Other Matters: Lilac Time

Lilacs & Tulips 2014

The Rifftides staff is up to his clavicle in non-Rifftides deadlines but wanted the readership to know that you are on his mind. He thought you would want to know that in the south forty, the lilacs and tulips are out. Junior Mance, piano; Ray Brown, bass; and Lex Humphries, drums, supply the music by which to gaze at the lilacs, which are doing fine without rain, thanks. That's from Junior Mance and his Swinging Piano, a 1959 album that I thought was long unavailable. Turns out … [Read more...]

Jazz Heroes

Moody, Wilke

The Jazz Journalists Association has named 24 Jazz Heroes, recognizing them as “activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz.” Among them is Jim Wilke (pictured on James Moody’s left), whose Sunday Jazz Northwest program we at Rifftides sometimes tell you about. It airs today at 2:00 pm PDT on KPLU-FM, 88.5 in Seattle and streams here on the internet. Jim features artists who will be playing at this week’s Ballard Jazz Festival, among them Sonny Fortune, Mimi Fox and Jay Thomas. … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Ukraine

Pray for Ukraine

A film about Ukraine’s position visa vis Russia showed up on YouTube earlier this week. In three days it has attracted more than 115,000 viewers. The film was created and posted by a video artist whose accompanying explanation said that she or he preferred to remain anonymous in order not to distract from the message of the piece. Nor is the little girl singing or lip-synching the song identified. Without taking an overt political stand, this well-made video's simplicity and power help put the … [Read more...]

Other Places: Shouldn’t Every Child Have A Chance?


This is an item from Bill Crow's The Band Room column in the April issue of Allegro, the newspaper of New York Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians. We use it with Mr. Crow's permission. In the little town in Washington State where I grew up, our local school system had a full arts program. It was the 1930s, as this country struggled with the joblessness and poverty of the Great Depression. From grade school to high school, we had art and music classes in the regular … [Read more...]

Scott LaFaro Day, Scott LaFaro Drive

Scott LaFaro

Geneva, a town of 13,000 in New York State’s Finger Lakes district, is the home town of Scott LaFaro. The brilliant bassist of the Bill Evans Trio influenced the development of jazz bass playing, and the town is keeping his memory alive. He died near Geneva in an auto accident in 1961. Thanks to Rifftides readers Frank Roellinger and Svetlana Ilyicheva for alerting us that last Thursday, Geneva honored LaFaro on his 78th birthday by proclaiming April 3rd its first annual Scott LaFaro Day. On … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: The Girls In The Band

Girls In The Band

The slow acceptance of women as jazz artists is a microcosm of the larger struggle for equality of females in society. For decades, women jazz performers were largely relegated to ghettos known as all-girl bands. Today, increasing numbers of gifted women jazz artists are accepted on an equal footing with men. The Girls In The Band, created with skill, sensitivity and documentary professionalism, is the story of the women who opened the way. There were, and are, many more of them than the handful … [Read more...]

Clear Thinking On The Tour Front

Billy Mintz by Picket

Best Press release of the week. Of course, it's only Sunday. Billy Mintz Quartet tours in New York May 2014 No more sneaking oversize instruments past the airlines! No more cramped economy seats! No more European trains where you jump up in a panic every time the conductor makes an announcement in a language you don’t understand! No more gas guzzling tour buses that smell like a bathroom! The Mintz Quartet announces a glorious five-day tour where the band can literally walk from one gig to … [Read more...]

Other Places: Susan Pascal On The Air (And The Web)

Pascal Quintet

On his Jazz Northwest broadcast this afternoon, April 6, Jim Wilke is airing an appearance by vibraharpist Susan Pascal. Recorded by Wilke recently at Tula’s in Seattle, Pascal will lead her quintet in the music of Cal Tjader. The band (seen above) includes some ofthe Pacific Northwest’s leading lights—pianist Fred Hoadley, bassist Chuck Deardorf, drummer Mark Ivester and Latin percussionist Tom Bergerson. The program airs at 2pm PDT on KPLU-FM, 88.5 and will stream live on the internet at … [Read more...]

Rifftides Redivivus…Again

Screen shot 2013-12-29 at 11.50.11 AM

For the past couple of days, Rifftides and all of the arts journal.com blogs have been hors de combat. Unlike last week's outage, this was not caused by hacker bots, but by good intentions gone awry. The webhost organization was moving databases to give them greater security and somehow misconfigured rather than reconfigured them. Don't ask me to explain that. I'm just relieved that we're back and no longer feeling like the guy on the left. Thanks for coming back. … [Read more...]

Iola Brubeck Service, Brubeck Festival

Brubecks, Armstrong

The family of Mrs. Dave Brubeck has announced that there will be a small memorial observance in Wilton, Connecticut on April 21. Iola Brubeck died on March 12 at the age of 90, 14 months following the death of her husband. In a letter, their oldest son Darius pointed out that next week’s Brubeck Festival at New York’s Lincoln Center will be a tribute to both of his parents. There is a wonderful exhibition already in place, including almost-life-size photos of Iola and Dave working on … [Read more...]

Other Places: Avakian’s Archive, Coltrane’s Horn, Shaw’s Story, A Call For Help


New York City’s Library for the Performing Arts announces that it has received the archives of George Avakian, who supervised some of the most influential jazz recordings of the past 70 years. At first as a student working part time for Columbia Records and then as an executive at Columbia and, later, RCA, Avakian was responsible for recordings by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck, among dozens of other artists. The library will catalog his personal papers as well as … [Read more...]

CD Recommendation: The Keynote Box

Keynote set

The Keynote Jazz Collection 1941-1947 (Fresh Sound) The Keynote records produced by Harry Lim trace jazz as it evolved from traditional through swing and bebop. The 11 CDs in the set begin in New Orleans with George Hartman’s trad band. By the time they end, the listener has spent time with a wide cross section of the decade’s best musicians, including Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Lennie Tristano, Red Rodney, Dinah Washington, Shorty Rogers, Sid Catlett, Dodo Marmarosa and dozens of others. … [Read more...]

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 journal.com 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...]