Rifftides: December 2006 Archives

The question is no doubt as old as artistic expression. Imagine a viewer of the first paleolithic paintings in the Great Hall of the Bulls in the Cave of Lascaux:

Well, of course Zog is brilliant, but have you seen how he drags his mate around by her hair? It's hard to see how such a rotten guy can make those beautiful pictures.

Can you hate Wagner's Teutonic superman beliefs and love "Siegfried Idyll," abhor Ezra Pound's fascist propaganda and admire The Cantos, be appalled by Stan Getz's gratuitous cruelty and be enchanted by his ballads?

The Rifftides item about a video performance by the Israeli saxophonist and political polemicist Gilad Atzmon prompted Marc Edelman, the proprietor of Sharp Nine Records, to send a communique raising the ancient conundrum of disjunction between art and its maker and accusing me of (yikes!) equanimity:

If you're interested in getting a better idea of what's been coming out of Gilad Atzmon's mouth when he doesn't have a saxophone stuck in it, you might want to check out fellow blogger David Adler. David is a knowledgeable writer on music (and a guitarist, as well) and politically is one of the most reasonable people I've come across on the web. A secular, left-of-center Jew - and not shy in the least about criticizing Israel - he does not share your equanimity about Atzmon's pronouncements. Here's a link to start - and you can follow the embedded links as well.

Atzmon's web site includes a section entitled "Politics," in which he discusses his controversial beliefs about Israel and Palestine. If you Google his name, you will find plenty of disagreement with his accusations against his native Israel.

David Adler edits Jazz Notes, the journal of the Jazz Journalists Association, and writes about music for a number of other publications. Sharp Nine is the label of Joe Locke, David Hazeltine, Dena DeRose, Brian Lynch, and the cooperative group One For All, among others.

December 30, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

Back home after a warm, sunny nine-day Christmas visit with our son at his house on a Southern California beach, I cleared a path through the snow to reach the house. We rested a day, then piled into the car. Today, we drove south, crossed the mighty Columbia River, rendezvoused for lunch in Oregon with a cousin I hadn't seen in twenty years, then drove the hundred miles back. It was all terrific, but that's enough travel for a while, thank you. I am making my way through the accumlated letters, packages, e-mail and telephone messages. If your correspondence is among them, you'll have a reply next year.

A happy 2007 to all.

December 30, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Gilad Atzmon, the fiery Israeli multi-instrumentalist, is sometimes identified as a purveyor of world music when he is not being attacked or praised for political activity that involves aggressive criticism of Israeli policies. Neither of those facets of his existence is involved in a video clip called to our attention by Rifftides reader Don Emanuel, who posted it on YouTube.

Here, Atzmon is a stunning post-bop alto saxophonist with a profound appreciation of John Coltrane. Listen to his occasional variations on the main theme from Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" in this live peformance.

There are two types of people -- those who come into a room and say, "Well, here I am!" and those who come in and say, "Ah, there you are."

-- Frederick L. Collins, author (1882-1950)

December 26, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Mark Stryker, the music critic for the Detroit Free Press, writes:

I really appreciated your post about David Berger - a gifted and underrated musician. Now, guess where he lives - on a street on the Upper West Side named "Duke Ellington Boulevard." It's really 106th Street, but it's also named for Ellington. Berger didn't know this when a real estate agent showed him the apartment. He called his girlfriend at the time and she said, "Take it. It's an omen." The relationship didn't last but, as I once put it in a story, perhaps too obviously, Ellington's music remains Berger's mistress.

Something else I remember Berger telling me. When he was a teenager, he used to go hear the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Band every week at the Vanguard. Thad was his idol and mentor. One night in the late '60s he was in the kitchen when some Ellington veterans came in to say hello. (I think one was Jimmy Hamilton). After they left, Thad says to Berger, "Duke Ellington - greatest band in the world. " Berger protested: "But your band's the greatest!" And Thad says, "No, no, no. My band's not one-tenth of what Duke Ellington and Count Basie are."

I think Thad was selling himself a bit short, but I know what he meant.

December 25, 2006 1:05 PM | | Comments (0)

In the right-hand column, you will find a new set of Doug's Picks, none having to do with Christmas or Hanukah but satisfying for holiday listening, viewing or reading. Enjoy.

December 23, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Steve Turre, Steve Turre, Keep Searchin' (High Note). The prolific trombonist in the J.J. Johnson tradition in yet another stimulating collection. He features two brilliant soloists, vibraharpist Stefon Harris and pianist Xavier Davis, and the fine drummer Dion Parson. Gerald Cannon and Peter Washington trade bass duties. Turre's "Reconciliation" with its satisfying harmonic resolution, is a highlight, and he proves thatin the hands of an inventive player, there is always room for one more "My Funny Valentine."

December 23, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Kristin Korb, Why Can't You Behave (Double K). Korb sings even better than on her previous CD and does it while playing the bass superbly. The Ray Brown protégé's power and note choices would make the late master proud. Her treatment of Cole Porter's title tune is appropriately wry and saucy, her minor key approach to "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" deep and reflective, with a penetratingly bluesy bass solo. Llew Matthews is Korb's spare, harmonically resourceful pianist, Steve Barnes her discreet drummer. Trombonist Andy Martin and guitarist Larry Koonse shine as guest soloists.

