Chico Hamilton


Chico Hamilton’s drumming with the original Gerry Mulligan Quartet and his own small groups helped introduce many young listeners to jazz in the 1950s. His death last week in New York brought a reaction from Don Conner that may strike a chord with other Rifftides readers. R.I.P.Chico Hamilton! Chico died recently at 92. This was meaningful to me as Chico's group was the first live band I'd ever heard. I was 18 and L.A. was dark and mysterious. I was in the military. Needless to say, my … [Read more...]

Hear Ye! New Recommendations

Bell Ringer

It's December and the gentleman to the left is calling your attention to the new Rifftides batch of things that we recommend you hear, watch and read. The CD suggestions include an indispensable collaboration finally being reissued after half a century, a mainstream trio and a decidedly un-mainstream quartet. The DVD catches Thelonious Monk concertizing in Paris. The book is a biography of one of the most public and most elusive of major jazz artists. The notices will appear under Doug's Picks … [Read more...]

CD: Jeremy Steig, Featuring Denny Zeitlin

Flute Fever cover

Jeremy Steig, Flute Fever (International Phonograph) The Rifftides campaign for a reissue of the 1963 debut recording of flutist Jeremy Steig and pianist Denny Zeitlin got underway with this observation in a 2005 post: On Sonny Rollins’s “Oleo,” each of them solos with ferocious thrust, chutzpah, swing and—one of the most challenging accomplishments in jazz—a feeling of delirious freedom within the discipline of a harmonic structure. Fifty years after it appeared, Flute Fever … [Read more...]

CD: Christian McBride

C. McBride Out Here

Christian McBride Trio, Out Here (Mack Avenue) Bassist McBride was so accomplished so young, it’s natural that at 41 he is an elder statesman grooming emerging players. Pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., are the impressive young members of McBride’s new trio, working beautifully with him in all of the areas in which he excels; rhythmic power, melodic inventiveness and unity of purpose. Highlights: the bone-deep swing in Oscar Peterson’s “Easy Walker” and McBride’s “Ham … [Read more...]

CD: Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp

Perelman Enigma

Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, Whit Dickey, Gerald Cleaver, Enigma (Leo Records) Perelman, a Brazilian living in New York, is a tenor saxophone virtuoso who does not allow standard jazz operating procedure to dictate his approach. In other words, he plays free jazz. His frequent partner is pianist Matthew Shipp, whom the critic Neil Tesser has identified as Perelman’s “blood brother.” The two record together so often —I count 12 albums in the past two years—that keeping up with them … [Read more...]

CD/DVD: Thelonious Monk

CD cover, "Paris 1969" by Thelonius Monk. Credit: Blue Note Records

Thelonious Monk, Paris 1969 (Blue Note) Dismiss claims that Monk was a burnt-out case after about 1965. There was already evidence to the contrary in the Black Lion recordings, his work with the Giants Of Jazz and the brilliance of his unexpected 1974 Carnegie Hall concert. Now, there is also this DVD assembled from film of a concert at the elegant Salle Pleyel. Monk still had his stalwart tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse. His new young sidemen on bass and drums had broken in nicely. … [Read more...]

Book: Terry Teachout On Ellington

Teachout Duke Book

Terry Teachout, Duke: A Life Of Duke Ellington (Gotham) Teachout takes readers as close as it may be possible to come to Ellington’s thought processes about his music, about himself and about other people. A charming deflector of inquiry into his compositional techniques, his opinions and his motivations, Ellington was his own most closely guarded secret. Teachout applies his formidable research and narrative skills to parallel stories: Ellington’s relationships with family, friends, sidemen, … [Read more...]

Listening Tip: Desmond on the BBC

Desmond BBC headshot

In the wake of the British Broadcasting Corporation's recent programs about Bill Evans, Rifftides reader Brenton Plourde notifies us of a new BBC series to be streamed on the internet. Beginning tomorrow, Geoffrey Smith's Jazz on BBC Radio 3 will air a weeklong series about Paul Desmond and his music. The BBC's preview page does not make clear whether the shows will be available to web listeners outside the United Kingdom. For an advance look at the program rundown, go here. … [Read more...]

