main: December 2005 Archives

In the right column, under Doug's Picks, you will find three recommended CDs, a DVD and a book. You will notice that Jim Hall is involved in two of the picks. And why not? He had a birthday this month.

December 30, 2005 1:07 AM | | Comments (0)

Quick, before it's over, let's wish the stalwart bassist and jazz anecdotist Bill Crow a happy birthday, his 78th.

After he saw the lingual postings below, Bill wrote to say:

And a happy Saturnalia to all!

Then he followed up on the recent Rifftides ski postings (here) and (here) to reminisce about his own ski adventures as a struggling youth.

I empathize with your efforts on the ski slope. I grew up in Kirkland, WA, where there was rarely any snow, and on trips up to the Cascades I had to borrow skis, being a depression kid. The skis I borrowed just had leather toe bindings...and on our hike back from the cabin that we had reached on a cross-country ski, one of my straps broke. On the flat I could skid it along, but on inclines I had to push the crippled ski ahead of me while sinking up to the hip on that leg. Thought I'd never get back to the car.

Bill was a drummer and valve trombonist around Seattle before he took up the bass, moved to New York and ended up playing with Stan Getz, Claude Thornhill, Terry Gibbs, Marian McPartland, Gerry Mulligan, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Quincy Jones, Benny Goodman, Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer and—well, you get the idea: everybody.

December 27, 2005 5:44 PM | | Comments (0)

A Rifftides reader named Hatta writes from Russia about the multi-lingual Christmas greeting posted early today:

Well, you should wish that for Russian readers too :-) We don't generally celebrate Christmas on December, 24, -- in Russia it is celebrated on January, 7, so you could wish us a Happy New Year for now (in Russian that's "С Новым Годом") :-)
Merry Christmas!

И к всему доброй ночи (And to all a good night).

Greetings in all languages will be happily accepted and posted during the holiday period. Tagalog? Swahili? Sanskrit?

December 25, 2005 1:10 PM | | Comments (0)

The Rifftides staff wishes you a Merry Christmas, a splendid holiday season and good listening.

December 25, 2005 12:06 PM | | Comments (0)

A most satisfying encounter in the flurry of interviews at mid-year about Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond was with Al Vuona of WICN-FM in Worcester, Massachusetts. The station has revived the program as part of its series The Public Eye. It is archived here and available for listening on demand. Vuona is a good listener and a shrewd questioner. We had a fine time. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “listen.”

December 25, 2005 12:00 PM | | Comments (0)
If you develop an ear for sounds that are musical it is like developing an ego. You begin to refuse sounds that are not musical and that way cut yourself off from a good deal of experience
—John Cage
December 23, 2005 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)

Well, the ski trip was sogged out. When we were five minutes from the lodge at White Pass, the skies opened. If it had been a few degrees colder, we'd have had a glorious snowfall. At 36 degrees, we got what my old Oklahoma chum Charlie Manwarring called a toad stabber. We looked up at the runs and saw downhill skiers resigning from the mountain in droves. Snowboarding and cross-country would have been possible but not enjoyable. We wheeled around and headed back down Highway 410.

Still it was a beautiful drive. We stopped at the Oak Creek feeding station and watched thousands of elk getting their ration of hay. The picture at this site shows you a few elk, but gives you ony a notion of the extent of the herd and the magnificence of the animals. We looked up at the ridge above the feeding station and saw dozens of elk in relief against the winter sky, waiting to get in line and make their cautious way down the steep, rocky trail to the free chow. Scroll down to see the pictures. Click in the video box on the right side of your screen for a two-and-a-half-minute narrated tour of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area and see elk moving through the forest.

December 23, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful—Plato
Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state, and ought to be prohibited . . . when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them—Aristotle
December 22, 2005 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)

As time passes and events accumulate, Katrina’s devastation of a region and disruption of lives fade into the background of the collective consciousness. But, as Russ Layne’s recent comment here reminded us, recovery is a down a long road. Trombonist Jeff Albert responds.

I am a New Orleans area musician. I was fortunate in that I still have a home and my family are all safe.
On behalf of all of the musicians down here, I'd like to thank people like Russ Layne who have gone out of their way to help the musicians of South Louisiana. It really does mean a lot to us.
Another good charity that has helped many of us is the MusiCares Foundation, which is run by NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences). I have spoken to many musicians who have received assistance through MusicCares.
December 22, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

The person poised awkwardly in this picture is not me, but might as well be, except for one thing—he or, possibly, she is upright. The other day I spent hours on a mountain in the Cascades, falling over. It was my first lesson in cross-country skiing. That may be my instructor, Carla, watching, trying to keep a straight face.

I was in condition. I’ve been working out on a Nordic Track for years. How hard could it be? Hah. But by the end of the day, I was falling less often, no more than every hundred yards, and once I learned to make a V to slow or stop, the mild downhill grades were thrilling. I’m going back up there today, freezing rain or no freezing rain. If you learn with a coat of ice on the snow, it must be easier when there’s powder, right? It may become an addiction. At any rate, this will be the last posting of the day. I’m heading for the hills armed with the deathless words of Dorothy Fields.