December 23, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Lee Wiley, West Of The Moon (Mosaic). One of the most tasteful, distinctive and emotionally profound singers of the 1930s and '40s, Wiley was less active in the '50s. By the time she died in 1975, she was all but forgotten by the public. Her admirers never forgot her, though. Fortunately, one of them is Mosaic's Michael Cuscuna, who saw to the reissue of this 1956 masterpiece. Wiley's collaboration with arranger Ralph Burns came fairly late in her career, but it's one of her best albums. There are no more effective versions than Wiley's of "This is New" and "Can't Get Out of This Mood."

December 23, 2006 1:03 AM | | Comments (0)

Rufus Reid, Live In Vienna (MVD Visual). With Austrian pianist Fritz Pauer and fellow American John Hollenbeck on drums, Reid steps into the role of leader in this concert at the Vienna club Porgy And Bess. One of the most experienced and dependable sidemen in jazz, Reid demonstrates the musical wisdom and taste he has accumulated in decades with Art Farmer, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis and Freddie Hubbard, among others. Pauer, one of Europe's best jazz musicians, is likely to be a revelation to listeners elsewhere. Hollenbeck's balance of strength, speed and delicacy is on full display. Sound and visual quality are top notch. It is instructive to watch Reid use eye movements to cue his colleagues in this set of satisying music.

December 23, 2006 1:02 AM | | Comments (0)

David Berger, leader of the Sultans of Swing, is an esteemed arranger who might be called a Duke Ellington specialist except that he is expert in all areas of big band jazz. He created The Harlem Nutcracker, incorporating new arrangements of Tchaikovsky pieces that Ellington and Billy Strayhorn didn't get around to in their Nutcracker suite. For the Essentially Ellington project of Jazz At Lincoln Center, Berger wrote a set of guidelines for the playing of Ellington's music. They cover the esoteric--"Blues inflection should permeate all parts at all times, not just when these opportunities occur in the lead."--to the practical: "the notation of plungers for the brass means a rubber toilet plunger bought in a hardware store."

The paper has eighteen sections and a glossary. Here are sample passages.

From # 4:

In Ellington's music, each player should express the individuality of his own line. He must find a musical balance of supporting and following the section leader and bringing out the character of the underpart. Each player should be encouraged to express his or her personality through the music.

From # 13:

This is acoustic music. Keep amplification to an absolute minimum; in the best halls, almost no amplification should be necessary. Everyone needs to develop a big sound. It is the conductor's job to balance the band.

The bass should not be as loud as a trumpet. That is unnatural and leads to over-amplification, bad tone and limited dynamics. Stay away from monitors. They provide a false sense of balance.

God bless you, David Berger. May every engineer indoctrinated in rock and roll amplification be forced to memorize and swear to uphold # 13. However, I must point out that jazz is not always played in the best halls and that it is possible for an engineer with ears undeafened by years of exposure to rock, and with sensitivity to music, to discreetly enhance the balance and mix of a band, even to provide monitoring that helps soloists hear the rhythm section. Rarely, though, can he correct for drummers who play too loud or bassists with amplifiers as powerful as radio stations.

Although Berger's paper is intended for musicians who play Ellington scores, it uses little technical jargon and has value for listeners who may posess no formal knowledge of music. To read all of Berger's guidelines, go here. Keep them in mind next time you listen to a big band play Ellington, or anything else, and see if they help sharpen your hearing.

If you would like to know more about David Berger, read his biography by going here.

Thanks to Agustín Pérez Gasco, a musicologist in Madrid, Spain, for calling Berger's paper to my attention by way of a message to a group of jazz researchers.

December 22, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

Rifftides reader Jim Sofra writes:

Excellent topic, enjoyed it immensely!

We were recently listening to 'Nicas Dream' and Monk and the stories started coming out about how Nica was devoted to the musicians in her life.

Heres a pic of her with Theolonius Monk, one of my favorite pix of him as well.

December 22, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

During the next week or so of travel, family activities and general holiday merriment, the Rifftides staff will post as often as possible, but you may note a diminution of blogtivity. Rifftiders and Rifftidings will be on our minds, and we hope to hear from you by way of the Comments function at the end of each item or the e-mail address in the right-hand column. All the best to each of you for the holidays.

December 20, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (2)

Count Basie was college, but Duke Ellington was graduate school.
--Clark Terry

At least one day out of the year all musicans should just put their instruments down, and give thanks to Duke Ellington.--Miles Davis

Music is my mistress and she plays second fiddle to no one.--Duke Ellington

December 20, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (1)

The Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter was known for her friendship with Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and other leading musicians of the bop and post-bop periods. She was born a Rothschild -- as Jean Bach puts it, a vraie Rothschild -- of the English branch of the lavishly moneyed international banking family. She married into minor royalty, was an ambulance driver in the Free French resistance during World War Two, lived in Mexico for a time and popped up in New York in 1951. Her interest in jazz led her to become a patron of a number of musicians. She is honored in the titles of several compositions including Monk's "Pannonica" and Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream," first recorded in an unforgettable version by the original edition of Art Blakey's jazz messengers.

Nica's favorite Bentley S1, one of several Bentleys and Rolls Royces she owned, was noted for its disposition around Manhattan, often in front of jazz clubs where parking was not necessarily sanctioned by the city. The Baroness died in 1988, but her fame and that of the Bentley continue. A Rifftides reader in New Zealand who is a Bentley collector asked a while back if I had stories about Nica and the Bentley. I hadn't, but I asked Jean Bach, the filmaker of A Great Day in Harlem, who knew Nica. She replied with a letter that I forwarded to New Zealand. Jean gave permission to use it here as well. It gives a sense of Nica's personality and of her dedication to Monk in his later days. For that matter, it gives a sense of the delightful Mrs. Bach.