Thanksgiving 2013


This is a national holiday in the United States, important ever since the newly arrived Pilgrims and the native Wampanoag gave thanks in 1621. To Americans observing it, the Rifftides staff sends wishes for a happy Thanksgiving. To readers in the US and around the world: thank you for your interest, readership and comments. … [Read more...]

Paul Desmond: Take Eighty-Nine

Ellington BD All Stars

Every November 25th since Rifftides debuted in 2005, we observe Paul Desmond’s birthday. He was born in San Francisco on this date in 1924, which, that year, was Thanksgiving. To the left, we see Desmond six months before he died in May of 1977. He’s watching Jim Hall carve the turkey that Jim’s daughter Devra prepared when she hosted her parents and Paul for a 1976 Thanksgiving dinner at her New York apartment. Longtime recording partners, Desmond and Hall were close friends. One of their rare … [Read more...]

Other Matters: That Day

Kennedy in Motorcade

Nearly all Americans who were alive when President Kennedy was murdered remember how and where they got the news. In announcing her revitalized blog, Carol Sloane asked her contacts to recall what they were doing on November 22, 1963. This is what I sent her: My camera crew and I were in the ballroom of the Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon, interviewing Denise Tourover, the national head of Hadassah. Mrs. Tourover was from Washington DC. She was a friend of the Kennedys. I had just … [Read more...]

Recent Listening In Brief: Free Scott Robinson


In a pair of duo albums the protean Robinson confines himself to 10 instruments from his arsenal. Alphabetically, they range from alto sax to zither, sonically from the rumbling contrabass saxophone to the altissimo twittering of the sopranino sax. His accompanists are pianists, although in Záhadná Emil Viklický also plays organ and solovox and in Afar Frank Kimbrough doubles on electronic harpsichord, clavioline and two kinds of organ. As for the music, you were expecting maybe the Great … [Read more...]

More On Krall

Diana Krall head shot

It dawned on me this evening that the post below was not the first time that Rifftides has addressed the question of Diana Krall's popularity in the context of arguments about the quality of her artistry. An item from three-and-a-half years ago makes some of the same points. More important, it contains a video clip from a Paris concert that is worth seeing and hearing. It also has a quote from and a link to an astute article about Ms. Krall by the late Gene Lees. To find the May, 2010 post, … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: The Diana Krall Phenomenon

Krall Montreux

Most of the sniping about Diana Krall follows the pattern of fire that successful jazz artists have long drawn when they achieve even moderate success in the commerce of show business. The list of those charged with selling out when they became solvent includes Nat Cole, Dave Brubeck, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Wes Montgomery, Cannonball Adderley and, in his final crossover phase, Miles Davis. In recent years, market demand for jazz has not been high enough to develop many targets for critics who … [Read more...]

Listening Tip: The BBC’s Bill Evans Series


Pianist, composer and Bill Evans expert Jack Reilly alerts us to a five-part program about Evans. Donald Macleod hosts the Composer Of The Week series about Evans's life, with three of the episodes devoted to his work with Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and the producer Helen Keane. The BBC is making the series available on the internet for a short time. The opening segment will be heard for only two more days. The remaining four expire on successive days. To listen to them, Go here. … [Read more...]

Rockin’ And Rollin’ In Santa Barbara

l to r Lewis, Perkins, Presley, Cash

Visiting Santa Barbara, California, I was offered a ticket to last night’s performance of the traveling theatrical production Million Dollar Quartet. It is unlikely that I would have sought out a rock and roll musical, but my hosts took me along. The magnificent Granada Theater on State Street was nearly overflowing. The crowd’s appearance indicated that most people in the audience were of high school age when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were in the first wave of … [Read more...]

Odds And Ends: L.A. And New York

Studio City

Every time I return to Los Angeles, I am reminded why my years living there were often surprisingly interesting in small ways. Somewhere in the accompanying postcard photograph is Moorpark Street in the Studio City section. Among Studio City’s 35,000 residents are show business figures, and among its businesses are the kinds that help give L.A. its cultural flavor. On one side of one block of Moorpark between Tujunga and Kraft avenues, these are these businesses nestled cheek by … [Read more...]

