Rifftides: July 2005 Archives

In Rifftides a month or so ago, you may have read,

Jazz albums should have program notes. Listeners want and deserve information about the music.

You can read the rest of that post by clicking here. I admit self-interest; I sometimes write album essays. Nonetheless, as a listener, I count on program notes to fill me in on the backgrounds of players, composers and arrangers and, often, on the music itself. Writers of liner notes, definitely including this one, depend on discographers. Discographers are unsung heroes.

Discography. The systematic cataloguing of sound recordings. Data for listings, in which aspects of the physical characteristics, provenance, and contents of sound recordings themselves (with their containers and any accompnaying written and iconographic materials) as well as from logbooks, lists, and catalogues compiled by the record producer or manufacturer, journals and other printed materials, and oral sources.—New Grove Dictionary of Jazz

Simply put, the discographer finds out who recorded, when, where and with whom. If that seems trivial, it is not. Much of jazz history has taken place in recording studios and much of it would be lost if discographers did not painstakingly dig it out, verify it and make it available. For purposes of study, jazz recordings are the equivalent of classical scores or popular sheet music. Accurate information about them is not only desirable, it is essential. Perhaps the best analogy is the field of baseball statistics. Two of the pioneers among discographers, in the 1930s, were the Frenchman Charles Delaunay and the Briton Hilton Schleman. They were followed by Charles Edward Smith, Frederic Ramsey, Brian Rust, Jørgen Grunnet Jepsen, Walter Bruyninckx and Tom Lord, all authors of general discographies. There are also many discographers specializing in specific styles, periods and individual musicians.

I'm singling out a pair of contemporary general discographers who, it seems to me, are making a valuable contribution. They are Michael Fitzgerald and Steve Albin. The difference between Fitzgerald-Albin and nearly everyone else in the field is that they offer their work on the internet. On their website, they make a persuasive case that the web is the best tool for discography, better than print, better than the CD-ROM. They write in "A Philosophy of Jazz Discography":

Online discographies are ever malleable, readily accepting additions and corrections and immediately substituting the new version for the old.

You can read all of the explanation, find out how to use their system, which Albin developed and calls Brian (after Brian Rust), and roam through the listings by going to his site, which is cleverly named www.jazzdiscography.com. Fitzgerald and Albin have more than fifty musicians in their discography and are planning on adding many more. They include the famous (Frank Sinatra, compiled by Albin) and the semi-obscure (John Neves. Before you go, for those new to discograpy entries, here's a sample from the www.jazzdiscography.com listing for Sir Charles Thompson, compiled by Bill Gallagher.

Date: March 2, 1945 Location: Los Angeles

ldr- Coleman Hawkins; t- Howard McGhee; tb- Vic Dickenson; ts- Coleman Hawkins; p- Sir Charles Thompson; g- Allan Reuss; b- Oscar Pettiford; d- Denzil Best

Rifftide (Coleman Randolph Hawkins)

Hollywood Stampede - 03:07 (Coleman Randolph Hawkins)

I'm Through With Love - 03:11 (Gus Kahn, Joe Livingston, Matty Malneck)

What Is There To Say - 03:17 (Vernon Duke, E. Y. "Yip" Harburg)

Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams - 03:04 (Harry Barris, Ted Koehler, Billy Moll)

"Hollywood Stampede" is mistitled on the Extreme Rarities issue (#1008) as "Sweet Georgia Brown." "Hollywood Stampede" also appears in the film "Crimson Canary." "Rifftide" was unissued but a tape exists.

I wonder how many of you knew that Coleman Hawkins's middle name was Randolph. I didn't. Nor did I know, until I read this entry, that "Rifftide" was recorded again after the famous Hawkins Capitol date of February 23, 1945, with Vic Dickenson added. That sort of thing is trivia to some, valuable information to others. Enjoy your visit to Michael Fitzgerald's site. Hurry back, if you can tear yourself away.

July 29, 2005 1:05 AM |

Fellow artsjournal.com blogger, indefatigable all-purpose arts critic and small-town New Yorker Terry Teachout is visiting home, down where Missouri meets Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky. He customarily refers to it as Small Town USA, but by giving us a link to the hometown paper, he's blown the town's cover. Tourists will be piling in there by the busload, hoping for a glimpse of his birthplace. Terry is giving a speech there, and the local paper interviewed him in advance.

Teachout noted he wrote his first story for publication for the Sikeston High School newspaper, Bulldog Barker, and plans to talk Tuesday about how the world of journalism has changed, especially by the Internet and new media, since he began writing,

“When I started doing this, I wrote on a manual typewriter. Nobody had a computer,” Teachout said.

You can read the whole story here.

TT's mention of typewriters recalled my typewriter story from the same period. In 1975, I had just taken over the news department of KSAT-TV in San Antonio. We were drastically underequipped and misequipped. When I wrote my first budget, I put in for ten IBM electric typewriters to replace the broken-down manuals the reporters battled every day. The general manager supported me, but the president of the broadcasting company went through the roof. "A bunch of journalists don't need that fancy equipment," he said. "They'd just break it."

Such was the speed of the electronic revolution in TV that within a couple of years, film was out, tape was in, the reporters went from manual typewriters to computers and were doing live reports from the field by microwave.

July 28, 2005 4:00 AM |

It is unlikely that there will be a new posting today. The Rifftides staff is on deadline. But, you never know, we could finish early and file something. Watch this space.

As always, we appreciate it when you tell people interested in jazz and other matters about our venture and direct them to Rifftides. Thanks.

July 28, 2005 1:01 AM |

I am adding the writer and musician John Robert Brown’s website to the Other Places list in the right-hand column, and not just because he wrote this:

Occasionally a publication changes one’s thinking. Take Five is such a book. I am old enough to have attended several of Desmond’s concerts back in the 1950s. Doug Ramsey’s account rekindled my respect, taught me more than I had ever imagined about its subject, propelling me into a Desmondmania that set me on a revisionist crusade of buying old Brubeck CDs and raving to my friends about my re-discoveries.

Mr. Brown is, among other things, chairman of the Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain. Some of the articles on his site are devoted to reed players and instruments, and some are simply fascinating reading for people with a general interest in jazz and other matters. Here he is on interviewing Maria Schneider at a big convention of jazz people:

Her Thursday evening concert in the massive Imperial Ballroom of the Manhattan Sheraton, though pitted against three other simultaneous events, was signed ‘house full’. Currently, Maria Schneider is big news. I had arranged to meet her during the afternoon, after a radio interview, in a public area.

Though she had seen me waiting, and acknowledged me, I couldn’t get near for the many enthusiasts wanting to speak to her. When eventually we did meet (it took fifteen minutes), the interrupting fans made it difficult to greet her, and impossible to escort her to the interview lounge. Eventually Schneider coached me in the correct body language. "Look at me and keep talking,” she advised. “Then we won’t be interrupted."

Click here to read the interview. Then, roam around Mr. Brown’s site. Don't miss his disquisition on how to pronounce the name of the letter H. It's under the "General" heading. And I couldn't resist showing you this lead from an article in his classical section.

A Ford Transit van parked in a leafy side street in north Leeds catches my attention. Finished professionally in silver and black, it bears the words: The Keyboard Academy. The piano keys painted on the side of the vehicle leave no doubt that music teaching is involved. Plainly, this is no van ordinaire.

There's no pun like a bilingual pun. It's in a piece about a mobile piano school.

July 27, 2005 1:05 AM |

Rifftides is not a way station for announcements, but if something comes up that I think you'd want to know about, well, of course. This is from trumpeter Marvin Stamm.

If you are of a mind - and awake - please tune tonight - July 26 - to JaiJai Jackson's new jazz radio show at www.xradio.biz/lasvegas from 8-10pm West Coast Time.... just scroll down to "Woman of Jazz" and listen in!

JaiJai (Chubby Jackson's daughter) will be interviewing me and playing tunes from The Stamm/Soph Project Live at Birdland and from By Ourselves, my duo CD with pianist Bill Mays.

The Stamm/Soph Project includes Mays, drummer Ed Soph and bassist Rufus Reid, with guitarist John Abercrombie on several tracks. Mays' "In Her Arms" and Reid's "When She Smiles Upon Your Face" are highlights. Consider both CDs recommended with enthusiasm.

July 26, 2005 1:22 PM |

Regarding the Rifftides posting about the late Tom Talbert, and comments in later editions, Larry Kart writes from Chicago:

I bought Bix Duke Fats when it came out (in the days when you could listen in your local record shop to things by people you'd never heard of before) and since have acquired everything (I think) of Talbert's that has been issued. He was special. Among other things, I love the way he could set up particular soloists in order to draw out their gifts—e.g. George Wallington and Aaron Sachs on Bix Duke Fats. Joe Wilder, too, of course, but there I think Talbert was working with what was evident to all, while with Wallington and Sachs, Talbert perhaps zeroed in on parts of their musical souls that lay a bit below the surface or had not been showcased as effectively before—e.g. what Talbert referred to, wonderfully, as Wallington's "slow-smiling wit."
While I never had the pleasure of meeting Talbert, his notes to Bix Duke Fats suggest that he must have been a very witty, sophisticated man. I remember in particular his remark about Bix being a "moderne" experimentalist as a composer, in contrast to a full-fledged modern artist like Picasso, who was not experimenting but realizing exactly what he was going for. That distinction made a big impression on my unformed adolescent mind. (BTW, I notice that the CD booklet for Bix Duke Fats removes both the reference to Bix being "moderne" and the contrast to Picasso.)
Larry Kart’s new book is Jazz In Search of Itself (Yale). I’ve mentioned it before. It deserves at least two plugs.
July 26, 2005 1:05 AM |

In his newsletter, Blowing My Own Horn, the pianist Hal Galper (Cannonball Adderley, Phil Woods, his own trio) writes,"In truth, I'm a free player in bebopper's clothing."

