Rifftides: February 2008 Archives

Moscow, Idaho

The program bloat that kept some Friday concertgoers in their seats until early Saturday dissipated by Saturday night. The final Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival concert was trim and full of excitement provided by two big bands. The ad hoc performance hall in a field house the size of a dirigible hangar was outfitted with dance floors on either side. Throughout the evening, the floors were crowded with members of the hip-hop generation grooving to music with roots in the swing era.

The Lionel Hampton band and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra performed separately and together. The Hamptonians included members closely associated with Hampton before his death in 2002, among them the impressive young trombonist Clarence Banks, vibraharpist Chuck Redd and the entertaining drummer Wally "Gator" Watson. In addition to its instrumentals, the band backed pianist and singer Dee Daniels in two soul-inflected vocals and Jon Hendricks scatting that most basic of Hampton jump tunes, "Hey Bob A Rebop."

Clayton%20Hamilton.jpgArtistic director John Clayton, his alto saxophonist brother Jeff and Jeff Hamilton, the festival's apparently inexhaustible house drummer, unleashed their explosive big band in a set alive with deep swing and superb solo work. Charles Owens and Ricky Woodard had a testosteronic tenor battle on "Jazz Party." 89-year-old Snooky YoungSnooky.jpg
riveted the audience--and his fellow band members--with his plunger trumpet solo on "I Be Serious 'bout Dem Blues," which also had exciting choruses by Jeff Clayton, Woodard, the veteran trombonist George Bohanon and the 21-year-old guitar discovery Graham Dechter. John Clayton dedicated "Squatty Roo" to the late bassist Ray Brown, who for years was a mainstay of the Hampton festival. Trumpeters Clay Jenkins and Gilbert Castellanos were impressive and distinctively different from one another on that classic Johnny Hodges "I Got Rhythm" variant. The piece incorporated a passage of quiet intensity from the rhythm section of Hamilton, pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty, who in their other life are the Jeff Hamilton Trio. Singer Kevin Mahogany was at the top of his bass-baritone game sitting in on "Route 66" and "One For My Baby."

Following intermission and the introduction of outstanding student soloists from the Hampton Festival's extensive educational activities, came a rare event. The big bands together played two of the arrangements from First Time!, the 1961 recording by the Count Basie and Duke Elllington bands. Bohanon.jpgEllington's and Billy Strayhorn's "Battle Royal" (those "Rhythm" changes again) was highlighted by a good-natured, often hilarious, drum competition between Watson and Hamilton. In the gorgeous Thad Jones ballad "To You," George Bohanon soloed movingly in the trombone spot filled by Quentin "Butter" Jackson on the Ellington-Basie recording.

Finally (well, almost finally), Chuck Redd, playing Lionel Hampton's vibes, led the way into "Flyin' Home," thirty-two men swinging hard on Hamp's theme song. As they eased into "What A Wonderful World," backing the recorded voice of Hampton singing, the big screens in the hall showed a montage of photos of this year's festival performers in action. Then the bands segued into "Happy Birthday" in honor of Hampton's 100th and the crowd of 5,000 joined in. The montage dissolved into video and still photographs of Hampton through the years as confetti and streamers wafted down onto the crowd, sparkling in the lights that swept the auditorium. It was a spectacular finish.

As for the reason Lionel Hampton involved himself with the festival in the first place, after the festival University of Idaho Provost Doug Baker summed up the importance of the educational component,.

The clinics and competitions are the major part of the festival for the students. It is inspiring to see them grow during the week and to see the joy of the musicians teaching them.
Hands%20Up.jpg Being among those 10,000 children, watching them in rapt attention, hearing them play, dodging them in hallways, on campus paths and downtown streets as they darted from event to event, made for a stimulating, rejuvenating, week.
February 27, 2008 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

Snooky Young, whose one solo at the Lionel Hampton Festival was a highlight of the entire week, has been exciting people with his trumpet playing since he was a teenaged member of the Wilberforce Collegians. During the swing era, when it was not unusual for sidemen to become famous, he was one of the best known members of Jimmie Lunceford's influential band. He went on to work with Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Les Hite, Benny Carter, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band, Gerald Wilson, Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland and the Tonight Show band. Young was the prototype of the great lead trumpeter who was also a distinguished soloist. One memorable night on the Tonight Show, Johnny Carson wished Young a happy birthday and brought him down front to play and sing. You can see and hear him in his triumphal moment in this video clip.

February 27, 2008 1:04 AM | | Comments (2)

Another independent book store is dying of competition from the internet and chain stores and from the rising cost of big city real estate. This time, the victim is one of the world's great book stores. At the end of April, Dutton's, in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, will be no more. That will be a sad day for dedicated readers and for thousands of authors, including this one, who launched their books with signings at Dutton's. The friendly store on San Vicente Boulevard is where Jazz Matters first saw the light of day. From today's story in The Los Angeles Times:

In an interview, author John Rechy, who recently appeared at Dutton's for his memoir, "About My Life and the Kept Woman," spoke of the store's importance.

"Every non-million-selling writer has had his coming-out there," he said. "They had every single book that you would want."

Author Carolyn See described the store's decline and looming closing as "just sickening."

She said she prized the spot as a neighborhood meeting place, not just for literati but also for local dog walkers. "If you weren't the drinking kind," See said, "you could go there the way you'd go to a bar."

To read the whole story, go here. Dutton.jpgCondolences to Doug Dutton, whose love of books, readers and writers is a calling, not just a business. For more than two decades, his store has been a refuge from a publishing industry and big box stores that market books the way McDonald's markets hamburgers.

February 26, 2008 11:45 AM | | Comments (1)

Your itinerant correspondent is back from the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, catching his breath, attacking stacks of mail and, generally, taking care of business. We'll have a final installment about the festival in the next posting, probably tomorrow.
In the meantime, a diversion. A serious listener among you discloses that he was unaware of the uncanny similarity of Thelonious Monk's "Straight No Chaser" to the main theme of Richard Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks. For him, and for anyone who knows the Monk piece but not the Strauss, I recommend a National Public Radio feature about Till Eulenspiegel. It begins with Los Angeles Philharmonic music director Esa Peka Salonen discussing the piece and leads into a full performance of one of the most delightful compositions of the twentieth century. The big, probably unanswerable, question is whether the similarity is coincidental or Monk was inspired by Strauss. For the NPR program, click here and then click on "Hear The Performance." The "Straight No Chaser" soundalike theme comes at 3:59 into the clip.

For a video performance of "Straight No Chaser" by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, go here.