In the early fifties, a fashion photographer friend of our asked my late husband to round up some musicians for a party on his roof. The worlds of jazz and fashion were just beginning to fuse, and Bob came up with an assortment of stars that soon became the Jazz Messengers.

Outside the building I spotted a Bentley and a Rolls. "Must be some heavy garmentos," I thought. And then I met the driver of the Bentley - the very British, very fragrant Baroness. "You like my scent? I think it's my daughter's - Jonka's."

I think the Bentley was the band bus for the musicians, and I guess the Rolls followed with the instruments. A vraie Rothschild, she was one of several fascinating siblings. Her sister was the author of a book titled, Dear Lord Rothschild, which was the opening line of a letter from someone named Balfour - probably a first draft of the Balfour declaration. Nica's brother, Lord Victor Rothschild, was studying piano with Teddy Wilson, which is how and when she got turned onto jazz. When she immigrated to the U.S., she settled in a house just across the Hudson River from Manhattan* with several of her children and more than five or six cats. Letters from her were always datelined, "The Cat House."

I spotted the Bentley outside a nearby piano bar one night, and since I had a leg of lamb roasting slowly in the oven, I popped in to see if she'd care to join me and a couple of friends for dinner. I gave her the whole menu, which appeared to meet her approval, and we started to walk back to my house, when she suddenly said, "Good heavens, what time is it?"

Turns out she was already late for Thelonious Monk's night-time tray. As Monk had become more and more eccentric, Nica and Monk's wife, Nellie, had agreed that it would be more convenient for him to move into chez Koenigswarter, where he could spend his days and nights in his own room, where each meal would be delivered on a tray, and he could dine alone.

I once asked the pianist Barry Harris, who also had a room in Nica's house, "Does someone (usually Nica) always deliver the tray" "Yes, and they'd better not ask me to bring one," he answered. Even though Charlie Parker died in her posh Manhattan apartment, she always maintained that her favorite musician of all time was Monk.

Another jazz musician with good taste was the late saxophone/trumpet player, bandleader, composer, arranger Benny Carter. He lived in the Hollywood Hills, and negotiated those twists and turns in a Rolls Royce. When he died, the Rolls passed along to James Moody of "Moody's Mood for Love" fame.


*The Baroness's first New York residence was in the Stanhope hotel, where Parker died in her apartment in 1955. Then she lived in the Bolivar hotel, made famous by Monk's "Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are," before buying the house overlooking Weehawken, New Jersey, on the Hudson River.

To see a picture of her Bentley S1 and read a bit about its history, go here.

December 19, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (5)

Tom Sancton writes from Paris about the death of Kenny Davern:

Beautiful piece.

I am very saddened by Kenny's death. I met up with him this summer at a JVC concert called "Clarinet Marmalade." Hadn't seen him in a couple of years, but it was a warm, good-humored reunion. I gave him a signed copy of my book, which he appreciated. He played beautifully, and was gracious enough to praise my rendition of "Burgundy Street Blues" with George Wein on piano. It was a memorable occasion and now it's the last memory I will have of this wonderful friend and exceptional musician.

I learned a lot from Kenny, listening to him, watching him, and especially talking to him about clarinet playing. He was a serious student of the instrument, its history, its repertoire. He had dozens of clarinets, and delighted in trading or selling them to someone who appreciated them and wanted to give them the love and attention he thought they deserved. Among the musicians who have wound up with some of Kenny's horns are Woody Allen, Evan Christopher, and myself--and doubtless many others. I still use a case he gave me years ago. When I met him backstage at the JVC concert in June, he recognized it and, with that devilish grin of his, caressed its surface as if it were still one of his mistresses.

His relationship to the clarinet was, in fact, a sensual and loving relationship. Which is why he was able to coax so much feeling and sensitivity out of the instrument. It is true that there will never be another Kenny Davern, either as a musician or as a personality, or, in my case, as a friend. Thanks for giving him the credit he deserved and did not always receive.


Tommy Sancton

December 18, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

One of the hippest and most eclectic programs dealing with music and other cultural matters is Sound Check on WNYC-FM, New York. Monday, December 18, at 2:15 p.m. EDT I will be with Sound Check's host John Schaefer to discuss the best jazz recordings of 2006. To join us in the New York metropolitan area, go to 93.9 on your radio. Elsewhere, listen on WNYC's streaming internet audio.

As we discussed procedure for the broadcast, I told Allison Lichter of the Sound Check staff that my list of "best" CDs is subjective and might have been considerably different if I had compiled it a week earlier or a week later. When it comes to art, the concept of "best" is shot through with the philosophy of popularity contests and should probably be avoided. But, surely, you don't expect an old broadcaster to turn down a chance to be on the radio.

December 16, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

The ferocious storm that disabled much of Seattle and other parts of western Washington state last night roared across the Cascades and into our valley, only slightly diminished. It was so powerful that the house shook when the first blast hit. The windows howled for hours as the wind tried to pry them out of their frames. The awning over the doors to the deck flapped like the mainmast of a schooner in a high gale. I expected to find it a tangle of canvas and metal in the next block this morning, but it rode out the maelstrom and our only damage was the loss of a couple of roof shingles and a few small tree branches. Doug McLennan, the commander-in-chief of artsjournal.com, was drastically less fortunate.