You might find my history of free playing illuminating. In my early Boston days (the 1960's) I had the good fortune to apprentice with Sam Rivers for 6 years. At the time with Phil Morrison on bass and Tony Williams on drums, followed by my old partner in crime Steve Ellington. We were playing free inside the tunes trying to make them accessible to our audiences by hiding how free we were playing by keeping a groove while still trying to be melodic. (It was many years later that Tony brought the concept, and Sam, into Miles's band [Davis - ed.]). Eventually we recorded a quartet album for Blue Note, A New Conception.

To read the whole thing in printable PDF format, go here. The Rifftides staff also recommends Galper's website for its news and his forthright views.

July 26, 2005 1:05 AM |

To your right, you will find a brand new batch of Doug's Picks.

July 26, 2005 1:05 AM |

A reader sent a message taking me to task for shameless hucksterism.

Can a week go by without you plugging your book? I count 21 mentions since mid June.

So many? I'll try to watch it. I won't tell you the subject of my interview with Megan Marlena of KKJZ, Los Angeles. I guess you'll just have to tune in or go to the station's web audio stream and find out. It will run at 6:35 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. PDT (9:35 and 11:35 EDT) tomorrow, Wednesday.

July 26, 2005 12:01 AM |

It is a challenge to create eleven songs on demand, which is why so many albums consisting entirely of originals are less than compelling. The success rate is high in A Sense Of Wonder, a compact disc of songs written by the veteran Australian tenor saxophonist Laurie Lewis and his lyricist wife Alwyn. Young Heather Stewart sings the songs with a sweet innocence. She handles lyrics well and has good intonation, not an epidemic among vocalists. The jewel of the collection is “Don’t Ask.” I am also taken with the regretful “Rather Than Love” and the title song. Lewis, pianist Mark Fitzgibbon and guitarist Doug de Vries have relaxed solos throughout.

July 25, 2005 1:06 AM |

If you would like to get in touch—I hope—use the e-mail address under Contact in the right-hand column. I try to answer communiques with all possible dispatch. In other words, if it take a few days, please be patient. The Rifftides staff would appreciate your recommending us to your friends and neighbors. The audience seems to be growing, but there is room for expansion. More is more.

July 25, 2005 1:04 AM |

The CBS Radio Weekend News Roundup is running Correspondent Bill Vitka's report on Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond. Based on Vitka's interview with the author, it is a brilliantly produced min-documentary about four minutes long. Wait 'til you hear what he did with "Petrouchka." Click on this link. When the CBS window comes up, scroll down to item 4 and click on "Author Interviews." The segment is at 3:55, after one with Howard Bryant on his book about steroids in baseball; Take Five following strike three.

July 24, 2005 11:03 AM |

DevraDoWrite went to guitarist Jim Hall’s concert last night at the 92nd Street Y in New York. She liked it.

My reaction is favorably biased, of course, as Jim is my dad, but it was a great concert, really. I’m not going to review it — hopefully someone else will, but I will tell you that my favorite part of the program was the second half. That’s when an unusual string section consisting of six cellos and six violas played on three compositions: a Jim Hall original titled October Song, an arrangement of John Lewis’ "Django" featuring Jim along with guitarist Peter Bernstein, and "Goodbye" by Gordon Jenkins featuring Joe Lovano on clarinet and soprano saxophone.

Go here for all of Devra’s comments. Someone else did review the concert...Zan Stewart in The Star Ledger (Newark). His first line: "Jim Hall is a giant of jazz guitar." He liked the concert, too.

Flugelhornist Tom Harrell offered breathy, singing lines on "With a Song in My Heart," as Hall backed him with almost scratchy-sounding chords, then soloed with the warm, full sound that recalled his early career work. And there was tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, who teamed with the honoree for the saxman's "Blackwell's Message." Hall soloed with ideas that ranged between abstract and grounded.

All of Stewart’s review is here.

July 23, 2005 1:13 PM |

Paul Conley of KXJZ in Sacramento turned an interview about Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond into a masterly short program. Conley, who has produced several excellent shows in the NPR Jazz Profiles series, added an announcer introduction, worked in music clips and seasoned the segment with sound bites from Dick Johnson. Johnson was the leader who enticed Desmond away from the Band Box in 1949, leaving Dave Brubeck scuffling...and furious with Paul. (They reconciled. Sorry to spoil the suspense.) To hear the piece, click on this link, then click on "Listen."

July 22, 2005 1:02 AM |

Following the most recent rounds of atrocities—Iraq, London—a friend wanted to talk. He did not have comforting insights into mankind’s oldest philosophical question, nor did I. I don’t know whether Miller Williams has the answer, but this distinguished American poet ponders it beautifully. With his permission, here is one of his finest poems.

Why God Permits Evil:

For Answers to This Question

Of Interest to Many

Write Bible Answers, Dept. E-7

—ad on a matchbook cover

Of interest to John Calvin and Thomas Aquinas
for instance and Job for instance who never got

one straight answer but only his cattle back,
with interest, which is something, but certainly not

any kind of answer unless you ask
God if God can demonstrate God’s power

and God’s glory, which is not a question.
You should all be living at this hour.

You had Servetus to burn, the elect to count,
bad eyes and the Institutes to write;

you had the exercises and had Latin.
the hard bunk and the solitary night;

you had the neighbors to listen to and your woman
yelling at you to curse God and die.

Some of this to be on the right side;
some of it to ask in passing. Why?

Why badness makes its way in a world He made?
How come he looked for twelve and got eleven?

You had the faith and looked for love, stood pain,
learned patience and little else. We have E-7

churches may be shut down everywhere,
half-written philosophy books be tossed away.

Some place on the South Side of Chicago
a lady with wrinkled hose and a small gray

bun of hair sits straight with her knees together
behind a teacher’s desk on the third floor

of an old shirt factory, bankrupt and abandoned
except for this just cause and on the door:

Dept. E-7. She opens the letters
asking why God permits it and sends a brown

plain envelope to each return address.
But she is not alone. All up and down

The thin and creaking corridors are doors
And desks behind them: E-6, E-5, 4, 3.

A desk for every question, for how we rise
blown up and burned, for how the will is free.

for when is Armageddon, for whether dogs
have souls or not and on and on. On

beyond the alphabet and possible numbers
where cross-legged, naked, and alone,

there sits a pale, tall, and long-haired woman
upon a cushion of fleece and eiderdown

holding in one hand a handwritten answer,
holding in the other hand a brown

plain envelope. On either side, cobwebbed
and empty baskets sitting on the floor

say In and Out. There is no sound in the room.
There is no knob on the door. Or there is no door.

©1999 by Miller Williams

Williams wrote and read the inaugural poem at the beginning of President Bill Clinton’s second term in 1997, four years after Maya Angelou was the inaugural poet as President Clinton began his first term. In a PBS program, The Inaugural Classroom, a 12th grader asked Williams how it felt to be compared to Angelou.

``She writes opera and classical music,'' Williams said, ``and I write jazz and blues.”

The late poet John Ciardi summed up Williams this way:

Miller Williams writes about ordinary people in the extraordinary moments of their lives. Even more remarkable is how, doing this, he plays perilously close to plain talk without ever falling into it; how close he comes to naked sentiment without yielding to it; how close he moves to being very sure without ever losing the grace of uncertainty. Add to this something altogether apart, that what a good reader can expect to sense, coming to these poems, is a terrible honesty, and we have among us a voice that makes a difference.

“Why God Permits Evil” appears most recently in Williams’s collected poems, Some Jazz a While. To learn more about Miller Williams, go here.

July 22, 2005 1:01 AM |

The New York pianist George Ziskind observed the changing of the guard at a venerable New York jazz institution and sent us this report.

Monday night I attended the opening shot of this year's "Jazz in July" event at the 92nd Street Y. Dick Hyman, who had long been artistic director of this annual jazz concert series, recently passed that baton to Bill Charlap - and Bill has already made some significant innovations in programming. (Like, how about "The Front Line: Small Group Jazz of Horace Silver and Kenny Dorham")

I attended a master class co-helmed by Charlap and Ted Rosenthal. That alone is reason enough to have been there - two wizard players, both of whom know how to defeat the dreaded "muddy gene" that so often destroys the music when two pianists, no matter how good, play simultaneously.

But this was way more than two good players on two Steinway B's: four students from Manhattan School of Music played two tunes each (a ballad, and something other than a ballad). Following each tune, Charlap and Rosenthal offered cogent commentary. There were a few instances when the playing was on such a super-high level that Bill and Ted were hard pressed to offer any comment.

If the talent shown by Michael Cabe, Gordon Webster, Miro Sprague and Fabian Almazon is an indicator of who's going to handle jazz piano playing after you and I depart this orb, things will be in good hands. Cabe looked to be thirty-something; he could have been a bit younger. The youngest was Miro Sprague, 16. As I wrote Bill and Ted this morning, these two gave me the biggest thrills (not that the others were chopped liver by any means!) Cabe opened with a version of "Be My Love" that simply dripped with inner voices and passing tones. It would have been hard to improve this performance - but possibly taking it into tempo after a chorus or two of rubato might have done the trick, and both Bill and Ted pointed this out in their comments.

Miro Sprague - remember that name! - opened his pair with "All Blues." The best way to describe what he did on the tune would be to paraphrase Charlap's comments: "You took a tune that had been owned by Miles Davis ever since the Kind of Blue LP, and made it your own - and that is a very hard things to do."