Nothing’s impossible I have found, For when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, Start all over again.
Don’t lose your confidence if you slip, Be grateful for a pleasant trip, and Pick yourself, dust yourself off, Start all over again.
Work like a soul inspired, Till the battle of the day is won. You may be sick and tired, But you’ll be a man, my son
Will you remember the famous men, Who had to fall to rise again, so Take a deep breath, dust yourself off, Start all over again.
Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, “Pick Yourself Up”
December 22, 2005 1:04 AM |

Rifftides reader Russ Layne writes from Chester, New York.

Wow, Just read the piece on Paul Desmond and the Red Cross. The first live jazz group I ever saw, a bar mitzvah present from my mother at age 13, was The Dave Brubeck Quintet at Fordham University (splitting the bill with Jackie Mason).

Anyway, as founder and executive director of Sugarloaf Music Series, Inc. in 'downstate' New York, my wife and I have developed a growing affinity to most Louisiana music, including Cajun. So...when we had the opportunity to help a group of Cajun artists in much need from New Orleans, The Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band, and booked them into seven schools and venues with ALL proceeds going to the band, I reached out to the Red Cross, requesting that they help underwrite air fare for the band to Newark. After several connections with the NYC and local Goshen, NY offices, I was informed that they had no mechanism to facilitate our request. And now I'm learning that one of my original jazz idols, Paul Desmond and his estate has left nearly $5 million to the Red Cross. That I couldn't get a penny to help some victims get work makes it even MORE of a p----r!
I was finally able to get Tipitina's Foundation to handle that expense. I encourage all to funnel their contributions to that organization.
December 21, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

In April, my publisher, Malcolm Harris, and I were in Manhattan throwing a party at Elaine’s restaurant to announce the publication of my biography of Paul Desmond. Dave and Iola Brubeck were co-hosts. There was a gratifying turnout of Paul’s friends and colleagues, and of well-wishers, musicians and assorted literati. I was disappointed that Terry Teachout couldn’t be there. He was in Washington at a meeting of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Later in the week, Terry, Malcolm, I and another friend had lunch, during which I mentioned that I was looking for a new periodical, one that would accomodate more than occasional reviews and articles. That triggered general bemoaning of the state of magazines. Suddenly, Terry’s gaze shifted skyward and his mouth fell open. We all looked up through the glass wall and ceiling of the sidewalk restaurant to see what large object was about to come crashing down on us. Not to worry. It wasn’t a plane falling. It was an idea.

“Blog,” Teachout said. “You should be doing a blog, the first real jazz blog, and I know just how and where.”

Back at his apartment—which for good reason he calls The Teachout Museum—he showed me on his I-Book the technical steps he goes through to post his blog, About Last Night. I understood them about as well as I understand the progression of equations needed to conceptualize cold fusion. Don’t worry about that, he said, the important thing is to put you in touch with Doug McLennan. He whipped off a message to McLennan, the artsjournal major-domo. In short order, after I returned to the west coast, Doug and I reached an understanding—mainly of my insistence that the blog would not be only about music—and Rifftides was launched within a few weeks.

I am indebted to old pal Teachout for having that flash of inspiration, for believing that I could come out of my techno-fog, for assuming that there would be an audience, and for sending his readers our way. “I owe you plenty, Bix,” I’ve told him on more than one occasion and if you don’t know where that semtiment comes from, listen to Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, Vol. 1, The Early Years: Yankee Doodle Go Home (Spirit Of '76). Terry knows it well.

When the news came that TT, after feeling lousy for a couple of weeks, was in the hospital, I was concerned, along with hundreds of his friends and blog devotees. It was congestive heart failure, but as he reported when he returned to the Museum and limited duty,

My heart muscle is weakened but undamaged. If I do as I’m told—exactly—I have a very good chance of being around for a very long time to come. I even get to go home for Christmas tomorrow morning.

That is where he is now, with his family in what he invariably calls Smalltown USA, following his doctor’s orders. I’m sure that he’ll learn to love Ry-Krisp and yogurt, and I wish him a deliberate, cautious, relaxed and complete recovery.

December 20, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

This morning, we're going into the Cascade mountains for cross-country skiing. It has the makings of a long day, so further blogging is unlikely. Managing a laptop on the trails is so awkward, not to mention the difficulty of finding a wireless signal or a tree with a phone jack in a national forest at 4,500 feet.

December 20, 2005 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

One of the most satisfying aspects of Rifftides during this first year has been hearing from you. It is gratifying that so many good listeners and fine musicians are on board. Today's postings all come from readers.

December 19, 2005 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)

From Kent, UK, near London, Rifftides reader Don Emanuel writes about this Ben Webster posting. It included mention of four Webster CDs.

