This Week’s Pick: Jessica Williams

Jessica W With Love

Jessica Williams, With Love (Origin) This masterpiece of quiet reflection is the pianist’s first recording since surgery repaired spinal deterioration that kept her out of action for more than two years. With exquisite slowness, she explores eight standard ballads and her composition “Paradise of Love.” In her notes, Williams writes, “I wanted to make an album that while still rooted in jazz, relied less on technique and improvisation and more on emotive depth, melodic purity and space.” Her … [Read more...]

Rushing River

Yakima River Spring 2014

The winter of 2013-2014 was relatively mild in the Pacific Northwest. Still, there was plenty of snow in the Cascades. It is melting and filling the rivers, not to overflowing, but with water high and fast enough to pull trees out of the banks. Here, you see the Yakima River at noon today carrying one of those trees southeast toward the Columbia. The National Weather Service reports that the Yakima is near flood stage in the river canyon between the towns of Yakima and Ellensburg, but no … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Nobody Else But Kern

Jerome Kern

Jerome Kern (pictured) wrote his last song nearly 70 years ago, but the freshness of its melody, hipness of its harmonies, surprise of its extended form and charm of Oscar Hammerstein II’s lyric make it seem perpetually new. Jan Clayton sang the new song, “Nobody Else But Me,” for Kern’s and Hammerstein’s 1946 Broadway revival of their 1927 masterpiece Show Boat. Lou Dinning had the vocal in Paul Weston’s popular early recording. Among the countless musicians entranced by the piece since then … [Read more...]

Remember Mr. P.C.?

Mr. PC wide

It has been slightly more than two years since the Rifftides staff has alerted you the invaluable work of Mr. P.C. He is a counselor to musicians who takes to the web to address problems that are often so sensitive that his clients find it necessary to use clever pseudonyms (“Ted,” for instance) to protect their livelihoods and reputations. “Mr. P.C.,” of course, is not a pseudonym. It is the given name of the Seattle pianist “Bill Anschell,” which is a pseudonym. Here is an exchange from Mr. … [Read more...]

About Clark Terry

Gwen & Clark Terry

Gwen Terry told me today that at 93 her husband continues “as a tribune of survival.” The trumpeter, singer and NEA Jazz Master continues to confront his mobility and vision problems at home under ‘round-the-clock care paid for in great part by fans and admirers. For details about how to help, go here. To the left, we see Mrs. Terry congratulating her husband last fall on his induction into Lincoln Center’s Neshui Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame. She said today that his physical difficulties and an … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Armen Donelian

DonelianSayat-Nova

Armen Donelian, Sayat-Nova: Songs Of My Ancestors (Sunnyside) Alone and with a trio, Donelian plays works that inform his sense of who he is and confirm that great music is timeless and universal. The music of the Armenian composer Sayat-Nova (1712-1795) is redolent of Middle Eastern values, but as we become accustomed to musical idioms of the world melding, it would sound astonishingly modern even without the jazz and classical sensibilities that Donelian applies to it. Some of the solo … [Read more...]

Down At Small’s

Smalls

Smalls Jazz Club is in the eighth year of its most recent incarnation as a bastion of uncompromising jazz in New York City. A couple of blocks down 7th Avenue from the Village Vanguard, a couple up from The Garage, it is in a part of Greenwich Village that may be as close as we’re going to see to a 21st century equivalent of the 52nd Street of the 1940s and ‘50s. In addition to presenting established musicians—Jimmy Cobb, Ethan Iverson, Jeremy Pelt and Peter Bernstein, among … [Read more...]

Evenin’

Evening 4414

All day, we had fierce winds, grey skies threatening rain—and then at sunset: An evening like ours might have made Jimmy Rushing feel a little better about things than when he recorded this with Count Basie in 1936: Basie, piano; Lester Young, tenor saxophone; Jo Jones, drums; Walter Page, bass; Freddie Green, guitar. You'll find it in this comprehensive package of early Basie. … [Read more...]