Doug McC. tells the story on his blog, interrupting his exchange with John Rockwell of The New York Times about standing ovations, a topic Rifftides has visited from time to time. You may read about both -- the attack of the tree and standing O's -- in this item from McLennan's blog, Diacritical.

I observed recently,

If everything deserves a standing ovation, nothing deserves one.

To read that in context, go here.

December 15, 2006 8:39 PM | | Comments (1)

Like virtually everyone who knew him or his music, I was shocked by Kenny Davern's death on Tuesday. A heart attack--sudden and massive--took him at the age of seventy-one. The New York Times obituary by Dennis Hevesi offered the perfect description of Davern: "a radically traditional jazz clarinetist and soprano saxophonist."

I listened to and enjoyed Davern for years, but met him only once, introduced in passing by pianist Dick Wellstood, the clarinetist's alter-ego in musical taste and off-kilter humor. He shared with Wellstood a preference for older jazz styles but fondness for many musical eras and the ability to work into his improvisations inspiration from all periods. He admired Thelonious Monk, for instance, and avant gardists like John Coltrane and Steve Lacy. The spirit Davern and Wellstood shared is captured in their duo album, Dick Wellstood And His All-Star Orchestra Featuring Kenny Davern. The wryness of the title carries over into the music, beginning with their joint composition "Fast as a Bastard." In that 1973 encounter, Davern played soprano sax, passionately. Later, he devoted himself solely to the clarinet.

In his long career Davern played with Red Allen, Jack Teagarden and an array of traditional artists, but one of his most memorable collaborations was with the swing tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips. Another was with an orchestra led by bassist Bob Haggart, the composer of "My Inspiration," the album's title song, and "What's New." With Haggart's arrangements for strings, Davern gave some of his warmest performances. In the notes, another clarinetist, Tommy Sancton, wrote, "Since Benny Goodman disappeared from the scene, Kenny has had no peer in the swing-mainstream mode." The CD of My Inspiration is out of circulation except for used copies. You may be able to order the vinyl LP from this web site.

In the past couple of days, many musicians and others in the jazz community have expressed sorrow at Davern's death, none more eloquently than in this messsage from the trumpeter and composer Randy Sandke:

Kenny was a true original -- on and off the bandstand. He was one of very few players who was able to take a pre-existing style and make it totally his own. He sounded fresh every time he played, even if it was his 10,000th rendition of "Royal Garden Blues." How many people can you say that of? What saddens me, beyond the personal loss, is that his sound is gone forever. As with the passing of Ruby Braff or Milt Hinton there is no one to take his place; no one with that sound and conception. As they say in England, he was a one-off, which should be the goal of every jazz musician but which few attain.

For all the talk of preserving the "jazz tradition" it also saddens me how few people were really aware of him and his astonishing talent. When he moved away from the East Coast he was heard around here very infrequently, and I doubt that the people at Lincoln Center even knew who he was (they haven't yet discovered John Bunch who lives practically next door). Thankfully Matt Domber of Arbors Records gave him opportunities to record over the last decade.

Kenny could hold a room spellbound, with the audience hanging onto every note. He was one of those players whose intensity extended into his personal life. You had to accept him on his terms, but if you did he was own of the sweetest, smartest, funniest people you'd ever meet. He was very stubborn about his smoking- the last of his vices that he refused to give up, and which undoubtedly did him in.

I miss him already and can't believe he's gone. Kenny didn't do things half-way so I guess it's appropriate that as far as life was concerned it had to be all or nothing, no lingering illness. As George Avakian said last summer at Bix's grave, with Kenny present, "You were here for just a little while but we're all the better for it."


December 15, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (2)

Conventional wisdom, which--granted--isn't always dependable or even wise, holds that current sales of jazz recordings account for about three per-cent of the recorded music market and classical recordings another three per-cent. Fellow artsjournal.com blogger Greg Sandow has thoughts about that, and a look at what those figures might have been forty-six years ago. His piece just might make you contemplate the state of culture in the new century.

December 15, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Francis Davis, who monitors developments on the outer edge, writes in this week's Village Voice about the avant garde tenor saxophonist David S. Ware's new CD of standard ballads. Davis suggests that Ware may be playing to an audience for whom classics by Kern, Gershwin, Porter and other popular song writers of the first half of the last century have no meaning.

...who under the age of 50 has the lyrics to those songs going through his or her head now? Standards figure in the marketplace today largely as a way of letting aging rock stars play dress-up, and I often find myself having to explain to younger people what I even mean by the word.

The only remaining incentive for a jazz instrumentalist to do standards--the best reason all along--is what they have to offer harmonically.

That seems reason enough. It is interesting to learn from Davis that the adventurous clarinetist Andy Biskin has reached back even further than Ware and recorded an album of songs by Stephen Foster. Since Dave Brubeck in his 1959 album Southern Scene (out of print), few jazz musicians have recognized the improvisational possiblities in Foster's songs. To read Davis's Voice column, go here.

December 14, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

When Pandora Internet Radio first popped up on the web a year ago, I visited it often but in the press of business and activities gradually forgot about it. Today, I remembered. I'm glad I did. Over the course of an hour or so, out of Pandora's box came, in succession, Cannonball Adderley, Von Freeman, Donald Harrison, Hank Mobley, Eddie Higgins, Dave Brubeck with Gerry Mulligan, Russell Malone, Ellis Marsalis, Clara Nunez (new to me), Elis Regina and Lee Morgan.

