Central Park North." Thad Jones, flugelhorn & conductor Al … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: Don Ellis

Don Ellis facing left

I got bored with the old way - it came too easy. I worked until I could play any chord changes at any tempo in any key, and then said 'What else is there?' Now I'm finding out. I expect the audience to come up to my level. I am not interested in compromising my music to make it palatable to an assumed sub-standard mass. If one takes all the styles in jazz harmonically from the earliest beginnings to the latest experiments, he still has a rather limited scope when compared … [Read more...]

CD Recommendation: Cava Menzies/Nick Phillips

MenziesPhillips CD

Cava Menzies/Nick Phillips, Moment To Moment (NPM) Although Pianist Menzies and trumpeter Phillips make judicious embellishments in the ballads of this enchanting collection, their operating principle seems to be adoration of the melody. The tempos are slow, the harmonies rich, bassist Jeff Chambers and drummer Jaz Sawyer finely tuned to the leaders’ wave length. The quartet illuminates standards including “The Peacocks,” For All We Know,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” “Speak Low” and Kenny … [Read more...]

They Say It’s Spring

White Pass 1

My visiting son went skiing in the Cascade Mountains, and I accompanied him. This is how it was on the lightly populated runs of White Pass at 4500 feet. Après-ski, driving down the mountain by the time we reached about 3500 feet, warmer weather had removed the snow except for patches in the valleys and on the peaks. My son is sad to see the snow go. Not to worry, Blossom Dearie makes everybody glad. … [Read more...]

Followup: Don Ellis

Don Ellis

Trumpeter Don Ellis (1934-1978) provided the instrumental focus in yesterday’s Third Stream Revisited post. He portrayed young Peter Parker, a boy learning to be a jazz musician. Let us look into Ellis’s all too brief future following that impressive 1962 appearance with Gunther Schuller, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. He built on his experience with Ray McKinley, Charlie Barnet, Maynard Ferguson, George Russell and some of the most forward looking players in jazz to become a … [Read more...]

Rifftides Archive: Third Stream Revisited


From time to time, we reach into nine years of posts stored in the Rifftides vaults for pieces that the staff thinks are worth a second look. This is one of those times. Originally posted on Rifftides on March 25, 2010. "Third Stream" seems a quaint term nearly half a century after it kicked up a bit of a fuss in jazz and classical circles. Still, it never quite goes away, as the recent Eric Dolphy posting reminded me. Two of the names that remain associated with the movement are Gunther … [Read more...]

Lennie Tristano: The Complete Look Up And Live

Tristano Half Note

Lennie Tristano was born in Chicago on this day in 1919. At birth, influenza ruined his vision. By his 10th birthday he was blind. Formally trained at a music conservatory, he played piano and, as a 12-year-old clarinetist, led a traditional band. When he moved to New York in1946, Tristano had begun deepening the harmonic possibilities in modern jazz and by the end of the decade was a guru to forward looking musicians including saxophonists Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh guitarist Billy Bauer, and a … [Read more...]

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Shamrock Hat

“How Are Things In Gloca Morra,” featuring Sonny O’Rollins, tenor saxophone; Donald McByrd, trumpet; Wynton Kelly, piano; Gene MacRamey, bass; and Max O’Roach, drums. On St. Patrick’s day, the whole world is Irish. The recording is from Sonny Rollins, Volume One, Blue Note, 1956. May the road rise up to meet you this fine day. … [Read more...]

CD Recommendation: Bill Kirchner

Kirchner Lifeline

Bill Kirchner, Lifeline (Jazzheads) In 2008, I initiated an occasional series called Medium But Well Done. It highlights the accomplishments of groups bigger than combos but smaller than big bands. Introducing it, I wrote, “Six to eleven pieces allow arrangers freedom that the conventions and sheer size of sixteen-piece bands tend to limit.” There is no better recent illustration of that proposition than this release by Bill Kirchner’s Nonet. His arrangements of pieces by composers including … [Read more...]

Tommy Flanagan

Tommy Flanaga

Thanks to Lester Perkins of Jazz On The Tube for reminding us that today Tommy Flanagan would have celebrated his 84th birthday. The great pianist died in 2001. From the time he made his debut as a teenager in his native Detroit, Flanagan was one of the busiest sidemen in music. These are just a few of the musicians with whom he toured and recorded: Milt Jackson, Miles Davis, Lucky Thompson, J.J. Johnson, Ella Fitzgerald, Jim Hall, Thad and Elvin Jones, Tony Bennett. From the late 1970s, … [Read more...]

Med Flory, 1926-2014

_MG_1959Med Flory Jazz Wave-L

Alto saxophonist Med Flory was best known to the general public as an actor, but jazz listeners are most likely to remember him as the co-founder and leader of Supersax. Flory died this week at the age of 87. He made hundreds of appearances in television shows and a few in motion pictures, usually as characters in westerns and action flicks. He’s the big man in the foreground in a scene from the 1966 film Night Of The Grizzly. He was a familiar presence in Mannix, Bonanza, Wagon Train, Magnum … [Read more...]

Iola Brubeck RIP

Iola, Dave, Duke

Iola Brubeck died today. She had been under treatment for cancer discovered several months ago during oral surgery. She was 90 years old. Her children made the announcement through the University of the Pacific, home of the Brubeck Institute. Mrs. Brubeck and her husband Dave were alumni of the university. They met there at a student dance in the early 1940s and decided that night they would marry, which they did a few months later. Mrs. Brubeck died peacefully at home in Wilton, Connecticut, … [Read more...]