February 25, 2008 9:20 PM | | Comments (2)
I may not be a first-rate composer, but I am a first-class second-rate composer. -- Richard Strauss

I don't conside myself a musician who has achieved perfection and can't develop any further. But I compose my pieces with a formula that I created myself. -- Thelonious Monk

February 25, 2008 9:10 PM | | Comments (0)

Artistic director John Clayton has packed the main concerts of the Lionel Hampton festival with so much talent that when the evenings end, the posted 10:30 p.m. closing time is a distant memory. Friday's concert theme was "Masters and Mentors." It wrapped up at 12:45 a.m after an energetic, often hilarious, vocal set by Jon Hendricks, his daughter Aria and the impresssive emerging singer Sachal Vasandani. Vasandani was affecting in a slow "How Am I To Know" and joined the Hendrickses to summon up the sound and spirit of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross in "Centerpiece" and "Everybody's Boppin'." The ranking master of the evening wasJones.jpgpianist Hank Jones, playing beautifully in his 90th year. His two-piano duet partners, sixty-odd years younger, were Gerald Clayton and Taylor Eigsti. Each of the three also played a solo piece. John Clayton joined him on bass and Jones performed "Satin Doll" with notable vigor, Clayton bowing a solo.

Opening the concert, Hamond B3 organist Atsuko Hashimoto and drummer Jeff Hamilton backed the venerable tenor saxophonist Red Holloway. Holloway's patented choruses had some members of the audience singing along. Hashimoto and Hamilton developed a tidal wave of swing in their tag ending to "It's The Good Life," leading Holloway to ask, "How do you follow that?" He answered with "Shiny Stockings" and the suggestive "Locksmith Blues," recruiting the audience in a call and response routine.

Gazarek.jpgNot many years ago Sara Gazarek regularly attended the festival as a student musician. Her career on the rise, she returned Friday night as a professional, singing three songs, with particularly good articulation and smooth control in "More." Dee Daniels, a perennial artist at the Hampton Festival, followed with three pieces in her powerful gospel-influenced style. Then Gazarek and Daniels, fellow Seattlites, collaborated in a duet on "You Are My Sunshine." Pianist Josh Nelson contributed a fine solo.

Next up were two new trombonists and one revered veteran. Ismael Cuevas and Ryan Porter, young Los Angeles players discovered by Clayton, each played an original composition. In his "Baila Hacia Este," Cuevas employed sunny, dancing phrases. With his big, blowsy tone, Porter drew broader strokes in "Sortie." Then Curtis Fuller arrived for a stunning solo on "Caravan," a feature from his days with Art Blakey. The set ended with the three combined in a medium-tempo blues, trading phrases in a rousing trombone conversation. They were backed by pianist Bill Charlap, bassist Peter Washington, guitarist Graham Dechter and Hamilton, a fully employed and unfailingly interesting house rhythm section.

Now, attempting to stay abreast of a festival with too much music: Thursday night's concert began with bebop by the festival all-star rhythm section and ended with a set of irresistibly funky pieces by Roy Hargrove's RH Factor. In between, listeners in the University of Idaho's Kibbie Dome heard bright young players, including a surprising chamber group. Charlap, Dechter, Washington and Hamilton warmed the crowd with Dizzy Gillespie's "Groovin' High." Hamilton, a listening drummer, paid Dechter the compliment of building a solo break around a phrase the guitarist created near the end of his improvisation. Peter%20W.jpgThe house band's Friday night feature was "Stompin' At The Savoy," with a solo by Washington that deserved the extended applause the near-capacity crowd gave him.

The vibraharpist Warren Wolf joined the all-stars both nights. Thursday, he played pieces closely associated with the festival's namesake. Wolf estabished a melodic approach to the familiar changes of "How High The Moon" for two lyrical choruses before he introduced complexity, double-time flourishes and lightning speed with the mallets. He began his long solo on "Indiana" at top speed, incorporated a couple of effective stop-time choruses and couldn't resist a "Donna Lee" quote near the end. Wolf illuminated his Friday night set with the quartet in a sensitive duet with Charlap on the verse to "Lush Life." For a sample of this stimulating young player's approach to the vibes, click here.

The rhythm section stayed in place to accompany three alto saxophonists, one whose professional career is launched, two in their teens. Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Morfin tore into his "Praise The Lord" with an unaccompanied virtuoso cadenza, then a solo with Charlap, Hamilton and company that was a melange of Jimmy Dorsey high notes, Jackie McLean bebop, Earl Bostic expansiveness, Ornette Coleman abstraction and, possibly, other alto players I missed because they went by too fast. When Isaiah finds Morfin, he could be formidable. Tia Fuller, riding on success with her CD Healing Space and a tour with the pop singer Beyonce, was fast, modal and immersed in shifting meters on "Breakthrough." At her workshop earlier in the day, Fuller mentioned admiration for Kenny Garrett that was apparent in her energetic performance. Kelly.jpgThen came Grace Kelly, a high school sophomore who at fifteen has arrived at maturity, personal and musical poise and a completely formed conception. I encountered her in a jam session at this festival last year and struggled to accept that this little girl was producing bebop of the quality I was hearing. Later, a CD confirmed that the impression was not generated by the wine I was drinking. A year older, Ms. Kelly is even better. Her playing on "Filosophical Flying Fish" and in jamming with Morfin and Fuller on "Flyin' Home" was among the best at the Hampton festival, regardless of style or age.

With her set of four pieces mostly from the 2006 CD I'll Be Seeing You, violinist Regina Carter thrilled the audience--and kept the full attention of the musicians and assorted hangers-on in the backstage listening area. The ingenious arrangements for her quintet, the swing and sense of adventurous fun, were infectious. The band turned "Little Brown Jug" and "A Tisket, a Tasket" into chance-taking excursions through time-worn material harmonically updated to a state of freshness and surprise. Pianist Xavier Davis, clarinetist Darryl Harper, bassist Matthew Parrish and drummer Alvester Garnett were in synch with Carter's skill and her enthusiasm. Davis's chord choices in support of Carter's heartbreakingly beautiful solo on Ravel's "Pavanne For A Dead Princess" evoked Bill Evans, as did his own solo. The band's closer was a transcription of Charlie Shavers' arrangement for the John Kirby Sextet of Grieg's "Anitra's Dance," uncannily accurate, swinging and delightful. This was forty minutes of superior chamber music.

Following intermission (now you're beginning to believe that these were long concerts), festival favorite Roberta Gambarini sang three songs with the house rhythm section minus Bill Charlap. Her accompanist Tamir Hendelman took over the piano. Impeccable and musicianly as usual, Gambarini did lively versions of "Nobody Else But Me" and "I Hadn't Anyone 'Til You," and a contemplative "Day Dream" enhanced by her remarkably faithful impression of a trombone solo, produced by clever microphone technique, hand placement and voice projection. Gambarini and Hendelman are all over the festival schedule, not only in concerts but also giving workshops and master classes.

Roy Hargrove opened his set with a plaintive flugelhorn solo belying the excitement that he and his RH Factor were about to unleash. Flugelhorn back on its stand, trumpet armed and ready, he launched into a set of latterday rhythm and blues laced with inventive jazz solos by Hargrove and the other members of an inspired funk band.Hargrove.jpgThin as a whip, dressed in cap, shades, plaid shirt, jeans and red sneakers, Hargrove bopped, hopped and glided around the stage when he wasn't playing. When he was playing, he was brilliant and when he sang, he was very good. Some years ago, I heard the first edition of RH Factor. I found it strained, fragmented, overamplified, annoying. This band is the real thing, an embodiment of rhythm, focused but loose, musical, enormously invigorating, great fun. Hargrove did not announce the names of the tunes. It didn't matter. Pianist Gerald Clayton, baritone saxophonist Jason Marshall, alto saxophonist Bruce Williams and guitarist Todd Parsnow all soloed impressively, as did bassist Lenny Stallworth and drummer Jason (JT) Thomas. But it was the unified R&B totality of the group that made Hargrove's forty-five minutes memorable.