I was seated 4-5 feet from the top end of Miro's keyboard and I kept staring at his hands. I had never seen such long, slender, elegant fingers. They just seemed to go on and on . . .

I hope the master class format continues to be a part of the annual Jazz in July event. Oh - one final note about the material played: a significant item on the c.v. of both Charlap and Rosenthal is the fact that they each were a part of Gerry Mulligan's band. Fittingly, they bookended last evening's proceedings with two Mulligan compositions: they opened with "Curtains" and closed with "Rocker." "Rocker" is the better known of the two. I won't even try to describe "Curtains"; it is so loaded with deep and melodic subtlety, I don't think I could do it justice.

"Rocker" was at first called "Rock Salt" when Mulligan wrote it for a Charlie Parker date with strings in the early 1950s. There are two classic recordings of it, in Mulligan's arrangement for the last Miles Davis Birth of the Cool session and with Mulligan's own Tentet. "Curtains" is on the Midas Touch CD by Mulligan's quartet with Rosenthal on piano. It is from a concert in Berlin in 1995, eight months before Mulligan died.

The only information I could find on the web about Michael Cabe, aside from scattered references, was this paragraph from a 2002 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Obviously, he has moved on since then.

Michael Cabe is a 23-year-old jazz pianist/composer who has been active on the Seattle scene for several years. Cabe is a member of the Glynn Brothers Quartet, performs with the Seattle repertory Jazz Orchestra, appears as a solo pianist in many venues, and leads his own Michael Cabe Trio. He has worked with many of Seattle’s top jazz musicians including bebop saxophonist Don Lanphere, multi-instrumentalist Jay Thomas, and one of Seattle’s favorite vocalists Becca Duran. A winner of many musical awards and scholarships in the greater-Northwest region, including the 1997 Bellevue Jazz Festival Award for Outstanding Soloist, and runner-up at the 2002 Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Cabe continues to forge a successful musical career. Cabe grew up in Monroe, Washington, attended Mt. Hood Community College in Portland Oregon, and will complete his jazz studies degree in 2002 at the University of Washington, where he studies with Marc Seales.
July 21, 2005 1:06 AM |

The eminent neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote a letter to The New York Times that touches on the subject of a recent Rifftides posting. Here is the final paragraph:

The human brain is exquisitely sensitive to, susceptible to, the sound patterns of speech and music, but it is only with music, curiously, that we can be so readily overloaded - we see this, in a minor way, with catchy tunes. And I am inclined to agree with Dr. Victor Aziz that such hallucinations may well become more common as we are all constantly bombarded with music, whether we desire it, attend to it, are conscious of it or not.

Dr. Sacks's entire letter is here. The article to which it refers, "Neuron Network Goes Awry, And Brain Becomes an IPod," is here, but because it is older than a week, it will cost you $3.95. Sorry; it's not MY policy.

July 21, 2005 1:04 AM |

I will be blogging lightly today. This may be all there is until tomorrow, unless inspiration or necessity convince me to break away from the deadline article that I’m writing for even more pay than I get from Rifftides.

The Rifftides staff has added a new blog to the Other Places list in the right-hand column. It is the site operated by Joe Moore of KFSR-FM in Fresno. He deals in news about jazz, which lately includes a discouraging number of obituaries. For the most part, his blog is a collection point for articles from all over, but now and then he doesn’t mind giving his opinion. This is the one that made me think his Jazzportraits is a blog worth keeping an eye on. It concerns a track on an album by the singer Mary Stallings with pianist Gerri Allen and drummer Billy Hart, among others.

Someone, (please raise your hand) decided it would be a good idea for Mary to record a cover of Nashville pop diva Shania Twain's chart topping hit "Still the One" (not the song by the band Orleans of the same name, which would have been a better choice).

Like a car wreck that's so horrible you can't take your eyes off of it, after sitting slack jawed through the first listen through this track, I had to click repeat and hear it about 10 more times. The tune is performed slower than the original, in a quasi swing Billy Hart beat that he's used quite often on Geri's records before. Geri's reharmonized the tune with her typical minimalist approach, and then had the (?)inspired(?) idea to overdub this dissonant synth organ part behind Mary's vocals, almost an alien pedal point (the chord does change a few times, but you get the idea). The melody of the tune does NOT lend it to a swing beat, especially the B section (the hook). Mary, who is a true pro, tries to make the best of it, but it's a flat out disaster, and I'm actually shocked it made the record. Simply horrible.

That seems to indicate that Moore listens closely, knows what he’s hearing, and is not reluctant to be blunt. Bluntness is not epidemic in jazz radio. To read the whole review, go here.

July 20, 2005 12:01 AM |

Annie Kuebler, the Mary Lou Williams archivist at the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, gives us further insights into “Rifftide.” That is the 1945 Coleman Hawkins recording that inspired the name of this blog. She does not say that Hawkins stole the tune from Williams, only that it is likely to have been lodged in his mind when he played on a little-known record date with Mary Lou a couple of months before his own session. In the mid-forties, Hawkins and Williams were major swing era musicians encouraging and aiding the younger players who were developing bebop. Hawkins gave Thelonious Monk one of his most important early jobs as a pianist. Wiliams had a profound influence on the new music’s pianists. She told Ira Gitler in an interview for his book Swing To Bop, “We were inseparable, Monk, Bud Powell and I. We were always together every day, for a long time.”

Here is the note Ms. Kuebler sent us about "Rifftide."

On December 15, 1944, Moe Asch recorded six cuts titled Mary Lou Williams and Her Orchestra in New York City. Williams's arrangement of “[Oh] Lady Be Good” is nearly identical to Hawkins's “Rifftide”—and one doesn't need a musicologist to explain it. It just takes a listen. The only real difference is the breaks to accommodate the various musicians. Originally recorded on 78 rpm Asch 552-3 as a three record set, the recording is now available on CD on the Chronological Classics Series # 1021, Mary Lou Williams 1944 -1945. The personnel for four of the cuts is Hawkins – tenor sax; Joe Evans - alto; Claude Green - clarinet; Bill Coleman - trumpet; Eddie Robinson - bass; Denzil Best – drums; and, of course, Williams on piano.

Obviously, this recording precedes "Rifftide," attributed to Hawkins, from Hollywood Stampede on February 23, 1945. I don't believe enough time had passed that Hawkins forgot the source, but that's an opinion. Since my music manuscript archivist career began with Duke Ellington's Collection, I am not judgmental about these things -- just like to lay the facts out. In such matters, I am always reminded of Juan Tizol's reply when asked if Ellington stole songs, "Oh, he stole. He'd steal it from his own self."

Hope this helps. Thank for naming your website after a great underrated artist's arrangement.

Before she joined the Institute for Jazz Studies five years ago, Annie Kuebler spent twelve years at the Smithsonian Institution. There, among many other achievements, she accomplished the massive task of organizing the manuscripts in the Smithsonian’s Duke Ellington collection. Her contributions to preserving large segments of American art and culture are invaluable. Thanks, Annie

July 19, 2005 1:00 AM |

I should have posted this earlier, before the concert it anticipates took place. It's a message from Scott Faulkner, who directs a classical ensemble in Reno, Nevada. Yes, there is a non-gambling culture in Reno. He read yesterday's Harmony and History posting.

I couldn't agree more with you about music being heard instead of listened to. The Reno Chamber Orchestra is playing an outdoor concert tonight and one of the battles that I will no doubt have with the sound man is over whether or not he can play recorded music before our performance. I cannot stand this. People are coming to hear our orchestra, which is a good regional orchestra, but if a polished studio recording of the Berlin Philharmonic is our opening act, we're cooked. Out of the same speakers will come our music and there is no convenient way to explain that wind and mosquitos and heat and better musicians and a million other factors cause their music to sound better than ours. However I am very confident that the experience we will provide will be far more enjoyable and satisfying than if the evening were spent listening to Berlin Phil CDs through the PA at the Hawkins Amphitheater.

When I taught Music Appreciation I used to tell students that silence is the canvas on which musicians paint, so making inappropriate sounds during a performance is like flicking black ink on the page while someone is trying to draw a picture. Many audience members don't realize just how much musicians on stage hear the sounds made out in the hall. Don't even get me started on cell phones, velcro purses, candy wrappers, and watches that tell you for no apparent reason that it is the top of the hour. These comments are more about unamplified music, and probably the more amplified the music the less these things are noticeable...but also the more bland the music must be. The louder the music is, the less people listen. A whisper can convey a whole lot more than a scream, but perhaps people are afraid to trust a subtle statement. In our world, we seem to favor bashing people over the head to get our messages across.

This is day seven of triple digit heat in Reno. The temperature should drop down to about 90 by the time our concert starts at 7:30. But, as they say, "it's a dry heat."

Scott Faulkner confesses that, given his name, he nearly succumbed to the temptation to become a novelist. Instead, he went into music—for the money, no doubt.

July 19, 2005 12:30 AM |

I mentioned in Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond (page 207) that I have heard Desmond, “in the Safeway while reaching for a box of Cheerios,” among many other places. The truth is, I don’t want to hear Desmond, or any other music, in the Safeway, at the gas station, in Starbucks, the Mexico City subway, The Gap or the dentist’s office, certainly not on the street, and not often in my car. I don’t have an Ipod and don’t want one. I want a little peace and quiet now and then.