Pandora, powered by something called the Music Genome Project, customizes playlists based on the music you request. It asks you if you like the piece you're hearing. You reply by clicking on a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down icon. By this interactive means, before long Pandora knows your taste and preferences and offers you options for change.

Pandora seems able to find virtually any jazz, pop, country, Latin or rock musician, but offers no classical music. When I requested Aaron Copland, I got this query: "Do you want the artist Aaron Comess?" When I asked for Charles Ives, "Do you want 'Charles Ives' by Frank Zappa?" A request for Franz Schubert brought, "Do you want 'Franz Schubert' by Kraftwerk?" You can have Dr. Dre but not Debussy, Cash but not Callas, Springsteen but not Shostakovich.

A disappointment for information junkies is that Pandora does not give the names of sidemen, only of leaders or featured performers. Who was the other guitarist I just heard dueting with Emily Remler? But why complain? Pandora is free, supported by advertising on the screen and also, I presume, by a percentage of sales to those who follow its links to websites and buy CDs. In return for the existence of that bit of commerce you can, in effect, build a rotating library of music you like and occasionally be delivered a surprise. A version free of advertising is available by subscription for thirty-six dollars a year.

From Rifftides reader Mel Narunsky :

It should be pointed out that this service is available only in the US - anyone outside the US will not be able to log in to this service.
December 13, 2006 1:06 AM | | Comments (5)

In the Rifftides report on the ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards ceremony the other day, I mentioned that audience members were told not to take photographs through the windows of Jazz At Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Room. If that restriction --based on a claim of copyright-- sounded strange to you, you're not alone. Noel L. Silverman, a veteran lawyer who represents many musicians, takes issue with it in this communique.

I'm surprised at JALC, most especially whoever there has instructed the staff to warn people in the audience not to take photographs of the scene out the sixth story windows of the Rose Room: "JALC has copyrighted the view through its windows."

Well, perhaps it has. If so, that would prevent others from reproducing the JALC photograph (without permission) and otherwise using the JALC photograph in ways which violate the exclusive rights of a copyright owner. But it doesn't prevent anyone else from taking her or his own photograph of the same scene.

Just think what would happen if it did. People could claim a quasi-monopoly in a particular view from whatever location they had marked out for themselves. OK - that's your spot, but this is my spot. And pretty soon there wouldn't be any more spots left, and we could no longer take photographs of the Grand Canyon, or the Washington Monument, or sunset in Central Park from the Frederick P. Rose Room.

The Copyright Law doesn't work like that. It grants protection to "the writings of an author" which specifically includes photographs, just as it includes musical compositions, paintings, choreography, sculpture and various other things which require a somewhat expansive definition of "writings" as well as "author." It requires that the work, to be eligible for copyright, possess a modest degree of originality, but it doesn't prevent someone else from exercising his or her own original creative skills in treating a particular subject.

That makes sense, too, when you think about it. While the good people at JALC have a right to protect their expression of the view from their window - which was taken at a particular time of day, covering a specific area, in color (or black and white), with a specific degree of sharpness, depth of field and intensity, why should that prevent someone else from taking a photograph from the same spot with a different lens, with a different focus, a different kind of film, or a different length of exposure - and while we're at it, at a different time of day, at a different season of the year, with a different set of people in the park, with a different assortment of foliage in bloom, with different weather; you get the idea. In fact, the Copyright Law doesn't prevent any of that. It simply gives the copyright owner certain limited rights in a particular expression of the author's vision. I can take the same photograph, from the same spot, under circumstances which I regard as worthy (or interesting, of challenging, or whatever I regard them as), and end up with a copyright in the expression of my vision. The only thing I may not do (and even here there are exceptions) is copy your photograph.

Now JALC may have decided - as landlords and property owners or even as lessees, if that's what they are - to prevent guests on their property from taking photographs of a particular view under certain or even under all circumstances. (It may in their view enhance the uniqueness of their particular photograph.) They can do that in the same way that I can prevent you, or at least attempt to prevent you, from looking out my kitchen window, or using my blue towels instead of the green guest towels. But none of that has anything to do with copyright.

And shame on them for suggesting that it does. ASCAP certainly knows better as well. Perhaps they were just being good guests, or trying to improve their chances of being invited back.

Noel Silverman is Paul Desmond's executor. He played the crucial role in persuading the American Red Cross to acknowledge the millions of dollars that have gone to it from the Desmond estate. The story of how he did it is in the Coda section of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond.

December 13, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

The Rifftides staff is back at home base following a transcontinental flight and a drive through the snowy Cascade mountains. Posting from New York a few nights ago about the ASCAP Deems Taylor bash, in my bleary-headed condition at 2:30 a.m. I forgot to mention this:

My thirty-second oration wound up with, "I wish that Desmond were here because, as his friend the guitarist Jim Hall has often said, Paul would have been a great old man."

Somewhere in the hall, a woman sighed. Desmond would have loved that.

December 12, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Rifftides offers a short list of recommended holiday music -- one old CD, two new ones.

OLD: The umpteenth reissue of Vince Guaraldi's imperishable sound track to Charles Schulz's television classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Maybe I love it because the music is so good, so fresh, that listening to it every year is a rediscovery. Maybe it's because when I hear it, I'm bewitched by the image from long ago of two little boys in their pajamas, transfixed as they watch Linus, Lucy, Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Maybe it's because I knew Guaraldi and in this music he captured his own child-like sense of wonder.