In after-hours sessions at the main festival hotel, Hargrove and most of the members of his band jammed with guitaristStowell.jpgJohn Stowell, alto saxophonist Grace Kelly, members of the all-star Russian group so prominent at the Hampton festival, pianist Kuni Mikami, and trombonists Greg Schrader and Ismael Cuevas, to mention only a few. At one point, Stowell found himself as, in effect, the eighth member of the Hargrove band. Known for the sensitivity and finesse of his playing, for a few tunes he was as hard a hard bopper as Hargrove and his colleagues. Stowell raised a few eyebrows.

February 23, 2008 1:56 PM | | Comments (1)
Playing is my way of thinking, talking, communicating. - Lionel Hampton

Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind. - Lionel Hampton

February 22, 2008 4:02 PM | | Comments (0)

Tuesday evening's opening event of the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival was in the University of Idaho Auditorium, a hall intriguing for its neo-Gothic architecture and superb acoustics. Called Hamp's Gala, the concert presented students of the Lionel Hampton School of Music. The first half was classical, the second jazz.

Following the university orchestra playing the final two movements of Schubert's Symphony No. 5 came five recital pieces. They included virtuoso trombone playing by Jenny Kellogg in Ferdinand David's "Concertino" and ended with Josiah Stocker's peformance of "Four Pieces For Piano" by the contemporary American composer Frederic Rzewski. I must confess to having known nothing of Rzewski, but after hearing Stocker's presentation of this work with its riveting rhythms, insistent repetitions and complex interior harmonies, I am going to seek out more of the composer's music.Rzewski.jpgThe intensity, rapid tempos and open structure of the Rzewski work make demands on the pianist's technique and on his ability to maintain focus on the music through the blizzard of notes. Young Mr. Stocker brought it off impressively. There is on You Tube a video clip of Rzewski himself playing an excerpt from "Four Pieces," but - fair warning - the audio qualilty is lousy and the clip cuts off abruptly before he gets to the harmonic density of the middle section. Don't judge the piece by that clip. The web site samples of this recording of "Four Pieces" seem to be more representative. Among the few things I've learned about Rzewski today in hasty research is that his name is pronounced zheff-skee.

Following intermission, Daniel Bukvich of the Hampton School faculty directed the Jazz Choir I in an overture and two pieces of his composing. The overture was a wild thing that opened with a percussion ensemble onstage, then the 175 men and women of the choir swarming down the aisles through the audience and onto the stage, singing, clapping and grooving as they went. The jubilation continued through "Inferno," which Bukvich set to text from Dante, and his own "Song of the River." Then Vern Sielert led a big band that played three pieces highlighted by an expansion of Jelly Roll Morton's 1926 "Black Bottom Stomp," a period piece that is timeless. Jenny Kellogg, who flawlessly played the classical piece in the first half, had what Sielert described as "the world's shortest trombone solo" (two bars); from Ferdinand David to Ferdinand Joseph Lamenthe in one concert. Sielert's Jazz Band I also delivered stirring performances of the tricky "Linebacker" by Fred Sturm and Dick Grove's "You Rotten Kid," a flagwaver from the Buddy Rich book. The festival was off to a spirited start.

Further reports are coming. Stay tuned.

February 22, 2008 2:21 PM | | Comments (1)

There is plenty of snow on the ground, but it's melting, skies are blue and spring is on the way in Moscow, Idaho as the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival moves into its second day. Dozens of professionals and more than 10,000 student musicians overflow the town and the University of Idaho campus for this 41st year of the festival, an early celebration of Hampton's 100th birthday, April 20. Hampton's key role over the years as a performer and enthusiastic supporter of the festival's educational aspect led to the event being named for him in 1985.

For students from elementary to college age, there are workshops and adjudication sessions all day every day of the festival. In the workshops, they benefit from instruction, advice and, in many cases, the opportunity to play with professionals. Bassist John Clayton this year assumes the festival leadership from its founder, Lynn Skinner. Among the pros he has brought in are Roy Hargrove, Roberta Gambarini, Bill Charlap, Wycliffe Gordon, Peter Washington, Jeff Hamilton, John Stowell, Jon Hendricks, Tia Fuller, Regina Carter, Hank Jones, Madeline Eastman and Curtis Fuller. That is a partial list. Many of them teach as well as perform at major concerts in the Kibbie.jpgUniversity's Kibbie Dome, a massive athletic facility shaped like a quonset hut. It sits on a hill overlooking the campus. Using huge curtains and creative lighting, the festival designers have managed to make a sizeable area of the dome's field house into a performance hall. They haven't quite achieved intimacy, but good sight lines and sound systems can make you forget that your seat is on the straightaway of a running track.

Last night's opening concert began with the quartet of young Russians I told you about in yesterday's posting (scroll down to read that item). They again performed "Strode Road" with an affecting combination of finesse and raw energy. Then the concert turned toward its assigned theme, "New Orleans In The House." The festival's all-purpose rhythm section, pianist Bill Charlap, bassist Peter Washington, drummer Jeff Hamilton and guitarist Graham Dechter, played an energetic "Broadway." The young violinist Aaron Weinstein joined them for "Juicy Lucy" and "Three Little Words." The richness of Weinstein's tone, his hard swing and exuberance, brought to mind Joe Venuti. Exit Weinstein, enter trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, who growled, Gordon.jpgwhooped, slurred and sang his way through "Basin Street Blues" and "Sweet Georgia Brown." In Weinstein's and Gordon's sets, there were extensive solos from the all-stars, with stunning choruses from Charlap on "Three Little Words."

Cornetist Ed Polcer headed up a group with Gordon, tenor saxophonist Houston Person, drummer Joe Ascione, bassist Christoph Luty and John Cocuzzi on piano and vibes. The repertoire had little connection with New Orleans but plenty to do with the legacies of Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo and Bunny Berrigan, which is why Polcer calls his band Lionel, Red And Bunny. Judy Kurtz was the energetic singer. Polcer's plunger solos were more reminiscent of Berrigan in enthusiasm than in style. Cocuzzi's vibes tribute to Hampton was "Midnight Sun," played with a distinctive harmonic approach.

Dr.%20John.jpgFollowing intermission, Clayton introduced the hard-core New Orleans part of the program, a forty-five-minute set by Dr. John. It was party time in the dome. Often playing piano with his left hand and organ with his right, his heavily amplified quartet generating the volume of a big band, Dr. John delivered several of his hits, including a "Makin' Whoopee" even more soulful than his recorded version. When his set ended, he wasn't through. The Polcers and the Dr. Johns combined for a full-fledged jam on "Down By The Riverside" and the good times continued to roll for the concert closer.