Most musicians, apparently unlike the public at large, do not want music every moment. Long ago, I struck up a friendship with Jacques Singer, the conductor of the Portland, Oregon, Symphony. One day at lunch in an expensive restaurant, we were planning a television presentation of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Singer asked the waiter to turn off the Muzak pouring down on us from a speaker in the ceiling. It stayed on. Singer asked again. Nothing. He called the manager over and said that if the music did not cease, he would remove the speaker. The manager chuckled and said, “Oh, Maestro, how amusing.” Jacques climbed up on the back of the booth and began reaching for the speaker. The manager said, “Oh, you were serious,” and silenced the Muzak.

In Los Angeles, Bill Holman, Jimmy Rowles, Lou Levy, Bill Perkins and I had an informal luncheon group that got together every month or so. Sometimes it included other musicians, Tom Talbert, Neal Hefti, Jack Brownlow and Lee Katzman among them. We searched a wide swath of L.A. before we found a restaurant, Barone’s in Toluca Lake, that had no background music. We talked about many things, including music, but we did not want music imposed on us. That would have been true whether the music was Oscar Peterson or Nine Inch Nails. Barone’s isn’t there anymore. But, then, neither are Rowles, Levy, Talbert and Perkins.

If I found myself in conversation with Roger Scruton, the British conservative philosopher, journalist, composer, farmer, fox hunter and author of thirty books, we would have a great deal about which to disagree. What a hoot it would be to have that talk. There is one area in which we would not disagree, his views on the omnipresence of music. A few years ago, my wife was so taken with something Scruton wrote, that she copied it by hand. She recently presented it to me. Here, with Mr. Scruton’s permission, is the excerpt.

Harmony and History By Roger Scruton The Wall Street Journal, December 28, 1999

The classical language of music arose from practices, such as singing, dancing and playing, which have begun to atrophy. Instead of singing, people merely “sing along” with pop songs; instead of dancing, they throw themselves about in a sexual display; instead of playing an instrument, they turn on the stereo.

The old culture of listening depended on something else that is no longer easily obtainable: silence…they try to fill it with noise. A new kind of music has emerged, designed not for listening but for hearing—music whose principal device is repetition, which employs only pre-digested harmonies and fragmented tunes, and which relies on a monotonous “back beat” to propel it into the ear and the soul of those who overhear it. People brought up on such music lose the feel for polyphony; their musical attention spans shorten to atrophy; and they grasp musical organization only by moving to a beat.

(Sorry, no link. The full article is available for a fee to subscribers to The Wall Street Journal's online edition.)

The trend gathers momentum with the introduction of so-called Jack Radio stations devoted to flinging into the ether endless successions of records of the kind of unmusic Scruton described. The stations have no live people on the air. Once in a while a robot voice (Jack, Bill, Fred) offers a brief announcement, usually patting the station on the back for being mindless. Go here for a sample.

This is the brave new world of radio music. If you think jazz radio is unaffected, you may not have heard the syndicated satellite shows some public stations now plug into their late-night programming. There are still minimal announcements, but there is no identification of sidemen, no information about the label and no insight into the history of the music or the musicians. It is one step short of continuous music on cable system channels without production or continuity. It is one step short of Muzak, one step short of Jack Radio.

Getting back to Roger Scruton, Sholto Byrnes has a fascinating piece in The Independent about his visit with Scruton at the philosopher’s farm. The introduction reads, “Sholto Byrnes hears the confessions of an intellectual pariah.” Here is a sample.

"One of the great distinctions between the left and the right in the intellectual world," says Scruton, who has held chairs in aesthetics at Birkbeck and philosophy at Boston as well as a fellowship at Peterhouse, "is that left-wing people find it very hard to get on with right-wing people, because they believe that they are evil. Whereas I have no problem getting on with left-wing people, because I simply believe that they are mistaken. After a while, if I can persuade them that I'm not evil, I find it a very useful thing. I know that my views on many things are open to correction. But if you can't discuss with your opponents, how can you correct your views?"

You can read the whole thing here.

July 18, 2005 1:06 AM |

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Greenwich Village jazz club scene and mentioned some of the great clubs that are long gone. DevraDoWrite is visiting the Village, her home town, and posts a lovely piece about her girlhood memories of the place.

Ansonia drugstore on Tenth Street and Sixth Avenue has probably been there for more than fifty years (I can personally attest to at least forty-five), and Bigelows a block and a half south is ancient too. Both used to have a soda fountain, and I loved Ansonia’s root beer floats and Bigelow’s butterscotch sundays. But what I miss most is the diversity of all the little shops and unique stores.

You can read the whole thing here.

Greenwich Village has no monopoly on vanished shopping diversity. It's the same almost everywhere. Where I live, the downtown is virtually bereft of retail stores. An asphalt wasteland south of town contains the retail stores, and they are clones of stores in the other asphalt wastelands and malls across the nation. It’s the same in most medium and small towns. Seattle and Portland still have actual downtowns, although there, too, Devra’s “little shops and unique stores” are being chained out of existence. Go into one of those chain stores...The Gap, Banana Republic, Linens 'n Things, Radio Shack, Starbucks, Eddie Bauer, McDonalds...and you could be anywhere. But you're nowhere. Eddie Bauer started in downtown Seattle in the fifties as a Mom and Pop outdoor outfitter. The Banana Republic started in Mill Valley, California, as a kooky, endearing catch-all kind of clothing place. Each has been acquired by a chain, homogenized to serve corporate quarterly earnings, and bears no resemblance to what made it succeed in the first place. Their gain. Our loss.

July 18, 2005 1:00 AM |

This was too long to fit in Doug's Picks. If you don't like salmon, feel free to skip it, with my sympathy.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, wild salmon are threatened for many reasons, including dams that impede their migration, chemicals that poison streams, overfishing, drought, and water allocation policies. Declining salmon runs engender battles among environmentalists, recreational fisherman, commercial fishing interests, Indian tribes and, of course, politicians.

This Seattle Times story touches on just one aspect of the complex controversy surrounding survival of a species that humans love to eat. Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Pink and Chum varieties are still available, if in limited amounts. None is more desirable than Copper River King, the Chinook caught off Alaska where the Copper River flows into Prince William Sound near Cordova. Fighting torrential, chilly currents, the Copper River King develops rich flesh loaded with Omega 3 oils—good, and good for you.

The farm salmon lobby may try to persuade you that there’s no difference between their fish and wild salmon. I suggest that you buy a filet from a farmed Atlantic salmon and one from a Copper River King, prepare them the same way and judge for yourself. Here’s a splendid recipe to use for your test, borrowed from our friend Nancy, who treated my wife and me to it the other night.

Tray Baked Salmon.
Use a broiler pan or any other oven-proof baking dish that’s about 9” by 11”. Do not oil the pan.

Four 8-ounce thick salmon fillet steaks with or without skin.
7 ounces of fresh green beans, stems trimmed away.
20 small cherry tomatoes
1 to 2 handsful of black olives (Nancy used Calamata pitted olives)
2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
Salt and freshly ground pepper.
2 lemons.
One handful of fresh basil
12 anchovies.

Blanch the trimmed green beans. Put the beans, tomatoes and olives in a bowl. Toss them with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Wash the salmon fillets and pat them dry. Squeeze the juice of ½ lemon over the fillets on both sides, then season with salt and pepper and drizzle the olive oil over both sides. Preheat your oven and the empty roasting tray at the highest oven temperature (Nancy uses 500 degrees). Put the salmon fillets on one side of the tray. Toss the basil leaves into the green bean mixture and place the mixture on the other side of the tray. Lay the anchovies over the green beans. Roast for about ten minutes or until done. Test the doneness of the salmon by assessing the color and opacity. Overcooking robs moisture, flavor and texture. Serve with the remaining lemon quarters. Bon appetit.

To go with your salmon, try this enigmatic wine, one of those daring Washington State blended whites that are getting a lot attention.

July 16, 2005 12:01 AM |

Please notice that there is a brand new batch of Doug's Picks in the right-hand column. The only holdover is in the food category. I'm deciding whether to lay a new salmon dish on you, and how to make it fit in a small space. I'm also deciding whether to keep the food category. What do you think?

July 15, 2005 1:26 AM |

As the new century loomed, it was an honor when Bill Kirchner asked me to contibute to a book he was editing. It turned out to be one of the most significant anthologies ever published about jazz. Now Kirchner announces that the book is entering its next stage of life. Here's his message.

In the fall of 2000, The Oxford Companion to Jazz was published—864 pages long, with 60 essays by 59 distinguished musicians, scholars, and critics. In 2001, the Jazz Journalists Association voted it "Best Jazz Book" of the year. And it received over 50 reviews worldwide, about 90 percent of them positive. My favorite "review," though, came from composer-arranger Johnny Mandel, who remarked: "Putting this book together must have been like being contractor for the Ellington band."

I'm pleased to announce that this month, the Companion has just become available in a new paperback edition, complete with a number of small additions and corrections. It can be purchased in bookstores internationally as well as from a variety of Internet outlets. At, I might add, an even more reasonable price than previously: $29.95 U.S. (retail).

If you haven't yet checked out this book (which a number of schools have used as a textbook), I hope that the following list of essays and contributors will serve as encouragement.

