Other Places: Cerra On Reid On Tjader

Reid Tjader bio

The latest post on Steve Cerra’s Jazz Profiles blog is about S. Duncan Reid’s biography of Cal Tjader (1925-1982). The subtitle of Reid’s book identifies Tjader as “The Man Who Revolutionized Latin Jazz.” There may be those who assert that Dizzy Gillespie, Machito and Tito Puente should get at least equal credit as revolutionaries in the field, but there is no question that Tjader’s pioneering attracted huge attention to Latin idioms. He was as successful in mainstream as in Latin jazz. Among … [Read more...]

Now You Can Hear That Kenton-Mulligan Concert

Jim Wilke gazing intently

On his Jazz Northwest program this Sunday, Jim Wilke (pictured) will play highlights of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra’s recent concert of the music of Stan Kenton and Gerry Mulligan. Jim put on his beret of a skilled audio engineer and recorded the June 22 concert. From Jim’s Jazz Northwest announcement: The concert includes music composed by Stan Kenton and Gerry Mulligan and played and recorded by both bands. Baritone saxophonist Bill Ramsay is featured prominently in Gerry … [Read more...]

Independence Day With Fischer and Cohn

Happy 4th of July

Today, the United States of America is celebrating the 238th anniversary of its independence. Rifftides observes the 4th of July with two versions of the song that many Americans wish was the national anthem. Pianist Clare Fischer arranged the first for his 1967 album Songs For Rainy Day Lovers. The second version is by tenor saxophonist Al Cohn with Barry Harris, piano; Sam Jones, bass; and Leroy Williams, drums. footnote: Al Cohn recorded “America The Beautiful” in 1976 as part of his … [Read more...]

Cool Music For Hot Weather: Sonny Clark

Sonny Clark

Now that wilting temperatures are here—at least in much of the northern hemisphere—Rifftides reader Larry Peterson suggests that Sonny Clark’s “Cool Struttin’” can bring welcome relief. Clark was a pianist who in a tragically short career attracted a substantial audience. His command of the keyboard and personalization of the style that he developed with Bud Powell as his initial model also earned him the esteem of his peers. Bill Evans created an anagram of Clark’s name as the title … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Theo Croker

Theo Croker cover

Theo Croker, Afro Physicist (Okeh) Much of the verbiage about the elimination of borders between musical categories is the work of publicists. It is marketable to be, or claim to be, cross-genre. However, in the case of Croker, an impressive 28-year-old trumpeter, his new album substantiates the claim. It touches on hip-hop, R&B, bebop and 1970s soul, but at its core his playing extends the mainstream jazz tradition of which his grandfather, the great trumpeter Doc Cheatham, was a vital part. … [Read more...]

NEA Jazz Masters: Joe Segal

Joe Segal

Joe Segal, who last week was named a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, has been at the heart of jazz in Chicago since the early bebop era. He began presenting jazz events following World War Two when he was attending Roosevelt College on the GI Bill. It was not unusual for name musicians, including Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins, to join local players in Segal’s afternoon sessions. When the Roosevelt sessions ended in 1957, Segal moved his entrepreneurial … [Read more...]

NEA Jazz Masters: Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd

This is a good year for jazz saxophonists from Memphis, Tennessee. Like his fellow Memphian George Coleman, who is three years older, Charles Lloyd (born 1938) has been named a 2015 Jazz Master of the National Endowment for the Arts. Along with Coleman, pianist-composer-arranger Carla Bley and Chicago club owner and entrepreneur Joe Segal, Lloyd will receive his NEA Jazz Master award next April in a Jazz At Lincoln Center ceremony in New York. Among Memphis musicians who mentored and … [Read more...]

NEA Jazz Masters: George Coleman

George Coleman

Tenor saxophonist George Coleman is one of four 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters named this week. He, Carla Bley, Charles Lloyd and Chicago’s Jazz Showcase impresario Joe Segal will be inducted in a ceremony next spring in New York. In our previous post, Rifftides presented Ms. Bley in performance. As a 17-year-old alto saxophonist in 1952, Coleman launched his professional career impressively in his native Memphis, Tennessee, landing a gig with bluesman B.B. King. While … [Read more...]