A new feature of the Hampton Festival this year is the addition in the Kibbie Dome of a place for student musicians to play each night following the main concerts. It is called Hamp's Club. Adjudicators of the daytime student competitions select outstanding soloists to jam in the club, adding to the joy of competitive victory the challenge and stimulation of practical experience.

February 21, 2008 12:20 PM | | Comments (0)

Moscow is full of jazz this week. Moscow, Idaho, that is, host of the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival. They're not fooling about the international part. This afternoon the little Nuart Theater on Main Street was full of music from this town's namesake. A quartet of Russians mostly in their early twenties included bassist Darya Chernakova; Nikolay Sidoernko, piano; Roman Sokolov, tenor saxophone; and Aleksandr Ivanov, drums. The concert was part of the Moscow-to-Moscow exchange program that for years has been one of the most stimulating features of the Hampton Festival.

The musicians of the Open World Russian Jazz Stars have years of intensive classical training but are at the point where--as their translator put it--they are "tending toward jazz." They did more than tend toward it today. They played fully-realized performances of Sonny Rollins's "Strode Road" and Miles Davis's "Solar" with a pronounced post-bop vocabulary and fine swing. I arrived too late to hear their entire hour, but those pieces were first rate. Chernakova, a pianist from the age of three, switched to bass two years ago. How she developed so much technique on the instrument in so short a time may remain a Russian secret.

One of today's twenty-five workshops for students was called "Hands On! Vocal Fun Shop." It was populated by twenty or so thirteen-year-olds. What made it fun was Eastman.jpgMadeline Eastman, who in slightly more than an hour had the kids keeping proper time, counting, syncopating, scatting, yodeling and laughing. No one had more fun that Eastman, as she brought out the shy boys and girls while reigning in the wise guys, showoffs and hyperactives. After one young man had sung well, then strutted around like a touchdown king in the end zone, she cautioned him, "Hey, no boasting. Be cool." He became cool...for a minute or two. The workshop kids learned something about singing. More important, they learned about cooperation, listening and mutual support in the act of creating music together..

In the remaining time I'll be at the Hampton Festival, I'll report on as many of the small and large events as I can take in. The large ones start tonight with a concert called "New Orleans Is In The House." The all-star rhythm section backing many of the performers for the next few days is Bill Charlap, piano; Peter Washington, bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums; and Graham Dechter, guitar.

February 20, 2008 7:24 PM | | Comments (0)

Jessica Williams sent a link to a video clip of Garner, one of her piano heroes, with his trio in 1966. The subject line of her message was, "You'll Love This."

The message was, "Is this cool or what?"

It's cool. Go here to see and hear it.

February 20, 2008 10:24 AM | | Comments (2)

In jazz improvisation, speed for the sake of speed is often self-defeating. Beyond a certain velocity, fingers tend to outrun brains. The automatic pilot kicks in and a musician ends up merely--as a standard phrase in the critic's lexicon has it--running the changes. Even Art Tatum and Charlie Parker had episodes of auto-pilotitis when fast tempos produced visceral excitement and little else.

Saturday evening at The Seasons, I heard the Bill Charlap Trio play "In The Still Of The Night" at a clip unmeasurable by a metronome unless it could register well over 320 beats a minute. Following Charlap's piano introduction spiced with allusions to Thelonious Monk, he, Peter Washington and Kenny Washington were off like synchronized rockets.Charlap%20Trio.jpg
Bill Charlap, Kenny Washington, Peter Washington

Through chorus after chorus, despite the tempo Charlap fulfilled Lester Young's ideal for soloists; he told a story, never falling into content deficit. That wasn't the only fast performance of the evening. The trio took Irving Berlin's "The Best Thing For You," Cole Porter's "All Through The Night," George Gershwin's "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and Charlie Parker's "Passport" at rapid tempos, but "In The Still Of The Night" must have come close to setting a new land speed record for piano trios.

It seemed to me that in medium-tempo pieces and in ballads, there was more subtle interaction among Charlap's piano, Kenny W's drums and Peter W's bass than when I have heard the band before. Porter's rarely heard "Where Have You Been" was achingly beautiful. As in the trio's recent Village Vanguard recording, George Wallington's "Godchild," drew on Gerry Mulligan's famous Birth Of The Cool arrangement. The encore--only two days late--was "My Funny Valentine," taken slowly. In an effective departure, Charlap interpolated the song's verse as a solo interlude,.

If Keith Jarrett hadn't taken the name, The Standards Trio could describe Charlap's group. Their repertoire is largely based in classic American songs to which audiences relate. Within those recognizable frameworks, Charlap and the Washingtons create new music. It's a formula whose success is enhanced by three superior musicians whose decade of experience together results in unusual empathy. Every time I've heard them lately, they're better. And faster.

February 18, 2008 3:51 PM | | Comments (1)

This week, I'll be reporting from the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho and the Portland Jazz Festival in Oregon. It will be the first Hampton festival completely under the direction of its new major domo, John Clayton. Because the events overlap, I'll be getting to Portland for only the last two days of the festival's ten. The good news is that I'll get to hear Nancy King (with Kurt Elling and Steve Chrisopherson), Anat Cohen and Joshua Redman.

February 18, 2008 3:09 PM | | Comments (0)

The artsjournal.com technical team has restored the Rifftides comments section. The staff thanks them profusely. You will find a comments link at the end of each post. You are welcome to also comment directly by e-mail.

Please do.

February 18, 2008 1:00 PM | | Comments (0)

To read a Rifftides post about bassist Dennis Irwin's predicament, click here. Mike Quinn of Jazz Times writes:

I've built and posted a website for Dennis Irwin, my old high school buddy. Will be adding more material this coming week since I'm heading to NYC for three weeks to attend both benefits. The site contains some bio stuff, some video and a donation page which allows direct PayPal donations. Will post fotos of Vanguard gig on Tuesday.

This is the Irwin web site.

February 17, 2008 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

There is a baritone saxophonist in Spain who sounds amazingly like Gerry Mulligan. Rifftides reader Tyler Newcomb sent the alert:

Man, that Joan Chamorro plays so much like Gerry, if you closed your eyes you'd swear it was him. Plays just behind the beat like Mulligan, improvises the same type of lines and ideas, and his sound is drop-dead the same. All he needs is some red hair to go on tour with a Chet Baker clone and recreate the original Quartet.

This is a link to Chamorro's quartet playing, "Bernie's Tune," "Love Me Or Leave Me" and, somewhat less successfuly, "Makin' Whoopee." All of the pieces were staples of the early Mulligan quartet repertoire. The tape runs out before "Love Me Or Leave Me" finishes. The other players are Toni Belenguer, trombone; David Mengual, bass; and David Xirgu, drums. Chamorro's channeling of Mulligan is uncanny, but for originality of ideas, pay close attention to Belenguer. Things are happening in Barcelona. The video opens with less than a minute of Ben Webster's tune "Go Home."

Searching the web for more about Chamorro, I came across this short video clip of him playing the bass saxophone not on a stand, as most bass saxophonists do, but holding the monster--a feat in itself. Maybe confining his playing to the baritone range makes the horn seem lighter.