1) African Roots of Jazz—Samuel A. Floyd, Jr.
2) European Roots of Jazz—William H. Youngren
3) Ragtime Then and Now—Max Morath
4) The Early Origins of Jazz—Jeff Taylor
5) New York Roots: Black Broadway, James Reese Europe, Early Pianists—Thomas L. Riis
6) The Blues in Jazz—Bob Porter
7) Bessie Smith—Chris Albertson
8) King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and Sidney Bechet: Ménage à Trois, New Orleans Style—Bruce Boyd Raeburn
9) Louis Armstrong—Dan Morgenstern
10) Bix Beiderbecke—Digby Fairweather
11) Duke Ellington—Mark Tucker
12) Hot Music in the 1920s: The "Jazz Age," Appearances and Realities—Richard M. Sudhalter
13) Pianists of the 1920s and 1930s—Henry Martin
14) Coleman Hawkins—Kenny Berger
15) Lester Young—Loren Schoenberg
16) Major Soloists of the 1930s and 1940s—John McDonough
17) Jazz Singing: Between Blues and Bebop—Joel E. Siegel
18) Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Billie Holiday—Patricia Willard
19) Jazz and the American Song—Gene Lees
20) Pre-Swing Era Big Bands and Jazz Composing and Arranging—James T.Maher & Jeffrey Sultanof
21) Swing Era Big Bands and Jazz Composing and Arranging—Max Harrison
22) The Advent of Bebop—Scott DeVeaux
23) The New Orleans Revival—Richard Hadlock
24) Charlie Parker—James Patrick
25) Cool Jazz and West Coast Jazz—Ted Gioia
26) Jazz and Classical Music: To the Third Stream and Beyond—Terry Teachout
27) Pianists of the 1940s and 1950s—Dick Katz
28) Hard Bop—Gene Seymour
29) Miles Davis—Bob Belden
30) Big Bands and Jazz Composing and Arranging After World War II—Doug Ramsey
31) Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus—Brian Priestley
32) John Coltrane—Lewis Porter
33) The Avant-Garde, 1949-1967—Lawrence Kart
34) Pianists of the 1960s and 1970s—Bob Blumenthal
35) Jazz Singing Since the 1940s—Will Friedwald
36) Jazz Since 1968—Peter Keepnews
37) Fusion—Bill Milkowski
38) Jazz Repertory—Jeffrey Sultanof
39) Latin Jazz—Gene Santoro
40) Jazz in Europe: The Real World Music...or The Full Circle—Mike Zwerin
41) Jazz and Brazilian Music—Stephanie L. Stein Crease
42) Jazz in Africa: The Ins and Outs—Howard Mandel
43) Jazz in Japan—Kiyoshi Koyama
44) Jazz in Canada and Australia—Terry Martin
45) The Clarinet in Jazz—Michael Ullman
46) The Saxophone in Jazz—Don Heckman
47) The Trumpet in Jazz—Randy Sandke
48) The Trombone in Jazz—Gunther Schuller
49) The Electric Guitar and Vibraphone in Jazz: Batteries Not Included—Neil Tesser
50) Miscellaneous Instruments in Jazz—Christopher Washburne
51) The Bass in Jazz—Bill Crow
52) Jazz Drumming—Burt Korall
53) Jazz and Dance—Robert P. Crease
54) Jazz and Film and Television—Chuck Berg
55) Jazz Clubs—Vincent Pelote
56) Jazz and American Literature—Gerald Early
57) Jazz Criticism—Ron Welburn
58) Jazz Education—Charles Beale
59) Recorded Jazz—Dan Morgenstern
60) Jazz Improvisation and Concepts of Virtuosity—David Demsey

It's nice to be in such good company...again. If you are an online shopper, you can find The Oxford Companion to Jazz by following this link.

July 15, 2005 1:25 AM |

Before we retire the current article recommendation in Doug's Picks (right-hand column on this page), I have a few reflections on Shelby Foote's close friend Walker Percy. One of the great American novelists of the twentieth century, Percy learned from Faulkner (a little higher up in the right-hand column), but emulated him more in story-telling ability than in style. Percy's writing is leaner and more precisely layered than Faulkner's. Nonetheless, it is rich in moral and philosophical allusions and metaphors if you care to acknowledge them. If you don't, you can just follow the story. Perhaps that is true of all great novelists but James Joyce. You could even read Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow as a wacky tale about madcap characters caught in World War Two, but it would require a serious effort of idea aversion.

At any rate, after I first posted the little piece about Slate's obituary of Foote, I received this message from Marc Edelman, the culturally aware proprietor of Sharp Nine Records:

If you’re on to Shelby Foote, I’m sure you’re on to Walker Percy.

1. The Moviegoer
2. Love in the Ruins
3. The Last Gentleman
4. Lancelot

I'm a long-time Percy addict. I've read everything of his; The Moviegoer and The Last Gentleman many times. (See page 151 of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond.)I wasn't surprised that Paul liked The Moviegoer. He and its main character had a good deal in common, not least the acceptance, even a certain satisfaction in accepting, that loneliness on one level or another comes as part of the package when you want to live a truly individual life.

I keep Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book close at hand, on the shelf with The Messsage in the Bottle; two fine books about Percy by Robert Coles and Panthea Reid Broughton; and Lanterns on the Levee, by William Alexander Percy, the uncle who raised Walker Percy and guided his intellectual and moral development.

Walker Percy was a medical doctor, a philosopher, a Christian existentialist, a Catholic and a Southerner. All of those elements churned within him, sometimes intermixing, sometimes separating like oil and water, always spurring his search for authenticity, a search like that of Binx Bolling in The Moviegoer. Binx thought,

...the search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life….to become of aware of the possibiity of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.

Percy was onto something.

When I was doing radio and television news at WDSU in New Orleans in the last half of the sixties, I spoke now and then with Dr. Percy, who lived across Lake Pontchartrain in Covington. Between the 6 and 10 pm television newscasts, I did a radio talk show (before the genre was trashed by Rush Limbaugh and his ilk). Often, authors were guests. Percy listened to it regularly and told me that he liked it. After several conversations and considerable cajoling, I talked him into coming on. The day before he was scheduled, he called and said he couldn't do it. That is, he couldn't bring himself to do it. He was too shy.

Percy’s, and Foote's, friend Hodding Carter II did come on, by telephone, and talked about what it was like to run the Greenville Delta Democrat-Times with Mississippi in the throes of the civil rights struggle and three-quarters of white Mississippians hoping he'd be lynched or shot, many of them eager to do it themselves. It was typical of Carter’s graceful heroism that he talked frankly about his battle against racism while the battle was raging and he knew that his enemies were listening. That was one of the best hours of radio in which I was ever involved. When it ended, Walker Percy called and said maybe he’d made a mistake not appearing. But he didn’t offer to change his mind. I left New Orleans as the sixties ended and never spoke with Percy again, to my regret. He died in 1990.

July 14, 2005 1:05 AM |

Since the publication of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, I have done twenty-two radio interviews. Many more are scheduled. Most have been for NPR or PRI stations with jazz policies, but a third of them were aired on general FM (and two AM) stations or networks, including Westwood One and CBS. If the interest of these stations reflects the taste of the audiences, it indicates that there is more acceptance of jazz on the air than we tend to think; jazz, that is, without a modifier, not Soft or Smooth or Easy or Crossover or Slick or whatever may be the latest marketing terms for unjazz and near jazz.

Sunday at 10:30 a.m. EDT, 7:30 a.m PDT, I'll be with Al Vuona on WICN, the Boston-area jazz and folk station in Worcester, Massachusetts. WICN streams its programs on the internet here. We recorded the thirty-minute interview this week for Al's program The Public Eye. It was a lively one. I hope that you can join us.

July 14, 2005 1:04 AM |

The intellectually tireless arranger, composer, saxophonist, leader and writer Bill Kirchner called to my attention an important essay by Martha Bayles. Under the same artsjournal.com umbrella as Rifftides, Ms. Bayles is the proprietor of Serious Popcorn, a web log devoted to film. Her March 31, 2005 piece titled “The Perverse in the Popular” touches on matters of interest to anyone concerned about the size of the audience for serious art and about the quality of music, movies, television, and the internet as a source of entertainment. Here are two excerpts:

The entertainment industries are full of cultivated, intelligent people who think about their work in a much more traditional way than academics do. Recording artists ponder melody and rhythm; film and television scriptwriters wrestle with plot and dialogue; production designers worry about color, texture, and line; actors and directors compare themselves with admired predecessors in film and theater. The language these people speak is a craft language, directly descended from that of the older performing arts. In other words, each craft has its own center of excellence. These people understand the depredations of commerce. But they also strive for that rare prize, the chart or ratings or box office success that is also a work of art. Such miracles don't happen every day, or even every year. But they do happen. And what's more, they last. In this time of dispute over the elite cultural canon, there is surprising agreement about what belongs in the canon of popular culture. The songs of Cole Porter, the compositions of Duke Ellington, the films of John Ford, the comic strips of Walt Kelly, the novels of Dashiell Hammett, and the 39 episodes of The Honeymooners that ran on CBS between 1955 and 1956 are just some of the works now described, without irony, as classic.
Perverse modernism would be a nonstarter today without obscenity. Gone are the days when audiences could be provoked by free verse, loose brush strokes, pounding rhythms, or vivid descriptions of lovemaking. In America, most people accept the right of the artist to do whatever he or she wants, because they know all too well that even if some fussbudget tries to drag an artist into court, the law contains a loophole big enough to drive a Hummer through. If 2 Live Crew’s "As Nasty As They Wanna Be," Robert Mapplethorpe’s X Portfolio, and other controversial landmarks of the past 20 years can all be said to have “serious artistic value” in the eyes of the law, then blood-soaked video games and pornographic Web sites are home free.

You can read Ms. Bayles's entire piece here. It ran originally in The Wilson Quarterly, a fact that makes me think it is time to resubscribe to that valuable little journal.

July 13, 2005 1:05 AM |

Speaking of the cinema, Charlie Shoemake, lightning vibraharpist and late-night TV movie browser, sent a message after he read yesterday's posting about the name of our adventure in blogging.