NEW: Dawn Clement: Christmas. The young pianist who made an indelible debut on Julian Priester's In Deep End Dance and an impressive followup with her own Hush offers a delightful holiday gift. In Christmas, she plays Bach, Guaraldi, Lizst and a variety of classic carols, singing many of the songs in her improbably high, pure voice. It is all enchanting. Clement is a latter-day Blossom Dearie, just as musical and, in her own way, just as hip. You are unlikely to find this jewel anywhere but on Ms. Clement's web site.

NEW: David Friesen, Jeannie Hoffman: Christmas at Woodstock. The bassist and the pianist-singer give a holiday concert not at Yasgur's iconic farm in upstate New York but at a wine shop in Portland, Oregon. With them are guitarist Jerry Hahn, saxophonist Rob Davis and drummer Gary Hobbs. The camaraderie is infectious, the musicianship stunning. Friesen's bass virtuosity is well known. Hoffman's skill as a pianist and her husky, quaintly phrased singing are less familiar than they would be if her career had taken more conventional paths. Those who think all the best players are based in New York will find Hahn, Davis and Hobbs to be revelations. Some of the pieces are finely crafted sketches, others little concertos. The Friesen-Hoffman-Hahn-Davis-Hobbs "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" swings as hard as any piece of music I've heard lately.

December 11, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

When I was among the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award winners in 1997, there was a handful of us, barely more than a half-dozen. There has been an expansion of categories. They include not only writers and publishers of books, articles and liner notes, but also--observing new media reality--hosts and producers of radio and television programs and proprietors of blogs. The total of winners for 2006 is thirty-seven. It's the No Writer Left Behind Program, and I am delighted not to have been left behind. For a complete list, go here.

The ASCAP ceremony Thursday night was held before the backdrop of Columbus Circle, Central Park and a large section of Manhattan glittering outside a three-story glass wall. The setting was the Frederick P. Rose Room on the 6th floor of the home of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Staff members warned people in the audience not to photograph the scene; JALC has copyrighted the view through its windows. The dramatic vista from the Rose room perspective has become an east coast equivalent of the famous registered logo of Pebble Beach Resorts, a lone pine on a rocky promintory in Monterey, California, verboten to tourist cameras.


The awards production was beautifully organized by the ASCAP staff and ran like clockwork, with multi-media presentations about the winning entries. Each of us was allowed thirty seconds for an acceptance speech. No one, as far as I could tell, ran longer. In the photograph, authorized as an artifact of the ceremony, I am the small figure in the lower right corner, about a third of the way through my half-minute of fame. The lights of New York's West Side are behind me.

In a few cases, there was live music appropriate to the subject of the award.
Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond was acknowledged by the young alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw playing Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere." Shaw, accompanied by bassist Joe Martin and drummer Kendrick Scott, did Desmond the honor of observing the spirit but not the letter of his playing. Paul, the great individualist, would have applauded Shaw's being himself.

The ceremony, the reception afterward, the milling around and chatting with other Deems Taylor recipients; it was a great evening with ASCAP.

December 8, 2006 10:12 PM | | Comments (1)

The next time you are looking for surprises on YouTube, do not bypass Tommy Flanagan playing Billy Strayhorn's "Rain Check." The 1991 performance at a club in Germany was with his trio; George Mraz on bass, Bobby Durham on drums. The video and audio quality are unusually high for a YouTube clip, with matching direction and camera work. Flanagan's Ellington quotes in his solo might be expected, but..."Star and Stripes Forever?"

December 8, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

Rifftides reader Don Emanuel has managed to excerpt from a Polish television program a rare performance of "'Round Midnight" by Thelonious Monk. It was taped during the Monk quartet's 1966 European tour, with Charlie Rouse, tenor saxophone; Larry Gales, bass; and Ben Riley, drums. Watching Monk is half the fun. Mr. Emanuel posted the clip on YouTube. You may see it by going here.

YouTube also has a clip showing rehearsal and performance of "Evidence" by a medium-sized Monk band that includes Rouse, Riley, Gales, Phil Woods, Johnny Griffin, Ray Copeland and a trombonist who may be Benny Powell. We briefly see Monk in conference with Hall Overton, who did orchestrations for at least three concerts by similar Monk groups. YouTube gives no information about date or place. This is a fascinating look at Monk preparing a performance and an opportunity to see him solo at his best.

December 7, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

Our latest check on Rifftides readers' whereabouts shows that some of you are in:

Armadale North, Australia
Azur, France
Batnfjordsra, Norway
Belleville, Canada
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Fulmer, UK
Harlesdon, UK,
Kihei, Hawaii
Monterrey, Mexico
Niederndorf, Germany
Reykjavk, Iceland
Schnborn, Germany
Settimo Torinese, Italy
Stoke, UK
Sydney, Australia
Tokyo, Japan
Toronto, Canada
Torremolinos, Spain
Tubize, Belgium
Viskafors, Sweden
Warsaw, Poland
Zurich, Switzeland

And the continental United States from Paradise, California, to its east coast counterpart, Brooklyn, New York. It's good to have you aboard.

December 6, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (3)

The Rifftides staff is headed to New York to receive the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond (still available, suitable for fancy wrapping and holiday giving).

Posting from the road will take place as possible.