NEA Jazz Masters: Carla Bley

Carla Bley conducting

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced next year’s NEA Jazz Masters. They are composer, pianist, arranger and bandleader Carla Bley (pictured); saxophonists George Coleman and Charles Lloyd; and—for jazz advocacy—Joe Segal, whose Jazz Showcase in Chicago has presented the music for more than 60 years. They will receive their awards at Lincoln Center in New York City on April 20, 2015, during Jazz Appreciation Month.How better to recognize them now than to share memorable … [Read more...]

Shameless Book Plugs


The special arrangement with the publisher of my novel Poodie James has been extended. Rifftides readers may acquire autographed copies at a reduced price. To see a description of the book, read an excerpt and learn how to order, click on Purchase Doug's Books on the blue border above. The special price will be in effect until the limited supply runs out. Here are a couple of comments: Doug Ramsey is the John Steinbeck of apple country. Rich with sweet detail of the unique landscape of … [Read more...]

Recommendation: Sonny Rollins


Sonny Rollins, Road Shows Volume 3 (Okeh) Thriving on the energy he gets back from his listeners, Rollins can electrify them. In the third volume of his Road Show series the formidable tenor saxophonist sends currents through audiences in Japan, the United States and four places in France. The solitary listener to the recording may find himself joining in the ovations for Rollins’s audacity, humor and explosions of creativity. From 2001 to 2012, his accompanists vary, although the stalwart … [Read more...]

The SRJO Meets Kenton And Mulligan

SRJO KentonMulligan

With considerable help from the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, Stan Kenton and Gerry Mulligan packed two halls over the weekend. Yesterday the SRJO played at the Kirkland Performance Center across Lake Washington from Seattle, the night before at the Nordstrom Recital Hall in downtown Seattle. The band is co-led by drummer Clarence Acox and saxophonist Michael Brockman. With one exception, everything they played was associated with Kenton and Mulligan. SRJO: Randy Halberstadt, piano; Phil … [Read more...]

Kenton And Mulligan In Seattle

Sparks, SRJO brass

Mrs. Ramsey and I are off across the Cascade Mountains tomorrow to the Seattle suburb of Kirkland to hear the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra recreate the music of Stan Kenton and Gerry Mulligan. I presume that the charts will be Kenton and Mulligan originals and the solos will be original, too. Pictured: Phil Sparks and members of the SRJO brass I'll try to remember to take notes. … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Catching Up With Darcy James Argue


It has been too long since we checked to see what Darcy James Argue and his band of young New Yorkers—The Secret Society—have been up to. When we first took notice of Argue and his crew, they were indeed still pretty much a secret. Since then, the band has won awards in several polls. Argue, a Canadian who transplanted from Vancouver to New York, has been singled out for his compositions and arrangements. College and high school jazz and stage bands interested in performing music of … [Read more...]

On Horace Silver

Horace Silver # 2

Horace Silver, whom we lost yesterday, believed that worthwhile music arises from feeling. He thought that to be true to himself, he had a responsibility not to let fashion or artifice deflect him from what his feelings dictated. Fortunately for him, and for us, he had the skill and the imagination to transmit his feelings through his pen and his fingers. By the early 1950s, the top flight of modern jazz musicians had absorbed the theories and methods of bebop. Many were at the outer limits of … [Read more...]

Horace Silver, RIP

horace silver 07

Word has just come in that Horace Silver died today at the age of 85. For details, see Peter Keepnews’ obituary of Silver in The New York Times. Tomorrow, we will have reflections on Silver’s career and importance to music. … [Read more...]

Aaron Sachs & Jimmy Scott, Gone

Aaron Sachs

It is sad to hear of the recent deaths of Aaron Sachs and Jimmy Scott. Sachs was a gifted clarinetist and tenor saxophonist who never became as well known as many of his contemporaries despite yeoman work in bands led by Van Alexander, Red Norvo, Benny Goodman, Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, Tom Talbert and Buddy Rich, among others. In the 1960she became a stalwart in Latin jazz, playing for Machito, Tito Puente, and Tito Rodriguez. Sachs would have been 91 on the 4th of July. I recently saw him … [Read more...]

Moon Love

Impressionist Moon 61414

Tired but not ready to go to bed, I wandered into the back yard at midnight, camera in hand, to see if the full moon was visible. Slipping in and out of cloud banks that looked hand-tinted, the moon gave the southeastern sky the look of an impressionist painting. As I gazed moonstruck, a number of songs came to mind, none more powerfully than “Moon Love,” adapted in 1939 by Mack David, Mack Davis and Andre Kostelanetz from the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Glenn Miller … [Read more...]