Concerning the "Hollywood Stampede' session, tell your readers if (truly out of left field) they should stumble sometime in the wee hours of the morning across a 1945 "B" movie entitled The Crimson Canary (Noah Beery Jr.) to grab onto it because they'll see Coleman Hawkins, Howard McGhee, Oscar Pettiford, Sir Charles Thompson, and Denzil Best playing "Sweet Georgia Brown" ("Hollywood Stampede"). I had it on Beta tape years ago but now can't find it, though I continue to search. The band sounds absolutely great and Pettiford, in particular, takes a classic solo. The plot of the movie has Noah Beery Jr. as a dixieland trumpet player on the lam for a murder he didn't commit. While ducking the law, he pops into this club and who should be appearing....you guessed it.

Charlie isn't the only one who can't find The Crimson Canary. I did a deep-dive Google search through a dozen or more web retailers who brag about their stocks of hard-to-get films. No one offered it for sale on DVD, VHS, Beta or cellophane strips. (Does anyone but Charlie still have a Beta deck?) If you know where to find The Crimson Canary, tell us all, please.

July 13, 2005 1:04 AM |

Jerry Jazz Musician has a long interview with the author about Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond. He incorporates photographs and sound clips. While you're there, roam around the JJM site and see all the good things he's up to, but don't forget to return to Rifftides. Please bring friends back with you.

July 12, 2005 1:05 AM |

Now that you ask, the name Rifftides was inspired by a 1945 Coleman Hawkins piece, "Rifftide." The tune was part of the celebrated 1945 Hollywood Stampede session that included trumpeter Howard McGhee, one of the bebop kiddies Hawk nurtured. Thelonious Monk had played with Hawkins the year before. Monk later recorded the tune and called it "Hackensack" Either way, it's based on the harmonic structure of "Oh, Lady Be Good," but copyright law doesn't cover chord changes, and George Gershwin's estate earned no royalties. Nor can titles be copyrighted, so I stole Hawkins's and pluralized it.

July 12, 2005 12:06 AM |

The public television station where I live finally got around to airing the first installment of the new PBS series Legends of Jazz, three weeks after most of the rest of the country saw it. Given the near-absence of jazz on TV, it was welcome. The program presented tenor saxophonist James Moody, clarinetist Paquito d’Rivera, festival impressario George Wein and singers Jon Hendricks and Nancy Wilson, all named jazz masters by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The hour was as much a panel discussion with the host, pianist Ramsey Lewis, as it was a musical event. It served as a preview of and promotion for a thirteen-week series of half-hour shows that will air in the fall. Lewis moderated with relaxation, thoughtful questions and camaraderie that arose from mutual respect between him and his guests. “Wait a minute,” he said to Hendricks, “back up a couple of sentences and tell us about Art Tatum.” That prompted the story of the great pianist grooming the thirteen-year-old Hendricks’ talent in their mutual hometown of Toledo in the early 1930s.

Wein told about cajoling Duke Ellington into reaching for something special at the Newport festival in 1956. The result was “Diminuendo in Blue” and “Crescendo in Blue” with Paul Gonsalvez's celebrated 27-chorus tenor saxophone solo in the “wailing interval.” Moody talked about the thrill of coming out of the service in 1946 and into Dizzy Gillespie’s big band on 42nd Street.

Knocked me out, ’cause I’d be sitting in the band with Diz and I’d look up and there sitting at the bar were Benny Goodman, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins—and in the band, Thelonious Monk, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson.

Then, Moody played a piece indelibly associated with the bebop era, Gillespie’s “Woody’n You.” He was accompanied by the superb rhythm section of pianist Billy Childs, bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Roy McCurdy. They also backed Hendricks in his over-the-hills-and-dales vocalise on Monk’s “Rhythm-a-ning.” In an inexcusable slight, Childs, Carpenter and McCurdy were never introduced until the last seconds of the show, in a fly-by roll of the credits.

D’Rivera told of growing up in a household in Cuba in which all kinds of music were played and studied, so that by the time he was a professional clarinetist and saxophonist he made no distinction among categories. He was equally at home with classical concertos, Afro-Cuban claves and Charlie Parker bop tunes. He demonstrated his range in a virtuoso performance of an unaccompanied, and unidentified, classical piece that melded into a jazz duet with bass guitarist Oscar Stagnaro. Stagnaro got the same anonymous treatment as Childs, Carpenter, McCurdy and the classical piece. Surely, when the fall series airs, the producers will have corrected those little injustices.

Asked about her influences, Nancy Wilson emphasized—above all others—Little Jimmy Scott. Her performance of “God Bless The Child,” with Lewis at the piano, confirmed that there is much more of Scott in her lineage than of the song’s composer, Billie Holiday.

As the program was winding down, Wein introduced Renee Olstead, a fifteen-year-old sitcom star and singer whom he identified as emblematic of his belief that young people will embrace jazz and guarantee its future. Ms. Olstead sang “Taking A Chance On Love,” credibly, then told Lewis that she is making a project of converting her contemporaries to jazz. That brought a round of “Yeah” and applause from the veterans.

It was a charming and engaging program. It lacked the intensity, focus and video artistry of the immortal 1957 The Sound of Jazz on CBS-TV, Ralph Gleason’s Jazz Casual series of the sixties and the Jazz At The Maintenance Shop programs directed by John Beyer for PBS in the late seventies and early eighties. But, after all, it was a pilot and a promo. We may hope that when the series hits in the fall, it will reflect the values of those earlier programs—creative camera work for directors who know how to use it, good sound, lighting without gimmicks, and a minimum of explanation (The Sound of Jazz, the best program of its kind, ever, had almost no talk). In his notes for the long-playing record of the music from that show, Eric Larabee wrote that because of the artistic, if not commercial, success of the television program, there was talk of a series. He said that Whitney Balliett and Nat Hentoff, the critics whose taste and instincts guided the show, should remain in charge.

But one wonders if the miracle can happen twice. Part of the reason that Balliett and Hentoff were let alone was that no one in high authority really understood what they were up to. Now the secret is out and there will be many hazards.

Larabee was right. No successor to The Sound of Jazz, let alone a series, emerged. That does not mean that it couldn’t happen. Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Ben Webster, Vic Dickenson, Gerry Mulligan and all of the other musicians but two who populated The Sound of Jazz are gone. Only the master guitarist Jim Hall is thriving. Clarinetist Jimmy Guiffre survives in ill health. Still, we have important players of several generations with us today. Let us wish the people in charge of Legends of Jazz the understanding, integrity and lack of interference required to gather the cream of today’s jazz artists and present this music on television in the best possible way, simply and naturally. Ms. Olstead’s teenaged peers—and the rest of us—might just dig it.

July 11, 2005 1:05 AM |

The Coleman Hawkins DVD recommendation in Doug’ Picks (right-hand column) mentions an unidentified vibes player. Rifftides reader Russ Chase says the vibist is Harry Sheppard. Barry Feldman, the producer of the CD, confirms it. Sheppard worked in the 1950s with Billie Holiday, Cozy Cole and Sol Yaged and in the ‘60s with Benny Goodman, Doc Severinsen and Georgie Auld. In recent decades, he has been in Houston, where, according to his website, he remains gainfully employed in music at the age of seventy-seven. After listening to one of Sheppard’s CDs, Jon Pareles wrote in The New York Times, “Mr. Sheppard wrings unexpected tones out of his instrument. He juxtaposes a floating vibrato, quick skittering notes and a marimba like percussive tremolo.” Sheppard is reported to be a four-mallet man these days, but at the Hawkins session he used two mallets and still managed to skitter impressively.

Unlike Pee Wee Russell, Charlie Shavers, J.C. Higginbotham and others whom viewers might recognize on the DVD, Sheppard and guitarist Dickie Thompson never became household names, let alone household faces. Thompson is easy to identify once you know to look for that rarity, a left-handed guitarist. He had a distinctive style founded on crisp swing and worked for years in the trio of organist Wild Bill Davis. I came across photographs of him on bassist Ed Friedland’s web site. They show Thompson playing last year in Tucson, where he settled but apparently did not retire. At eighty-seven, Thompson was sporting a nifty red guitar and had less hair than in the late fifties—in fact, no hair—but otherwise looked remarkably unchanged. It used to be said that jazz was a young man’s art. Not if you’re Dickie Thompson or those amazing upper octagenarian pianists Hank Jones and Marian McPartland.

July 9, 2005 5:03 PM |

A reader of Rifftides or Take Five (both, I hope) has been listening to Jim Hall's 1974 Concierto CD in which Hall's sidemen are Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Roland Hanna, Ron Carter and Steve Gadd. She sent a message asking a question at which musicians tend to guffaw when civilians ask it, one that arises out of genuine interest and does not deserve scorn. Here's the exchange:

Q: The track "Concierto de Aranjuez" is hauntingly beautiful. Do the musicians totally improvise, or do they each have a kind of musical outline around which they create? You can guess from the question I'm not a musician, but it's something I've wondered about.

A. Except in the most unfettered avant garde improvisation, there must be a plan or the result will be random noise, which, come to think of it, describes the most unfettered avant garde improvisation. Virtually every piece of music has some sort of tonal organization, whether or not there is a formal chord structure. In the case of "Concierto" on the Jim Hall album, the musicians improvise around the simple and quite lovely harmonies that Joaquin Rodrigo wrote into the adagio section of his famous "Concierto de Aranjuez."

Jazz musicians frequently get questions about whether they know what they're doing. In Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, I included an old Down Beat piece of mine that tells how Paul dealt with the question on one occasion. it's on page 214. Here is the pertinent passage.

Desmond and an old friend were about to reminisce, but one of the Musicarnival actresses had a question.