Other Matters: Jim Stephenson’s Kid Stuff

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Rifftides was at ebb tide most of this week while I jumped in to help the Yakima Symphony Orchestra teach a couple of thousand children about music. The Chicago composer James Stephenson (pictured) was scheduled to be the narrator for his Compose Yourself, a 50-minute tour through instruments of the orchestra, long scheduled for the YSO’s annual children’s concert. An unforeseen development—the need for the orchestra’s musical director and conductor Lawrence Golan to be elsewhere—meant … [Read more...]

Duke Ellington’s Birthday

Ellington 115th # 1

Today is the 115th anniversary of the birth of Duke Ellington, whose standing among the world’s great figures in music grows with each passing year. Miles Davis long ago summed up Ellington’s importance when he said, “At least one day out of the year all musicians should just put their instruments down, and give thanks to Duke Ellington.” We see Ellington on the left at a 70th birthday gala in Paris in November of 1969. Seven months after the anniversary he was still being feted at … [Read more...]

The Monday Recommendation: CD, Alan Broadbent

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Alan Broadbent And NDR Big Band, America The Beautiful (Jan Matthies Records) Broadbent, a New Zealander who migrated to The United States, writes a tribute to his adopted land and records it with a German band. The shimmering complexity of his arrangement of Samuel A. Ward’s 1892 title tune portrays his affection for the country. That track and his eight other pieces reconfirm Broadbent’s stature among jazz composers and arrangers. His original works include what he calls a “study” on the … [Read more...]

Weekend Extra: Shorty Rogers On TV

Shorty Rogers

Bassist Chuck Deardorf called my attention to a video from the early 1960s, when jazz on the west coast of the US was attracting attention around the world. Many big band sidemen settled in southern California in the 1950s, joining the Los Angeles jazz community that had been vibrant for more than a decade. The former Woody Herman and Stan Kenton trumpeter Shorty Rogers was one of the spark plugs of what critics decided to label West Coast Jazz. By the time Oscar Brown, Jr. hosted Rogers’ … [Read more...]

Other Places: Ellington In Oregon

Lynn Darroch

It has been a long time since we shared a video creation by the poet and broadcaster Lynn Darroch. One of his latest stories recalls Duke Ellington’s relationship with Oregon, beginning in a time when innovation, courage and acceptance made it possible to tour with an all-black band despite restraints in a segregated land. Clay Giberson was the pianist, John Nastos the alto saxophonist. Lynn Darroch is a teacher, journalist and writer. He broadcasts on KMHD-FM in Portland, Oregon. … [Read more...]

Herb Wong, 1926-2014

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Herb Wong, an academic scientist who became prominent as a jazz critic, record company executive and festival producer, died this week. A PhD in Zoology, he was a native of northern California’s Bay Area. Wong continued to follow his boyhood enthusiasm for jazz as he developed an academic career, teaching at the University of California at Berkelely and Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. A gentle man with infectious enthusiasm for all of his interests, Wong taught science, … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: George Cables

Cables I&I

George Cables, Icons and Influences (High Note) After nearly 50 years during which he himself has become a piano icon and influence, Cables offers a dozen pieces that have affected his approach. They are by, about, or reflect the inspiration of an eclectic assortment of musicians including Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, Nat Cole, Dexter Gordon and Tony Bennett. He begins with new compositions in memory of the recently departed pianists Cedar Walton and Mulgrew … [Read more...]

Easter Drums

Unknown

It was a full day, and the holiday greeting is late, but heartfelt. Happy Easter, everyone. Here’s one of the great sequences from the Fred Astaire-Judy Garland-Irving Berlin film Easter Parade. I hope that it makes you happy. For another great Astaire dance and drum sequence from the Rifftides archive, click here. … [Read more...]

Irene Kral

Irene Kral

The previous post was about lilacs, not Irene Kral, but it brought comments clearly indicating that Ms. Kral (1932-1978) is far from forgotten. She is forgotten least of all by her daughters, Jodi and Melissa. Jodi Burnett sent one of the comments. Melissa is seen on the right in her mother's arms as Irene rehearses with Bob Dorough. This was in Chicago in the mid-1960s. A vocalist admired for the purity of her voice and her musicianship, Irene was the sister of Roy Kral of the Jackie and Roy … [Read more...]

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?

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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

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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...]