February 16, 2008 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

You Tube may have removed all of its Chet Baker videos, but it turns out that there is still Baker to be seen and heard on the web. Two days late, we are able to link you, after all, to a Japanese site that has Chet singing and playing "My Funny Valentine" in a superior performance from late in his career. Only the bassist, Heyn Ven De Geyn, is identified. The pianist is likely to be Harold Danko. If you know who the drummer is, please send an e-mail message.


Ty Newcomb writes:


Chet Baker - trumpet, vocal.
Harold Danko - piano
Hein van de Gein - bass
John Engels - drums

(I thought that solo sounded familiar. It is available on a CD, the brilliant Chet Baker In Tokyo. Recorded in 1987, the year before he died, his playing on that concert is proof that even toward the end of his life, which was a study in self abuse, Baker was never a burnt-out case musically. -- DR)

February 16, 2008 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

First Published July 8, 2005

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."

There's more. To read the whole thing, go here.


Was she the cousin of the airline stew who asked PD, "How many people are there in your quartet?"?

Concierto is my nomination for the greatest jazz combo LP/CD in the most recent generation (since 1975). Not only their jazz version of the Aranjuez second movement, but also "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," the lead track, I think. Baker-Desmond counterpoint, Steve Gadd's fills gloved to the soloists' lines, Roland Hanna flying effortlessly in the last of the solo turns....

Charlton Price

February 15, 2008 4:23 PM | | Comments (1)

"My Funny Valentine" was one of Chet Baker's signature songs, and I'd love to give you a link to a clip of him singing or playing it. Sorry, that's not possible. A few days ago You Tube removed all of its Baker videos because of a copyright wrangle, so I looked to see who else they have performing the piece. It turns out there are dozens of versions on You Tube, maybe hundreds; I quit sampling them after the fourteenth page. You may have better things to do than roam through all of the possibilities, so here are links to six of the better ones. To watch, click on the name of the performer.

J.J Johnson with Rob Schneiderman, piano; Rufus Reid, bass; Akira Tana, drums.

Keith Jarrett, piano; Gary Peacock, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums.

Duke Ellington's band with solos by Jimmy Hamilton, clarinet, and Quentin Jackson, trombone.

Paolo Fresu, Flugelhorn, assisted by an unidentified trumpeter who may be Franco Ambrosetti.

Wynton Marsalis in 1980 at age 19, with Art Blakey's band. The pianist is James Williams.

Tony Bennett with Buddy Rich, drums; Ralph Sharon, piano; an unidentified tenor saxophonist and a bassist who looks like John Burr.

Happy Valentine's Day.

February 14, 2008 4:06 PM | | Comments (0)

If you live in or plan to visit the Washington, DC, area, you may be interested in this communique from a Rifftides reader:

There is a fabulous exhibit titled "Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the World" coming up at the Meridian International Center in Washington, DC. Aside from material covered in Penny Von Eschen's book*, there will be previously-not-publicly-shown photos on display. Here is a link to the exhibit:


*Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War (Harvard)

February 14, 2008 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Whether sponsored by the State Department or off to see the world on their own, the Dave Brubeck Quartet practiced their share of cultural diplomacy in the 1950s and '60s. You Tube, that never-ending source of surprises and occasional frustrations, has come up with video of the DBQ on a 1962 Australian television program. The story goes that the tape of the show was lost for more than two decades and barely saved from destruction once it was found. It includes contrived conversations that, like the host's introductions, sound scripted. DBQ.jpgBrubeck, Paul Desmond, Gene Wright and Joe Morello appear amused by the awkward show-biz schtick. Their playing is correspondingly light-hearted.

The program includes a rarity in the Brubeck canon, a guest vocalist, Laurie Loman, who manages to lose track of the number of bars in "When You're Smiling." Unfazed, Desmond follows with a solo on a song he may have been playing for the first time. He works in a quote from "There's No Business Like Show Business," perfect for the circumstances. The program is divided into seven You Tube segments, all of which you will find on this page.

Brubeck disbanded the quartet in 1967, so he could devote his time and energy to composing long-form works. The next year he completed his oratorio The Light In The Wilderness, which he still presents when he can marshal the musical troops it requires. He gave the piece its fortieth-anniversary performance last night in Athens, Georgia. As usual, his wife is on the road with him. In The Atlanta Journal-Constituion Bo Emerson has a story about Brubeck working with an orchestra and chorus to prepare the piece.

Iola Brubeck is in the adjoining room at the Holiday Inn in Athens, working on a laptop, busy writing the history of the man she married 65 years ago. A laptop? Dave Brubeck doesn't mess around with that kind of keyboard. Says his longtime conductor Russell Gloyd, "Dave has trouble with the pause button on his tape player."

The tape player may outfox him, but Brubeck handles larger forces with aplomb. During a weeklong residency at the University of Georgia, which continues through Friday, he will (with Gloyd's assistance) command a 140-voice choir, a full-sized symphony orchestra, a big band, a jazz vocal ensemble and his quartet.

To read all of Emerson's story, go here.

Comment On The Australian Video

In 1962 I was still at school in New Zealand,and I flew up from my home town to Auckland in a DC-3 so I could see the concert.

They must have gone to New Zealand either before or after the Australia

I still have the program somewhere!

John Pickworth

February 14, 2008 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Dave Frishberg asks in one of his songs, Do You Miss New York? Yes, I do, every day. So it was a pleasure to get a small New York fix from an unexpected source, an e-mail ad from a clothing store. The tour through a favorite part of lower Manhattan made me homesick for one of my many former hometowns. To take it yourself, click here. Rifftides has no stock in or connection with Ralph Lauren Rugby, but for making me feel good Ralph gets a plug. Full disclosure: I once bought a shirt there. On sale.

February 13, 2008 10:29 AM | | Comments (0)

Several years ago, I quit the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in frustration over the academy's treatment of jazz. I returned my dues statement with the notation that I needed the $75 more than Celine Dione did. If anything, jazz has been shoved further down the ladder since then. The jazz categories in the awards list start at number 45, and they begin with what the academy members obviously think is the most important, "Best Contemporary Jazz Album," often populated with oatmeal-music nominees, but -- to give due credit -- this year it had albums of greater substance than usual. Hancock.bmpThe winner in that category was Herbie Hancock's River:The Joni Letters, which also won the overall album-of-the-year award for all categories.

Clearly, the academy voters were paying tribute to Joni Mitchell at least as much as they were recognizing Hancock, but the outcome is good for both of them. It may even stir a bit of general interest in jazz, although I'm skeptical about that. As I pointed out in this month's Picks, River contains some of Hancock's and saxophonist Wayne Shorter's best playing together, but that's not why it won the big award. It won because the academy has a pop mentality and its members regarded River as a pop album. Good. No harm done, and maybe something will rub off on other jazz artists, but I'm not going to deprive myself of oxygen while I wait for that to happen.

The only other jazz Grammy winner Rifftides reviewed was Maria Schneider's sublime Sky Blue. One track, "Cerulean Skies," won the award for best instrumental composition. Go here for a lengthy appreciation of Sky Blue and Ms. Schneider.