“I don’t want to show my ignorance,” she chirped, “but do you know what you’re going to play before you sit down, or do you just sort of make it up as you go along?”

Desmond gave her a long look to be sure he wasn’t the victim of a put-on, decided he wasn’t, and explained.

“First of all, I never sit down. But I do try to follow a general plan, which we’ve all discussed on the plane. Chords and things.”

“Oh, you mean sort of like harmony.”

“Yeah, something like that.”

July 8, 2005 1:05 AM |

Yesterday, I renamed Arnold Schoenberg, called him Aaron. I must have confused him with a character in one of his stage pieces. It's fixed now. An attentive reader, Chris Schneider, caught the mistake and sent this charming reprimand.

Geez, and I thought his name was *Moses* Schoenberg ...

Anyone who makes a mistake like that deserves to be subjected to the Schoenberg joke in my additional lyrics for "The Wonder of You" (that's the Ellington/George song of that title, *not* the Elvis one).


I've whistled 'Pierrot Lunaire,"
I've jockeyed in the June air;
I've moped about in moon air, all blue.
The worlds may fall asunder,
But nothing's like The Wonder of You.

(©2002 Chris Schneider)
- - - - - -

Having made more than my own share of misnaming typos, I'm full of sympathy.

Thanks. I feel so much better

July 8, 2005 1:04 AM |

Reacting to Tuesday’s posting about the Wingspread conference on ways to grow the market share of jazz, Rifftides Reader Jan Brukman thinks it unlikely that jazz will exceed its three percent share of the market (an optimistic estimate) for music recordings, but he doesn’t think it will disappear.

As string quartets will never die, neither will jazz, and for the same reasons. They are classical forms; if you stray too much from the classical forms, however, you get experiments, which real people cannot hear. No amount of education can transcend that, as arrogant idiots like Charles Wuorinen never found out.

That is how many jazz people feel about Ornette Coleman, but Coleman has as enthusiastic a following as does Wuorinen among afficionados of music on the edges of modern classicism. Wuorinen is an American composer who uses the twelve-note system developed by Arnold Schoenberg and expanded by Milton Babbitt. He often writes electronic music. His best known pieces are Time’s Encomium, which brought him a Pulitzer prize, and Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky. “Best known” does not mean familiar. I wonder how many people have heard a Wuorinen work. He also won a Guggenheim fellowship and a MacArthur “genius” grant. The New York Times once wrote, "Charles Wuorinen has taken the decrees of 12-tone music and made them sing." Dissenting somewhat, The New Yorker critic Alex Ross wrote of Wuronen’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, a collaboration with Salman Rushdie:

Although Wuorinen has not renounced the twelve-tone writing with which he made his name, he, too, now deposits triads in his scores as if they were pillow mints, and even indulges in pastiches of jazz and blues. Schoenberg once believed that atonal music could have the same emotional range as tonal music; Wuorinen, surrendering to psycho-acoustic reality, uses dissonant complexity to express the terror of war and quasi-tonal passages to express love and reconciliation. Passages of the latter type are, admittedly, tentative and fleeting. This comedy growls and thrashes more than it sings and dances.

That paragraph, which has dissonant complexity of its own, is from a piece about the conductor James Levine. You can read the whole thing in Ross’s The Rest is Noise, a blog I cannot recommend highly enough. I am adding it to the Other Places list in the right-hand column.

July 7, 2005 1:05 AM |

Gordon Sapsed reports on British radio and clubs not quite keeping jazz at arms' length and not quite embracing it.

Here in the UK the London radio station Jazz FM recently changed its name to Smooth FM. Explaining the change the owners said, "it's a sad fact of life that Jazz FM has never made a profit in 15 years of existence .....the station will continue its commitment to broadcast 45 hours of specialist jazz programming each week ..... but there is an enormous appetite for artists such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, George Benson, Michael Buble and Diana Krall who will fill the daytime schedule...... In-depth research shows that 40% of our listeners prefer the name 'Smooth FM" and two thirds of non-listening Londoners are put off tuning in because of the name Jazz FM. 42% say they do not tune in because 'they were not into jazz music."

Meanwhile, here in the Southampton area, the Concorde Club (usually thought of locally as the Concorde Jazz Club) has undergone a multi-million pound refit but maintained a jazz policy by keeping jazz away from the money-earning Thursday Friday and Saturday nights. 'Clubbing', with dancing to D.J.s and tribute bands (clones of Elvis, The Stones,The Beatles and such) provides the funding to make jazz affordable on other nights. Jazz is just one part of the club's overall image

Back in the USA, as one of those clone bands is probably singing, a veteran New York jazz pianist who has had trouble finding work told me about a gig she was offered. The conditions were that she play nothing but Sinatra hits and Italian songs…for no pay. She declined. At least, the club owner didn’t ask her to pay him. That has been happening in several cities, a rather radical redefinition of market share.

July 7, 2005 1:04 AM |

Have I mentioned lately that I wrote a book called Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond? You can buy it from the publisher and get free shipping. Please do.

Doug Ramsey explores every facet of Desmond’s public and private lives in this intimate, often hilarious and very thorough biography, a book that is very hard to put down. —Ken Dryden, allaboutJazz.com

See the entire review here.

July 7, 2005 1:03 AM |

It is always humbling and, of course, deeply appreciated, when a fellow writer points out an error, a goof, a screwup. DevraDoWrite did me that favor when she came across an, er, ambiguity in the Food entry in the right-hand column. I have repaired the damage. If you insist on seeing the misbegotten original, click on the link in the previous sentence.

And let that be a lesson to me.

July 6, 2005 2:00 AM |

“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.”—H.G. Wells

July 6, 2005 1:01 AM |

It is startling how many knowledgeable jazz listeners do not know about Tom Talbert. Let's do something about that.

Talbert.jpgTom died on Saturday, a month short of his eighty-first birthday. An elegant, soft-spoken man, he was an early and drastically overlooked composer, arranger and band leader on the west coast before West Coast Jazz was a category. His mid-to-late-1940s Los Angeles bands included Lucky Thompson, Dodo Marmarosa, Hal McKusick, Al Killian, Art Pepper, Claude Williamson and other musicians who were or went on to become leading soloists. Talbert's writing for large ensembles was ingenious and subtle. The best of it, "Is Is Not Is," as an example, rivaled George Handy's iconoclastic work for the Boyd Raeburn band. The recordings Talbert made shortly after World War Two sound fresh today. Art Pepper fell in love with Tom's treatment of "Over the Rainbow" and adopted the song as his signature tune.

During his New York period, the first half of the fifties, he made combo arrangements for Marian McPartland, Kai Winding, Don Elliott, Johnny Smith and Oscar Pettiford. They were on a smaller scale only in terms of ensemble size. His capacious imagination ranged through classical music as well as jazz. He was a gifted composer whose formal chamber pieces received acclaimed New York performances. His setting for Pettiford of Billy Taylor's "Titoro," as an example, is quiet and layered with complexity, like Talbert himself.

The masterpieces of his New York years are Wednesday's Child, an album of settings for the singing of the underappreciated Patty McGovern, and Bix Duke Fats. Despite critical acclaim, Atlantic Records let the brilliant Wednesday's Child LP die on the vine and has never reissued it on CD. Bix Duke Fats is another matter. It got five stars in Down Beat, but Atlantic also ignored this jewel in its discography. The Discover Jazz label has rescued it and kept it available on CD. Bix Duke Fats has some of Talbert's most imaginative writing and features great musicians, among them Pettiford, Herb Geller, Joe Wilder, Eddie Bert, Barry Galbraith and Aaron Sachs. Talbert 2.jpgAs Bruce Talbot points out in his biography of Talbert, Tom's arrangements of pieces by Beiderbecke, Ellington and Waller preceded by more than a year Gil Evans' celebrated New Bottles, Old Wine. Both evoke past days by setting familiar works in contemporary harmonic language. Stylistically, Talbert and Evans had much in common. Maria Schneider commented on that in an interview with Talbot after she had listened to Talbert's arrangement of Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss."

To me what's amazing about that, what Tom has in common with Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, and Gil Evans, is that the harmony is driven by the line. Hearing this reminds me of the Ellngton recording of "Variations on Mood Indigo." That interweaving of lines that brings you to harmonic places that you would never come up with if you were thinking of reharmonitzation in a passing-from-chord-to-chord kind of way; thinking of vertical chords. It's truly a weaving of the horizontal that creates very interesting vertical structures...Tom is clearly a master of that, and "Prelude to a Kiss" is an incredible example of that.

When rock and roll drove out the good, Talbert was one of the victims. He left New York in 1960, returned to his parents' home in Minnesota and went into his father's business, barges on the Mississippi. He had success with a band in Minneapolis, tried cattle ranching in Wisconsin for a while, but ultimately listened to friends who said things were getting better for music in Los Angeles. In 1975, he moved back to California.

By 1977, he was recording again, an album called Louisiana Suite, inspired in New Orleans when he was in the barge business. Then, he started writing for television shows, the Serpico series and the Carol Burnett Show among them. In the early eighties, producers' eagerness to cut costs made it easy for electronics to chase live musicians out of the studios. It was the period when Conte Candoli told a friend, "I played a fantastic studio gig today. We had ten brass, six saxophones, five percussion, thirty strings, a harp, an organ and a piano. It put two synthesizer players out of work."