December 6, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Floyd Standifer was an essential member of the Seattle jazz scene in the 1950s when the city had dozens of superior players who banded together in a close-knit community. I hadn't seen him more than two or three times since those Northwest Jazz Workshop days, but recently I was pleased to encounter him twice. In late November, Standifer joined drummer Don Kinney's trio for a concert at The Seasons. A fine trumpeter from time he was a teenager, Floyd later took up the tenor saxophone and became an impressive singer. He has been a revered performer and teacher in the Pacific Northwest ever since he returned from Europe and New York in the early 1960s. He filled all three of his roles splendidly in the Kinney concert, captivating his audience, as he does on this CD.

A week or so earlier, I saw and heard Standifer as a member of the 1960 Quincy Jones band. The Jones outfit was so good, Floyd told me the other night, that after Quincy opened for Count Basie's band at the Olympia Theater in Paris, Basie said to him, "You're not planning to take this band back to the States, are you?"

On the Quincy Jones DVD in the new Jazz Icons series, Standifer solos in the trumpet section with Clark Terry, Benny Bailey and Lennie Johnson. When Jones formed the band, he hired Floyd along with two more of Quincy's Seattle pals, bassist Buddy Catlett and pianist Patti Bown.

Trombonist Melba Liston was the other woman in this ground-breaking band, which also boasted saxophonists Phil Woods, Porter Kilbert, Sahib Shihab, Budd Johnson and Jerome Richardson; trombonists Quentin Jackson, Ake Persson and Jimmy Cleveland; drummer Joe Harris; Les Spann on flute and guitar; and the incredible French horn player Julius Watkins. The DVD catches the band in a television concert in Belgium and another a couple of months later in Switzerland with Roger Guerin replacing Terry. Hearing the Jones band on records has been impressive enough over the years. Witnessing the visual dimension of the precision, musicality and camaraderie of this legendary group is a revelation.

Jones did take the band back to the States, but the European sojourn was a fiscal disaster for him and any threat to Basie was short-lived. By the mid-sixties Jones was recovering by broadening his efforts into the more lucrative areas of show business in which he has thrived. During the short life of his big band, he wrote an important paragraph in the history of jazz. If the economics of his situation had worked out differently, the paragraph might have grown into a chapter.

Because it is so revealing and powerful, the Jones DVD is first on my list of the nine Jazz Icons DVDs in the series' initial release by Reelin' In The Years Productions, but they are all impressive and valuable. Made from films and videotapes produced by noncommercial state television stations in Europe, even those from the late 1950s are of exceptional quality. We see Lee Morgan blaze into his famous trumpet solo on "Moanin'" with the classic 1958 edition of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers--Chet Baker in 1964 and again fifteen years later, playing beautifully on both occasions--Dizzy Gillespie in 1958 burning through the blues, with Sonny Stitt on tenor saxophone giving no quarter.

Buddy Rich's drum solo on "Channel One Suite" in Holland in 1978 is a prodigy of musicality and control, evidence for liner note writer Dean Pratt's argument that Rich was a genius. Ella Fitzgerald has an electrifying moment in a 1957 concert in Belgium when for one number Oscar Peterson sits in on piano and Roy Eldridge on trumpet. With guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Jo Jones, it's Peterson's powerhouse trio augmented. Fitzgerald is inspired to a level of rhythmic intensity unusual even for her on "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing".

What else? Count Basie in 1962 with his New Testament band that included Thad Jones and the two Franks, Foster and Wess; Thelonious Monk in 1966, fascinating in his concentration and eccentricity, with his quartet featuring Charlie Rouse; and Louis Armstrong with his 1959 All-Stars in a typical performance...that is, exhilirating. If you want proof that in his late fifties Armstrong could make other trumpeters shake their heads in disbelief, you'll find it here.

This project demonstrates the quality that DVD reissues can achieve when they are produced with dedication, skill and the understanding that jazz listeners want not just music, but also information. Far too many DVDs provide auxiliary material only as extras on the disc. Each Jazz Icons box contains an illustrated booklet with carefully researched notes by experts of the caliber of Ira Gitler, Don Sickler, Chris Sheridan, Will Friedwald and Michael Cuscuna.

David Peck and Phillip Galloway, the Jazz Icons producers at Reelin' in The Years, plan further releases if there is demand. Possibilities include performances new to DVD by John Coltrane, Roland Kirk, Charles Mingus with Eric Dolphy and Duke Elllington with Ella Fitzgerald. I wonder what other treasures are resting in the vaults of those European TV stations.

December 5, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (2)

Thanks to Bill Kirchner, who calls me to account for an error in the previous item, Boxes, about Cannonball Adderley's tenure with Miles Davis.

Cannonball was a member of the Miles Davis sextet from the gitgo--December 1957. Cannonball had been working for Miles since the fall of 1957, and Miles then rehired Philly Joe Jones, Coltrane, and Red Garland. As you know, Bill Evans replaced Garland in the spring of 1958, followed shortly thereafter by Jimmy Cobb replacing Jones.

It may be that on the Café Bohemia pieces you mentioned, Cannonball was unavailable that
evening. On the TV show that Miles did for Robert Herridge in 1959, Cannonball was not
present because of migraines that he suffered periodically. (You'll note that he nonetheless
is listed in the show's credits.)

To see and hear Davis, John Coltrane, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb give a first-rate performance of "So What" from the Herridge broadcast, go here. The entire half-hour program, or all of it that survives, is available on DVD.