Update: That Holman Documentary project

Bill Holman Vitello's 2

The producer of the Bill Holman documentary was concerned that the Holman band’s live performance of his Thelonious Monk arrangements would be lightly attended. Kathryn King and her crew were to film the concert, and she was hoping for enthusiastic response by a big crowd. As it turned out, she needn’t have worried. Vitello’s, a little club in the Studio City area of Los Angeles, was packed on Friday evening. The response was indeed enthusiastic, ending with a standing ovation answered by an … [Read more...]

Autumn Leaves (and other tunes) In Central Park


Across the country from warm and sunny Los Angeles tomorrow, New York’s Central Park will be full of leaves turning color and 30 bands serenading the season. It is the park’s annual Jazz And Colors celebration. The photograph is from last year’s event. For information, including a list of the bands and a map, go here. … [Read more...]

Holman Revisits Monk

Bill Holman Conducting

Watching and listening to Bill Holman put his big band through its paces was a rare treat. The 86-year-old leader was preparing his troops for a rare public performance of his arrangements of the ten Thelonious Monk compositions in his celebrated Brilliant Corners album. Allowed to drop out of sight, never reissued, Holman’s Monk CD recorded in 1997 is one of the large-ensemble masterpieces of the second half of the twentieth century. Nor has there been anything that I know of to match it in the … [Read more...]

Stars In The East

S. Kuhn Sort of Smiling

If I weren’t flying south today, I might very well be looking for a plane headed east. If you live in the northeastern US, you may want to know about these events: Steve Kuhn has lined up a rarity in these days of one-shot engagements; four nights in the same club, Thursday through Sunday at the Jazz Standard in New York City. For decades a pianist of uncommon depth and inventiveness, Kuhn has in his trio Buster Williams on bass and Billy Drummond on drums. That’s all the information it would … [Read more...]

A Bill Holman Project, A Rifftides Hiatus


Rifftides is going into partial suspension for a few days. I’m involved in a documentary about Bill Holman (pictured), the composer, bandleader and NEA Jazz Master universally regarded as one of the greatest of all jazz arrangers. I will be in Los Angeles for a few days to interview Mr. Holman. Kathryn King Media, a veteran producer of projects related to music, is making the film. Ms. King reports that the production will be supported in part by a fundraising campaign and that information about … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Wess And Coles

Frank Wess, Johnny Coles

During the week when we lost Frank Wess, it has been impossible not to keep thinking about him—and listening to him. Today’s listening was to Uptown Records’ marvelous two-CD set of Wess in his partnership with trumpeter Johnny Coles (1926-1997). Their quintet was a 1980s band that reflected trends of the previous three decades. It was a platform not only for two nonpareil horn soloists but also for rhythm sections made up of some of the music’s brightest younger players. The first disc, … [Read more...]


pumpkin 2013

Favorite front porch exchange with one of tonight's scores of trick-or-treaters. Me: "Don't eat too much of that candy." Eight-year-old Green Hornet: (with a sigh of exasperation through his mask) "I know ." … [Read more...]

Weekend Listening Tip: Anthony Wilson Nonet

Anthony Wilson Nonet

As noted occasionally on Rifftides, the creative power of medium-sized jazz ensembles often exceeds their size. Go here to read several posts on that topic. The guitarist Anthony Wilson added to the mid-sized genre’s discography with his Power of Nine in 2006. Over the summer, he revived the group and peopled it with an impressive array of name musicians. Jim Wilke, winner of the Jazz Journalist Association’s broadcaster award, recorded the group and will put them on the air and stream them on … [Read more...]

Frank Wess, January 4, 1922 – October 30, 2013

Frank Wess

We have confirmation that Frank Wess died today. The flutist and saxophonist succumbed to kidney failure at 91. Wess played with undiminished spirit and creativity that kept him in the forefront of jazz soloists for decades after most of his contemporaries had retired or died. A professional from the age of 19, following service in World War Two Wess joined Billy Eckstine's big band. After earning a conservatory degree in flute, he became a member of Count Basie's reed section in 1953 and … [Read more...]