Talbert took some time off, and accepted a job as a cocktail pianist for a time, but it wasn't long before his arranger-composer genes reactivated. He found a marvelous women named Betty who helped him organize sextet concerts in his house on a hill

Thumbnail image for Duke's Domain.jpg above Laguna Beach. She eventually became his wife. Before long, Talbert was writing big band charts. Through the eighties and nineties, he recorded several CDs, including Duke's Domain, a rare instance of an arranger doing a collection of pieces by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn without copying them. In the notes for the album, I wrote:

Talbert applies to the maestro's compositions voicings unlikely to have occurred to him if Ellington's example hadn't long since permeated modern music. But his work owes at least as much to his career as a classical composer who admires Ravel, to his tolerant, sophisticated, amused and slightly exasperated world view and to his own long experience in jazz.

That experience came to an end over the weekend, but much of the music Tom created in his long career is preserved for us. It is worth hearing repeatedly.

He left something more. I'm not sure of the source of Tom's wealth. It might have been the family business or the studio work, or both. It certainly wasn't his concerts and recordings, the chamber music or the cocktail piano gig. In any case, he did a lovely thing with some of it. He created a private foundation to help promising young composers and arrangers. One of his first grants, in 1996, went to young Maria Schneider. This year she won four Grammys.

July 6, 2005 12:52 AM |

A couple of weeks before Rifftides debuted in mid-June, The Johnson Foundation sponsored a conference of people from the power structures of the jazz business and jazz education. It was at the foundation’s Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin. The purpose of the three-day gathering was to discuss how to increase the market share of jazz. The foundation has a report on a website created for the conference.

Conventional wisdom is that jazz album sales—an important index of market share—account for between two and three percent of total recorded music sales. That may be an optimistic estimate. I don’t know if anyone has established how much of total attendance at clubs and concerts jazz audiences represent, but if it’s much more than two or three percent, I’d be surprised.

That indicates a tiny share for jazz in the universe of music and entertainment. Naturally, executives who run record companies, publish jazz magazines, produce festivals, and recruit students for music schools want to grow the market. It’s called capitalism, market economics. Succeeding in the richest and most dynamic economic system in the world means growth, no less in the business of music than in the businesses of automobiles and groceries. Movers and shakers in the music establishment are not alone in wanting to see the jazz audience and jazz opportunities grow. So, too, do jazz musicians, two of whom, Billy Taylor and John Clayton, were included in the conference. Taylor and Clayton are important players who are also organizers, producers, executives. The list of attendees includes the names of no journeyman jazz musicians who gig for a living. There are deep thinkers among them. Some should be invited to followup conferences.

Since the mid-1940s, jazz musicians and jazz establishmentarians have been haunted by the swing era. For a few years, by chance and no one’s market planning, jazz was the nation’s—and much of the world’s—music of choice. To say quality popular music was not an oxymoron. High school girls knew the names of Benny Goodman’s sidemen. Blue-collar workers and housewives went to dance pavilions not necessarily to dance, but to stand entranced listening to Jimmie Lunceford’s band. Jazz people want that back. But today’s high school girls know the names of the members of Coldplay. Blue-collar workers and housewives, depending on their generations, are entranced by the remnants of the Grateful Dead or by George Strait, Jennifer Lopez, Slim Thug, The Lost Boyz, Gorillaz, Missy Elliott. The likelihood of jazz supplanting a significant share of the market those performers hold is roughly the same as for string quartets.

Paul Desmond’s cousin Rick Breitenfeld thought about being a professional trumpet player. Desmond told him not to consider a life in jazz unless he could not imagine doing anything else. Most musicians who dedicate themselves to jazz or chamber music cannot deny the compulsion to do so. On some level, they understand that they are fortunate to make even a modest living playing music. I have found that the few who get beyond a modest living are surprised and grateful. The others bemoan the fact that they do not earn in proportion to the sacrifices they make or the satisfaction and inspiration they provide society. They are right to bemoan their condition.

If the Wingspread conference leads to improvement in market share so that those dedicated artists have a higher standard of living, bravo. If it leads to further efforts to grow the jazz audience by diluting the music into new brands of soft jazz, near-jazz, pseudo jazz and unjazz, the market may benefit, but it will do music, and musicians committed to their art, no good.


"Ah, music! What a beautiful art! But what a wretched profession!"

Georges Bizet (1867)

July 5, 2005 12:03 AM |
I took a morning mountain bike ride along irrigation canals, past fields of alfalfa and through orchards. The usual dogs raced along their fences barking outraged warnings, but most of the ride was peaceful. All that I could hear were bird songs, and my puffing on the uphills. Then, making a pavement transition from one canal system to the next, I passed a large old farm house festooned with bunting. From its open windows, at considerable volume, came "The Stars and Stripes Forever." The thrill I felt in my cynical breast took me by surprise. If you go here, you'll find a splendid rendition of that Sousa masterpiece by the Dallas Wind Symphony. The RealAudio player gives you the whole thing, not just a clip. Happy Fourth of July.
July 4, 2005 1:06 AM |

Please notice that all of the Doug's Picks entries in the right-hand column are new. What did Shelby Foote have to do with jazz? Nothing that I know of. (If you're new here, refer to "About" at the top of the right column. And...welcome aboard. Tell your friends to sign on, please.)

July 4, 2005 1:05 AM |

Attention midlife crisis fans: The venerable ArtsJournal blogger Terry Teachout (He's been doing this for two whole years) reflects in depth on the phenomenon and its ramifications in his July 4th entry. He starts with this paragraph.

Like so many middle-aged men with a taste for poetry and a preoccupation with lost possibilities, I found myself thinking the other day of the first stanza of Dante's Divine Comedy, which can be translated in countless ways but comes most fully to the point in the most literal of renderings: In the middle of the journey of our life/I found myself in a dark wood,/for the straight way was lost. One of my fellow bloggers has lately been reflecting on the meaning of the expression “midlife crisis,” but she and her readers are so preoccupied with the more florid symptoms of that often-absurd phenomenon that they seem to have lost sight of the thing itself, the terrible moment in the middle of the journey when you wander into a dark wood and suddenly notice that you can no longer see the signposts that led you there.

See the rest of TT's rumination at About Last Night.

July 4, 2005 1:05 AM |

Improvisation in the performing arts does not belong to jazz alone. Think of Chopin, Jackson Pollack, Martha Graham, Richard Pryor. Think, also, of Edward Albee. The playwright who won a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award a few weeks ago uses his improvisational ability in his teaching when he invents characters suggested by his students.

"Everything I do is unrehearsed, spontaneous, and I have to invent it as I go along," Albee says in an interview that you can see here. The interview clip precedes others of Albee demonstrating. You watch a great playwright write by acting. Some of his attempts work better than others (like jazz solos), but they're all interesting glimpses inside a creative mind.

July 1, 2005 1:04 AM |

Rifftides and Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond are drawing responses from a cross section of jazz people in the United States and around the world, some from as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Norman Davis sent a message from the eastern Hungarian village of Sirok, famous for its ruined ancient castle. He retired there from England after a career in insurance. Mr. Davis’s story of hearing Paul Desmond for the first time, and the lasting impact that discovery made, is not unlike the experiences of countless others for whom music is an essential part of lives necessarily focused on other pursuits; making a living, for instance. Mr. Davis wrote:

I first encountered Paul Desmond's playing in the Dave Brubeck Quartet back in 1954 when I was doing my National Service (draft) in the Royal Air Force. My musical interest up to then had been purely classical but I was bowled over by Paul's inventiveness, his tone and his almost classical restraint. At that time, being new to jazz, I found the style of Charlie Parker and the others of the bop scene too raucous and seemingly undisciplined. I know better now, but it's fair to say that Desmond's style formed a bridge into a new world. But he was not just a bridge; he remains for me one of the truly great jazz saxophonists whose playing is as fresh now as it was 50 years ago. I saw him with the quartet in London in the late 50s - a remarkable experience.
My early encounter with Desmond encouraged me to buy and learn the alto saxophone and, with friends, form a small dance band until work in the insurance business demanded all my time. I later took up the clarinet, mainly to play classical music. Toward the end of our time in England I played in the local symphony orchestra, a clarinet quartet and other ensembles when opportunities arose. Over here, I managed to meet a flautist and pianist with whom I play classical trios mostly arranged by myself from other instruments. I am strictly an amateur player of a decent but not professional level. I also play (purely for my own amusement) the tárogató, a wooden Hungarian single-reed instrument inspired by the soprano saxophone. Regrettably, the alto does get much of an airing these days.
July 1, 2005 1:04 AM |

My publisher, Malcolm Harris, and I dropped by Jim Wilke’s Jazz After Hours studio in Seattle the other day for a long chat about Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond. As always, Jim’s depth of knowledge and his focus led to a rewarding conversation. The hour interview, with Desmond’s music interspersed, will air tonight (Friday) at 1 am EDT, 10 pm PDT, midnight CDT. If one of the sixty-six stations carrying Jazz After Hours is not in your listening area, you can tune in on the streaming internet audio of WAMC (Albany-Schenectady) by clicking here.

Later, Wilke will include an interview extra, Desmond’s wry story about his encounter in the 1950s with a Hollywood starlet. That will air about 11:15 Pacific time, 2:15 am Saturday Eastern time, long after small children in the US are, or should be, in bed.


July 1, 2005 1:03 AM |

I may post something more today, or I may just flop into the long Fourth of July weekend and emerge on Monday or Tuesday. When you see, e-mail or telephone your friends, be sure to tell them about Rifftides. We need all the Rifftiders we can get.

July 1, 2005 1:01 AM |

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Rifftides in July 2005.

Rifftides: June 2005 is the previous archive.

Rifftides: August 2005 is the next archive.

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rock culture approximately
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Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
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Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
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Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
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Out There
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classical music
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The Future of Classical Music?
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lies like truth
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Public Art, Public Space
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Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
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