Michael Brecker's posthumously released Pilgrimage won as best jazz instrumental album. I did not review the CD, but following Brecker's death in January of 2007, there were several Rifftides items about him, including this long, loving tribute by Randy Sandke.

February 13, 2008 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

The artsjournal.com shop foreman tells me there is a good chance that the Rifftides comment section will be repaired and back in action by the end of the week. In the meantime, please use e-mail (that's a link) to send your comments.

February 13, 2008 1:04 AM |

While the Rifftides comment capability is being repaired, we are relying on e-mail to receive your comments. Jim Brown writes from Santa Cruz, California:

From my rather distant perspective as a Baker fan, this very real spat seems to be the result of a big corporate entity (You Tube) being intimidated by the threat of a lawsuit based on copyright of material that they don't care a whit about. While the wonderful jazz on YouTube is a delight to jazz fans, it isn't even a pimple on the back side of owners of that site, and the potential costs of defending a lawsuit isn't worth the hassle as compared with the loss of advertising on what must certainly be a minority audience.

Yes, an owner of copyright would be exercising lousy business judgement about this material being on YouTube -- legal purchased copies are virtually always of significantly better quality. What these copyright owners OUGHT to be pursuing is setting up (or improving) legal distribution of the material they own, for profit or otherwise. I gladly purchase every jazz video I can find of artists I enjoy, and having clips on YouTube causes me to search them out!

Another important point re: the pimple aspect of this. The costs of mastering and distributing program material of interest to an audience that is a tiny minority of the public and limited avenues for distribution can easily exceed the income received from sales. About five years ago, my partner and I released two well recorded and well produced CD's of Carmen McRae that got 4 and 4 1/2 stars in Down Beat. The musicians and the estate were paid. For a while, the CDs were in retail outlets like Tower and Borders. While I've got what I consider to be a very fair relationship with my partner, my share of the profits (about $700) have yet to approach my costs in recording the material. We have the rights to a third CD which is all Carmen accompanying herself at the piano, as well as to a fine performance by Sylvia Syms. Although both are mastered and ready to press, we currently don't have a commercially viable way to distribute them that will pay the artists and have a chance of paying our costs!

Jim Brown

I want to thank you so much for your comments on the Baker controversy. I'm a friend of Naftali/Bob Levin and of Itsartolie, who had the best jazz channel on You Tube, and who was shut down because of this. He presented musicians in the most respectful and elegant way. If you ever watched his channel, you know this, of course.

Lorraine Jones

In the following communique, I have taken the liberty of minor editing in the interests of clarity or good taste.

Removing Chet Baker Performances from U-tube....WTF. This Guy is Almost completely forgotten as far as I've seen except for "My Funny Valentine". I can't tell you the last time I saw a CD 'Bin-Slot' in a Music Store for Chet Baker.....Really!! And these Idiots can't seem to realize this is FREE Advertizing...Subscribers doing this for FREAKIN' FREEEE!!! What is this Chet Baker Foundation ? Where did they come from ?? I read that Baker died almost a Pauper and NOW he has a Foundation?????? RU kidding me?????? CopyRight My A__....and this LEVIN 'Suit' prolly doesn't realize it's 2008....NOT 1958 either. I guess anywhere there's a potential to squeeze a few PITTANCE you're gonna have a few **wish Types recognize that potential. They can all go to hell!.... and removing Chet Baker from You Tube is completely INDEFENSIBLE. I hate them.


Lol. You did the best you could for both clarity and good taste, but alas, liquor wins every

Bob Levin

February 11, 2008 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)
I'm curious about how you determined that Al Porcino was playing lead on the clips in question. He is sitting on the left side of the section (looking at the band) and thus not in the lead chair. I agree with you that Al is formidable -- in fact I think he's probably my all time favorite lead player from the '50's and '60's, but it appears to me that the guy next to Al is playing lead. Jack Greenberg

For the answer, we went to a Jones-Lewis expert:

At the time, Al was the lead player. Lynn Nicholson (formerly with Maynard Ferguson) probably was playing second, Earl Gardner third, and Frank Gordon fourth (the jazz chair). All except Frank were capable of playing lead and probably did so at some point--those guys like to pass parts around the section in order to give the lead player some rest.

Al was also breaking in Earl as a lead player, and Earl went on to be the resident lead player (with T&M, and later both Mel and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra) for many years--until recently, in fact.

Bill Kirchner

God, what a pleasure to wake up this morning and click on Thad Jones and Mel Lewis in Germany! Has there ever been a better big band drummer than Lewis? Most of my favorite big band records of the 60's have something in common - Mel in the drum chair: Terry Gibbs' Hollywood Dream Band and Gerald Wilson are two examples.

And I first became aware of Thad's solo work when he was part of the Thelonious Monk Town Hall '59 band, always going unexpected places in his cornet solos.

When Thad-n-Mel's first LP came out (on Solid State), I dropped the needle on "Once Around" and in moments the hair was rising on the back of my neck! Talk about head-long momentum from bar one... and then Mel's brief-but-extraordinary solo and fills at the end...perfecto.

I had the pleasure of emceeing a big band night at the New Haven (CT) Coliseum back in the 70s. The program was Stan Kenton's band and Thad-n-Mel. Kenton was fine, but when Jones-Lewis came on, they set fire to the place. In his first solo, Jon Faddis entered from the stratosphere and took it up from there. And Billy Harper scorched the earth. I was goggle-eyed with amazement and delight. The writing, the spirit of that band were something to behold - just a buncha guys hangin' out at an old funky night club in the Village on Monday nights. Thanks for reviving a flagging spirit.

John Birchard

February 11, 2008 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)
I wanted to add this to the last comment posted about Sue Raney: Joe Morello told me Paul Desmond did not like chick singers. I wonder if Sue Raney could have been an exception. Joe does enjoy her singing. If Sue happens to read this, I' m very eager for another newly recorded CD. And, maybe even a visit to us here in NYC.

Jerry Bogner

February 11, 2008 1:03 AM | | Comments (0)

Back in the antediluvian era of jazz blogging (early 2005), there weren't many of us. Terry Teachout thinks that when Rifftides debuted, it was the first jazz blog. Maybe so. At any rate, now there are jazz blogs galore. Some are promotional vehicles for musicians, record companies, magazines, talent agencies--the gamut of music business interests. Others deal with substance. Some of the substantial ones are linked under Other Places in the Rifftides right-hand column.

A new blog that shows promise was launched a few days ago by a man named Bob Levin. It is called Jazz My Two Cents Worth. I am adding an Other Places link to it. Mr. Levin's current topic is a decision by YouTube to remove Chet Baker videos put up by a contributor known as Itsartolie. The spat involves one Chet Baker foundation in Oklahoma and another in Canada, claims of copyright violation, and competing claims of copyright ownership. Mr. Levin, hoping for a cooperative solution, is offering to be a mediator.