Happy Fathah’s Day

Earl Hines

One of Earl “Fatha” Hines’s greatest admirers, fellow pianist Dick Wellstood, wrote in the liner notes for Earl Hines: Quintessential Continued, Behold Earl Hines, spinner of yarns, big handed virtuoso of the black dance, con man extraordinaire, purveyor of hot sauce. Behold Earl Hines, Jive King, boss of the sloppy run, the dragged thumb, the uneven tremolo, Minstral of the Unworthy Emotion, King of Freedom. Democratic Transcendent, his twitchy, spitting style uses every cheesy trick … [Read more...]

Recent Listening: Lucky Thompson

Thompson NYC

Lucky Thompson: New York City 1964-65 (Uptown) Uptown’s two-CD Thompson set, released in 2009, inspired a brief flurry of comment and soon slipped under the radar. It deserves renewed attention. The album documents two live appearances of a musician who reached less fame than his ability and importance warranted. Thompson worked in the 1940s and ‘50s in Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet and with the big bands of Billy Eckstine, Tom Talbert and Count Basie. Hank Jones, Oscar Pettiford and Milt Jackson … [Read more...]

2014 JJA Award Winners

JJA Awards

Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Maria Schneider and Cecile McLorin Savant were among the winners announced at the Jazz Journalists Association’s awards ceremony this week. Hancock won the JJA’s 2014 award for Lifetime Achievement In Jazz. McLorin Salvant was named Up And Coming Artist of the Year and Female Singer of the Year. Shorter is another double winner; JJA members named him Musician of the Year and his Without A Net album of the year. Schneider (pictured) hit a triple: She won as … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Mount Adams

Mt. Adams 61114

This is Mount Adams, on the edge of the Yakama Indian Reservation, 60 miles southwest of Rifftides world headquarters, at 10 o'clock this morning. At 12,307 feet, Mount Adams is the second highest mountain in the Cascades chain, after Rainier at 14,410. The Yakamas call the mountain Pahto. Here's a line from the annals of the U.S.-Indian Treaty Councils: The great white mountain represents the ways of the past – the pursuit of game on the foothills, the gathering of wild plant … [Read more...]

Moscow Shadows And Igor Butman

Korbut shadow mini

Occasional Rifftides Moscow correspondent Svetlana Ilyicheva sent a dramatic photo by the Russian photographer Pavel Korbut. We show it to you with Mr. Korbut's permission. The shadows are those of trumpeter V. Eilenkrieg, saxophonist Dmitry Mos’pan and an unidentified third musician, possibly a bassist. Mr. Korbut caught them performing recently at the Igor Butman Club in Moscow. At 52, tenor saxophonist—and club owner—Igor Butman is one of the best known Russian jazz artists. … [Read more...]

Monday CD Recommendation: Orrin Evans

O. Evans Mother's Touch

Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band, Mother’s Touch (Posi-Tone) Regulars at the uptown New York club Smoke relish not only the musicianship but also the slap-dash camaraderie that pianist Orrin Evans’ big band exhibits during performances. Without the fun and games, the band is just as compelling in this studio recording. Evans’ “In My Soul,” slow and slinky with gospel overtones, sets the high standard that his contingent of bright youngsters and experienced veterans maintains throughout. … [Read more...]

Compatible Quotes: An Occasional Series

It bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem. It’s not. It’s feeling. —Bill Evans Originality’s the thing. You can have tone and technique and a lot of other things but without originality you ain’t really nowhere. Gotta be original. —Lester Young A chimpanzee could learn to do what I do physically. But it goes way beyond that. When you play, you play life. —Jaco Pastorius I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in … [Read more...]

When Sonny Met Frank

Sonny Stitt

After reading the May 24 Rifftides post about the passing of pianist Frank Strazzeri, producer Dick Bank sent a story from Los Angeles. Frank did a recording with Sonny Stitt in the Eighties at Sage & Sound studio in Hollywood. The engineer, Jim Mooney, remembers that Stitt had brought a big bottle with him, which he put next to the piano. He’d refresh himself during breaks. The bottle was emptying faster than it should have, but he said nothing. Finally, he came over to help himself and … [Read more...]