Adderley and Evans continued the mutual admiration society they formed on Davis's Kind of Blue sextet. In 1961, after they had moved on to be leaders of their own groups, they recorded Know What I Mean? with bassist Percy Heath and drummer Connie Kay of the Modern Jazz Quartet. A highlight in the discographies of both men, the CD has one of the most charming versions of Evans's "Waltz for Debby" and additional takes of the title tune and Gershwin's "Who Cares?" Unlike many alternate takes, these bonus tracks are as good as the originally released cuts.

December 4, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Publishers allow complete sets of Shakespeare and Faulkner to go out of print. Record companies are under no greater obligation when it comes to classics in music. In the free market, a label is at liberty to do whatever it pleases with its stock. Concord, the company that bought the Fantasy complex of labels, has not disclosed its intentions for other important complete collections, but it has dropped from its catalogue the monumental 18-CD Complete Bill Evans on Riverside. Amazon.com is down to five copies of the Evans box. Two of the five are used. One of the sets described as new and unopened is offered at the astonishing price of $399.94. That's $200 above list. A few other sets are scattered among assorted web sites. Evans completists who have been waiting might do well to move quickly, as might those who have been putting off buying Thelonious Monk: Complete Riverside Recordings. That 15-CD box is also gone from the Concord catalogue, along with Wes Montgomery: The Complete Riverside Recordings (12 CDs).

So far, Concord's John Coltrane: The Prestige Recordings (16 CDs) and Miles Davis Chronicle: The Complete Prestige Recordings (12 CDs) are still in the catalogue and available at or near list prices. It would be nice to think that Concord not only considers commercial potential but also places cultural existence value on treasures like the Coltrane and Davis boxes, but the fate of the Evans, Monk and Montgomery sets is not encouraging.

To Concord's credit, it has recently reissued smaller, but still substantial, Coltrane and Davis boxes and one with some of saxophonist Sonny Stitt's best early work. John Coltrane: Fearless Leader has six CDs covering the 1957 and '58 Prestige dates under the tenor saxophonist's own name. That means his collaborations with Sonny Rollins, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Hank Mobley, Paul Quinichette, Tadd Dameron, Gene Ammons and several cooperative sessions are not included. Still, the collection presents Coltrane during a period of stunning development when he cleaned up his life after being fired by Miles Davis for unreliability. Under Thelonious Monk's leadership, he expanded his craftsmanship and creativity at a pace all but unprecedented by an established jazz musician. He was on his way back and soon would rejoin Miles Davis in the mind-blowing sextet with Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones.

The Miles Davis Quintet: The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions is the 1955-'56 band with Coltrane, Chambers, Jones and pianist Red Garland. This was Davis on his own comeback trail, establishing himself as one of the most influential and popular musicians of his generation and his quintet as one of the best small bands in jazz history. The music in this set was released as LPs called Miles, Workin', Relaxin', Steamin' and Cookin'. The four CD set contains previously unreleased performances made as air checks from Steve Allen's Tonight Show and two taped at the Blue Note in Philadelphia. It also includes four pieces recorded at the Café Bohemia in New York after Bill Evans replaced Garland in 1958 but before Adderley made the band a sextet. Thus, the new disc would be important as a document of transition even if the music wasn't first rate, which for the most part it is.

Sonny Stitt once told me with a straight face and aggressive finality that he arrived at his way of playing independent of Charlie Parker's influence. It is a matter of continuing speculation among students of jazz geneology whether it is conceivable that Stitt, four years younger, could have sounded so much like Parker without having heard bebop's incandescent solo genius. Given Stitt's cocky bravado, it is difficult not to be skeptical, but in the long run the music is what matters to all but scholars and specialists. The best of Stitt's music, which includes nearly everything in this collection, is in the top tier of jazz improvisation. Aside from the question of stylistic originality, he was one of the most gifted saxophonists of the bop era, as technically formidable, creative and hard-driving on tenor as on alto. Stitt's Bits, Sonny Stitt: The Bebop Recordings, 1949-1952 is a 3-CD box that starts with Stitt in J.J. Johnson's quintet and ends with him at the head of an octet. It concentrates on Stitt's tenor saxophone, the instrument on which he was warmest, even at the rapid tempos he loved.

It presents all ten tracks from his Prestige quartet sessions with Bud Powell, the progenitor of modern jazz pianists. Stitt and Powell achieved an intensity that makes the perfectly respectable quartet tracks that follow, with pianist Kenny Drew, seem polite. The collection covers the early years of the celebrated two-tenors collaboration between Stitt and Gene Ammons, starting with the 1950 session that produced their famous "Blues Up and Down" and including the great chase sequence on "Stringin' the Jug." On alto, with a dream rhythm section of Junior Mance, Gene Wright and Art Blakey, Stitt soars through "Cherokee" at a blazing tempo, leaving no doubt that regardless of whether he modeled himself on Parker, he equaled the master in facility. Like the Coltrane and Davis sets, the Stitt box has beautifully remastered sound and attractive, informative packaging.

I have been critical enough of Concord Records that it is fair to give the company credit when they earn it. With these sets, they earn it. The tilt of Concord's new recording efforts is drastically away from the invaluable mainstream music that still populates the labels they bought from Fantasy, Inc. Big headline in the "News" section of the Concord web site:


Let's hope that the Fantasies, Riversides, Prestiges, Contemporaries and Debuts in the Concord catalogue survive the Bolton era.

December 2, 2006 1:22 PM | | Comments (0)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Rifftides in December 2006.

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lies like truth
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Life's a Pitch
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No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
State of the Art
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

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

Jazz Beyond Jazz
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Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
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classical music
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The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
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Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
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The Unanswered Question
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