If the Chet Baker Foundation in Oklahoma chooses to do nothing about this, then it's a legitimate question to ask how much they actually care about their mission. If they contact the Canadian (foundation) side of the coin to find out who has the rights to this material, and a fight ensues, we know that jazz must continue to fight jazz in order for jazz to be preserved. It's life through the looking glass. And if both Chets (foundations) get it worked out and YouTube is unresponsive, then I'll be happy to write a post about YouTube trying to kill jazz while allowing its many virulently racist and anti-Semitic posts to remain.

We will also know the truth if someone from Chets (foundations) tries to contact Itsartolie. I'll be happy to help with that.

YouTube has apparently removed all of its video clips of Chet Baker playing. At least one Baker fan is uninterested in the legal fine points. To read more about all of this, go to Jazz My Two Cents Worth.
Gone From YouTube, But Not Forgotten

If you have comments on this, please send an e-mail message. The Rifftides comments section is in the shop for repairs.

February 9, 2008 3:17 PM | | Comments (0)

When the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra flourished, one of the complaints by the guys in the band was that Jones didn't assign himself enough solos. They loved to hear him play. Who wouldn't? A video has just surfaced in which at a 1970s concert in Germany the band plays "Cherry Juice" and Thad takes the first solo, on fl├╝gelhorn. No wonder they liked to hear him play. The other soloists are the little known tenor saxophonist Larry Schneider and the better known pianist Harold Danko. The lead trumpeter is the formidable Al Porcino. To see and hear "Cherry Juice," click here.

On the same occasion, the Jones-Lewis band played "My Centennial," featuring long, satisfying solos by Pepper Adams on baritone saxophone and Mel Lewis on drums. This time, Thad sets the pace with a cowbell. Bill Kirchner, reliable chronicler of the Thad and Mel band, informs us that although the YouTube headline says 1978, the performance was in 1976. For "My Centennial," go here. Feel free to dance.

February 8, 2008 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)

It is a pleasure to find Poodie James mentioned with fellow artsjournal.com blogger Alex Ross's landmark book The Rest Is Noise. Richard Kamins of the Hartford Courant managed to put my little novel and Alex's study of twentieth century music under the same roof in his column "See! Hear!"

February 8, 2008 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

In a moment of enthusiasm or weakness, I agreed to give a speech. The deadline is looming, and if I don't set aside other things and prepare, a large roomful of listeners will be hearing me read my driver's license. Blogging will have to slow for a while. As it turns out, this isn't a bad time for reduced activity because the artsjournal.com publishing platform is on the verge of undergoing updating that will require pauses and delays. I'll post when possible. Please stay tuned. If the speech turns out all right, I'll share some of it with you. If it doesn't, you'll never hear about it again.

February 8, 2008 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Marc Myers writes.

Wonderful post on George Russell. Hal McKusick told me a great story re: where he found Russell in the mid-1950s and how he brought him back onto the scene.

"Not long afterward I walked into a drugstore in Greenwich Village. There, behind the counter working was George Russell. I asked him what he was doing there. George had written 'Cubano Be Cubano Bop' for Dizzy [Gillespie], which was one of the first combinations of Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz in 1947. He also had written 'Ezz-Thetic' in 1951 for Lee [Konitz]. Both arrangements were huge.

"George told me he had a wife to support and that nothing was happening for him in the music business. Then he said he had hit upon something called the Lydian Theory. He asked if I wanted to hear it. I agreed, so I met him at his apartment nearby the next day."

To read the rest of the story, go to Jazz Wax.

February 7, 2008 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

In 1966 on Jazz Review on WDSU-FM in New Orleans, I devoted five programs to a survey of George Russell's music. It opened with these words:

Over the next few weeks we're going to consider the recorded work of George Russell, not only because Russell's music is interesting, absorbing listening, but because of his influence on the development of jazz in the sixties--an influence, I believe, more profound and widespread than is generally recognized, even by many musicians.

Russell believes jazz must develop on its own terms, from within. He believes that to borrow the concepts of classical music and force jazz into the mold of the classical tradition results in something perhaps interesting, perhaps Third Stream music, but not jazz. Faced with this conviction that jazz musicians must look to jazz for their means of growth, Russell set about creating a framework within which to work.

Russell.gifThen followed a discussion of Russell's Lydian Concept of Tonal Organization, which allows the writer and the improviser to retain the scale-based nature of the folk music in which jazz has its roots, yet have the freedom of being in a number of tonalities at once. For more on that, go to Russell's web site.

Listening to the recordings of George Russell's small bands of the 1950s and '60s is as stimulating now as when I first heard them. They have some of the finest early work of Bill Evans, Art Farmer, Hal McKusick and others. What a welcome surprise it is, all these years later, to see performances of some of the music Russell wrote for the group he called his Smalltet. A kinescope of the final program of The Subject Is Jazz, a series that ran on WNBC-TV in New York in 1958, has popped up on YouTube. It includes the Smalltet doing "Concerto For Billy The Kid," the piece that first brought Bill Evans to the attention of many musicians and listeners. Russell also appears, chatting with host Gilbert Seldes about his approach to music. The musicians include Evans, Farmer, Doc Severinsen, Gene Quill, Tony Scott, Barry Galbraith and Jimmy Cleveland. To see the entire program, go here. "Concerto For Billy The Kid" comes up about six minutes into the show.

The RCA album The George Russell Smalltet Jazz Workshop was reissued on CD in the late 1980s. It has gone out of print, but a few copies are still available for a small fortune. Now in his mid-eighties, Russell retired from teaching at the New England Conservatory four years ago. He continues to compose. This AllAboutJazz article by Ed Hazell brings us nearly up to date.

February 6, 2008 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Next door -- that is, in the right-hand column -- you will find recommended new listening, viewing and reading under the heading Doug's Picks. Your comments are always welcome. For now, please use the e-mail address, also in the right-hand column, under Contact.

February 5, 2008 1:06 AM |

Herbie Hancock, River, The Joni Letters (Verve). Without its cadre of vocalists, Hancock's tribute to Joni Mitchell would not have received a Grammy nomination or widespread critical attention. In varying degrees, Mitchell, Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Luciana Souza and Corinne Bailey Rae do justice to Mitchell's songs. Leonard Cohen is effective in his atmospheric delivery of her lyrics in "The Jungle Line." But if the CD contained only instrumental tracks of the quality of "Both Sides Now," "Sweet Bird," "Solitude" and "Nefertiti," it might be the best Hancock-Wayne Shorter album ever. As it is, River is one of their finest collaborations.

February 5, 2008 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Roberta Gambarini and Hank Jones, Lush Life (55 Records). With a new collaboration of the Italian singer and the American pianist about to be released, it is past time to tell you about this one. Gambarini and Jones are all but flawless in this collection of classic songs and two jazz standards, Gigi Gryce's "Reminiscing" and Tadd Dameron's "Cool Breeze." Highlights of the duets: a spirited "Just Squeeze Me" and a gorgeous "Then I'll Be Tired Of You" that includes the seldom-heard verse. Four tracks add bassist George Mraz and drummer Willie Jones III. A slightly different US release of the CD, called You Are There, has only Gambarini and Jones duets.