Other Places: Cerra’s Bud Shank Seminar

Bud Shank

In his Jazz Profiles blog, Steve Cerra posts a piece about Bud Shank (1926-2009) that is packed with remembrances of the saxophonist and flutist, interviews, photographs and music clips that recall the career of an amazingly productive, versatile and expressive musician. Steve’s introduction summons his own youthful impression of Shank: To the older guys that I hung out with, Bud Shank was the epitome of West Coast “Cool.” He was a tall, broad shouldered, good looking guy with a brush … [Read more...]

A New Approach


It has been Rifftides practice to make Doug's Picks recommendations in batches, with long periods between. Beginning with the recommendation below, the picks are going to come singly and more often. As always, clicking on the title of the CD, DVD or book will take you to where it can be found. The current recommendations are in the right column under Doug’s Picks. If you click on “More Doug’s Picks” at the end of that section, you can read them clear back to 2006. That covers a lot of listening, … [Read more...]

CD Recommendation: Anton Schwartz

Schwartz Flash Mob

Anton Schwartz, Flash Mob (AntonJazz) The front-line blend of the leader’s tenor saxophone and Dominic Farinacci’s trumpet may recall Hank Mobley and Kenny Dorham, but if this is hard bop, its 21st century attitude is Schwartz’s own. His compositions have a distinctive quality that incorporates disparate harmonies and rhythms. “Pangur Ban” could be a down home Irish reel, if there is such a thing. “Swamp Thang” has overtones suggesting that the swamp in question is on Georgia or southern … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Poodie’s Town


Speaking of Poodie James (see the previous post), if you have read the novel you might like to see a bit of the town and valley that bear a not entirely coincidental resemblance to the book’s locale. I just watched a short promotional video made by Charley Voorhis and his colleagues at an outfit called Voortex Productions. I had never heard of Voortex until a friend sent me a link to this little film. I am impressed with the shooting, editing, post-production and story-telling skill that went … [Read more...]

Surviving In The Book Business: An Authors Fair


As the digital revolution makes inroads into traditional publishing based in paper, bookstores are not having a notably good century so far. Hardly a week goes by without news of a large or small bookstore, including those owned by chains, going out of business somewhere in the US. Yakima, Washington, the longest running of the Ramseys' many hometowns, has an independent bookstore that does well because this reading community supports it. That is in no small part because Inklings Bookshop … [Read more...]

The Bill Holman Film

Holman with Mic

The Bill Holman documentary that I helped with late last year is moving closer to reality. Its producer, Kathryn King, has launched a fund-raising drive to help her and her crew complete the film on schedule. That is how many projects are accomplished these days when they don’t have the backing of big Hollywood investors. Few of them have that kind of support, especially when the ventures have to do with the arts. In November, I spent a few days in Los Angeles interviewing Mr. Holman for the … [Read more...]

Just Because: Jan Allan


Jan Allan with the Visby Big Band, Berwaldhallen Stockholm, Sweden, 1985. Arranged, conducted and introduced by Rob McConnell. Later this month, Allan, now 79, will join pianist Jan Lundgren, bassist Georg Riedel, saxophonist-composer Erik Norström and the Bohuslän Big Band for an eight-city tour of Sweden in honor of the late pianist Bengt Hallberg. For a previous Rifftides post about Jan Allan, go here. … [Read more...]

Herbie Hancock At Harvard

Herbie Hancock smiling

The distinguished pianist, composer and leader is the 2014 occupant of the chair held by Bernstein, Cage, Eliot, Stravinsky and Gordimer, among others. For further details, including how to get a ticket for the remaining lectures in the series, go here. As for what qualifies Hancock for the honor, we have a demonstration of two attributes, his composing and his playing. The piece is “Chan’s Song.” His accompanists are bassist Christian McBride and drummer Karriem Riggins. … [Read more...]

Correspondence: More About Crocojazz

John Norris in Paris]

Rifftides reader Ted O’Reilly writes from Toronto: I wasn’t much inclined to shop much at Crocojazz personally – I’m not into vinyl as some are – but it was not as inviting as I’d hoped. Unorganized, dusty, boxes and crates on the floor...a treasure hunt, perhaps, but as I was without my spade, not much more than ‘a cultural’ experience. Here’s the late John Norris in a picture I took (it sez here) on May 28/08. Note that it was taken before we went in. He might not have been as … [Read more...]

Correspondence: Used Records In Paris

La Dame Blanche

Rifftides reader Greg Curtis is on a study sabbatical in Paris. Wishing to stimulate envy—and succeeding—he sent an illustrated message about two used record stores in the 5th arrondissement, near his apartment. One, La Dame Blanche, specializes in classical recordings. The name of the other, Crocojazz, is self-explanatory. They are across from one another on the rue de la Montagne-Ste-Geneviève.               Mr. Curtis writes about … [Read more...]

Grace Kelly At The Seasons

Grace Kelly Quartet, Seasons

From her opening blues, “Filosophical Flying Fish,” to the concluding “Summertime” done as a sort of neo-boogaloo, Grace Kelly’s Thursday concert at The Seasons in Yakima, Washington, left no doubt that she is in the top flight of today’s alto saxophonists. She has been there for some time. Here is what I wrote after I first heard her at a festival jam session in 2007 (pictured then, above). I know of no explanation other than genius for this slender fourteen-year-old girl’s attainment of … [Read more...]

The Spring Quartet In Portland

Spring Quartet, JB

Thara Memory wanted to make one thing perfectly clear. “This is new music,” the venerable trumpeter and educator told the Portland Jazz Festival audience. “New. N.E.W. Have you got that?” He said it was not going to be ninety minutes of “that free jazz,” but it would be adventurous. That was Dr. Memory’s emphatic way of introducing the Spring Quartet, an all-star band headed by veteran drummer Jack DeJohnette, whose track record encompasses Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Bill … [Read more...]