February 5, 2008 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Stu Pletcher, The Story Of Stewart Pletcher (Jazz Oracle). Stu Pletcher is not a household name. Even in the 1920s and '30s when he played in popular bands led by Ben Pollack, Smith Ballew and Red Norvo, he was not a household name. Nonetheless, he was a splendid cornet and trumpet soloist who modeled himself after Bix Beiderbecke and yet, like Bix admirers Rex Stewart and Bobby Hackett, developed his own conception. This collection assembled from rare sources by Pletcher's son Tom gives a rounded picture of Stu Pletcher's considerable gifts as a soloist, arranger and journeyman vocalist.

February 5, 2008 1:02 AM | | Comments (0)

Benny Carter, Symphony In Riffs (Rhapsody Films). This documentary was made several years before the death in 2003 of the great saxophonist, trumpeter, clarinetist, arranger, composer and occasional vocalist. It tells Carter's story from early development as a prodigy through his crucial contribution to the development of big bands, his breakthrough as the first major black composer in Hollywood and his status as a universally acclaimed cultural figure. Burt Lancaster narrates this skillfully produced hour in which we see Carter in action as soloist, leader, teacher and avuncular role model to several generations. A coda to the new edition updates the original 1989 version and includes identification of key musicians who go unnamed in the body of the film.

February 5, 2008 1:01 AM | | Comments (0)

Gary Giddins, Weather Bird: Jazz At The Dawn Of Its Second Century (Oxford). I take my time getting through Giddins's big compilations of his columns, reviews and essays. This one was beside my bed for a couple of years. I savored it a piece at a time, enjoying insights like this about Erroll Garner: "Two things invariably keep the train on the track. First, he swings hard enough to allay reservations; if he has charge of your foot, he can get to your mind. Second, and more impressively, he improvises with a matchless lucidity that allows people who glaze over at the thought of improvisation to follow Garner's most fanciful inventions." And this, in a chapter called "How Come Jazz Isn't Dead?": "For half a century, each generation mourned anew the passing of jazz because each idealized the particular jazz of its youth." Or, as Woody Herman, surveying the crowd at a dance he was playing, told me, "These people haven't listened to anything new since high school." Giddins, as they say, gets it.

February 5, 2008 1:01 AM | | Comments (0)

From time to time I'll be posting parts of letters I wrote to Jack Brownlow over a period of twenty-five years or so. To my surprise, after his death a collection of them showed up among his effects. I had forgotten much of what I wrote him in our correspondence. This excerpt from New Orleans was on a WDSU-TV memo form :

August 13, 1980

To: Bruno
From: DR

Cathedral.jpgI was walking through Jackson Square at the noon hour today and heard someone playing vibes. I wandered over in front of St. Louis Cathedral to see what was happening. There on a platform were (so help me) Milt Jackson, Monte Alexander, Lou Donaldson, Bob Cranshaw and Grady Tate. I had thought it was Milt when I heard the music from afar but figured that some French Quarter jugglers were playing a record to perform by. You could have knocked me over.

It turns out that Michelob is sponsoring a ten-city tour of free Jazzmobile concerts. Tomorrow night they play in Armstrong Park. Monte Alexander was playing his buns off.* I thought Lou Donaldson was dead. He sounded great. So it was old home week. I knew all of these guys except Donaldson in New York, and they were as surprised as I was. Sad thing; it got no advance publicity, so there were just a few tourists standing around in the hot sun trying to figure out what was going on.

The Jazzmobile organization is still going strong. So are Alexander, Donaldson, Cranshaw and Tate. Milt Jackson died in 1999.

* A critical term I have since abandoned.

February 4, 2008 1:05 AM |

There is a temporary change in the method of posting comments to Rifftides. Until further notice, please send your comments in the form of e-mail to the contact address in the right hand column.

For months the Rifftides comments function has been invaded by spammers. Some days we have been assaulted by batches of as many as 250 porn spams in a few hours. That is annoying enough but, worse, your legitimate comments are not getting through. ArtsJournal.com world headquarters is working on a fix, but for now we are disabling the Rifftides comment function. Please use e-mail instead. I'll let you know when the normal comment function is restored.

Some of the most interesting Rifftides posts have been from readers. Let us hear from you. If you have sent recent comments and received no response or your comments have gone unposted, please resend them.

February 3, 2008 4:42 PM |

Both Bill Kirchner and Ty Newcomb forwarded this link to a segment from the Dick Cavett show in 1973. Bill Cosby tells Cavett and Jack Benny about his brief career as a drummer. Go here.

February 2, 2008 11:36 AM | | Comments (0)

Decades before there was Lincoln Center, much less Jazz At Lincoln Center, the midtown Manhattan area encompassing Lincoln Square and San Juan Hill was a jazz incubator. New York Times reporter John Strausbaugh's video report on that piece of cultural history includes cameos by JALC curator Phil Schaap and a couple of Thelonious Monk's childhood friends. To see it click here, then select "Jazz In New York" from the illustrated menu below.

February 2, 2008 11:19 AM | | Comments (0)
I object to background music no matter how good it is. Composers want people to listen to their music, they don't want them doing something else while their music is on. I'd like to get the guy who sold all those big businessmen the idea of putting music in the elevators, for he was really clever. What on earth good does it do anybody to hear those four or eight bars while going up a few flights? --Aaron Copland, Classic Essays on Twentieth-Century Music

The chief results of piped-in noise, as far as Miss Manners can see, are self-absorbed slaesclerks who don't attend to their customers and half-shouted conversations that ought to be nearly whispered. We have gotten so used to it, that silence has come to be considered somewhat frightening--an admission of social failure, or the world's being empty. It is now possible to make anyone confess anything--not by torture, but by looking at them in silence for so long that they will tell all, just to break it.
--Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior

I worry that the person who thought up Muzak may be thinking up something else.--Lily Tomlin

February 1, 2008 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Mr. Jazz Wax has a two-part conversation with Hal McKusick about Charlie Parker's 1953 recording with Dave Lambert's vocal group and a chamber ensemble put together by Gil Evans. McKusick played clarinet. The project turned out to be a bit of a mess but, as McKusick explains, not because of Parker.

Bird blew through everything. Every take was a beaut. The vocalists were trying to get it together, and Dave was struggling. He'd rehearse them the best he could in between takes to get them on track. Simplicity would have been better for Dave--a unison line with fewer singers rather than so many harmonies. It was too ambitious. The vocals wound up stepping all over Gil's instrumental charts--but not Bird's solos.

To read the whole thing, go here.

Bird.jpgMr. Jazz Wax, Marc Myers, recommends that his readers download the music
from i-Tunes. Some of us troglodytes still like CDs. You can find the issued, alternate and short takes--and there were a lot them--in this massive boxed set containing everything Bird recorded for Verve. For the completist or for someone who wants to know more about the latter days of Parker's creative life, it's a lovely way to spend a snowbound evening.

Make that several snowbound evenings.

February 1, 2008 1:04 AM | | Comments (1)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Rifftides in February 2008.

Rifftides: January 2008 is the previous archive.

Rifftides: March 2008 is the next archive.

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About Last Night
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critical difference
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lies like truth
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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
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
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Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
The Unanswered Question
Joe Horowitz on music

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
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