Thanks for keeping the memory of Ben Webster alive. I know it's all a matter of taste and personal preferences, but how could you miss out the album he made with Tatum, in (I think) 1956 in your recommended Webster albums. I've got dozens of his albums and although Tatum appears to solo under Ben's solos, which you would think would make the recording a complete mess, it turns out to be a true jazz masterpieice.
Has Ben's sumptuous tone ever been captured better. Have the standards they play ever been interpreted any more lovingly?
Ben doesn't actually improvise much on this album but his reading of the tunes played is so exquisite that I get goosebumps every time I play the album.
An album which is pure emotion to me.

It was not my intention to list, rate or rank Webster's output. A search of Amazon or any of the other major internet CD outlets will turn up dozens of CDs by or featuring him. I don't know of one in which he is boring or disappointing. I agree with Mr. Emanuel about the Tatum-Webster. It is, by most critical evalutions, the best of the Tatum Group Masterpieces series. Webster caressing the melody of "My Ideal" is one of the most affecting ballad performances on record. Big Ben, a Proper box, has four CDs with highlights of Webster's work from 1931 to 1951, including a generous selection of pieces featuring him with the early forties Duke Ellington band.

December 19, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Pianist Jack Reilly writes from New Jersey:

One can tell it's Ben after one note out of his horn. I had the honor of touring Norway with him for three weeks in 1971. He was a quiet man before and during the gig. However, after hours he never shut up! It was always about his old boss, Duke.
He taught me a great lesson about improvising. He said, "Tell your story in one chorus, man. Don't play chorus after chorus"!
He was reluctant and afraid to return to the States because he said all of his friends who did, died soon after their return to Europe. When he did come back for some award and returned to Denmark, he died within one year. The word of his death spread so fast that I received a phone call within two hours of his passing. I immediately sat down and composed a tribute to this giant, a five part suite I titled, "In Memoriam Ben Webster". When I put the last note to manuscript, I cried like a baby. Those 3 weeks with Ben were like three years of post grad studies. God bless his talent. He communicated like no one else I have played with before or since. His heart was three times as big as his overwhelming physical presence.
December 19, 2005 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Charlie and Sandi Shoemake write from Cambria, California, in response to these comments on Jake Hanna's riposte following the death of John Lennon:

Whether your stance on Jake Hanna is that of being appalled like your super politically correct reader Jansen or understood as just a dark comedy aside (which has always been part of the jazz experience) like your reader Lang, one thing remains. That is that Jake Hanna is one of our countrys finest drummers and the possessor of a wit that has been making musicians laugh for decades. Jakes' style of humor always reminded me of the late Jack E. Leonard (who was also not known to be politically correct much of the time). His hundreds of asides are legend in the jazz community, one of my favorites was told to me by bassist Luther Hughes. Jake and Luther were stuck one evening playing with a terrible pianist who not only played his songs badly but played his songs LONG and badly. During one marathon of incorrectness, Luther happened to glance over at Jake and heard him (while continuing to play) say....COACH! TAKE ME OUT!
Jake will be playing our series here in January with trombonist Dan Barrett.
PS: We still like the commentary you made in your Jazz Matters book about Bruce Springsteen and playing in "tough" keys like B flat. None of the Beatles was able to read or write music, so when one of the true musical geniuses of the 20th century, Bela Bartok, died in poverty as did countless jazz greats (Kenny Dorham and Hank Mobley to cite just a couple) I think it's only natural to have a few dark comedy remarks appear.
December 19, 2005 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

The resignation this week of American Red Cross President Marsha Evans stirred up old complaints and doubts about the charity. The former Navy rear admiral was the fourth Red Cross head in six years to walk. The failure of the organization’s Louisiana and Mississippi chapters to get relief to the victims of hurricane Katrina again raised questions about the ability of any Red Cross president to administer effectively. With a huge board that appears incapable of organizing operations or of trusting the top officers it appoints, the Red Cross's structural weakness was illuminated in a blaze of news coverage. Before another major disaster strikes, the charity that collects more money than any other needs top-to-bottom evaluation.

In the story of the money Paul Desmond left it, there is a small indication of the obtuseness of the organization’s leadership. He designated the Red Cross his principal beneficiary. Over the years, Desmond’s executor, Noel Silverman, has sent the American Red Cross, in $25,000 increments, the royalties from “Take Five,” “Wendy,” Paul’s other compositions and his recordings under his own name. Desmond died in 1977. A quarter of a century later, Silverman had never received more than pro forma thanks to the estate. Here’s part of the story, from Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond.

“For 25 years,” he (Silverman) said, “they just collected money and collected money and once in a while I got an acknowledgment that obviously bore no relation to the size of the gift, the extent of the gift or any awareness of who Paul Desmond was.”
On August 12, 2002, Silverman wrote a letter to J. Logan Seitz, senior vice president of the American Red Cross, giving him the background of the legacy, outlining Desmond’s career and prominence and informing him that the total contribution now was more than three million dollars.

This was the final paragraph of the letter:

It is easy to accuse the Red Cross of ingratitude. I suspect that that may be less than accurate. It may simply be that the organization is poorly run, badly mannered, or understandably not concerned with gifts which are not dependent on whether or not they are acknowledged. Come to think of it, organizational ungraciousness may not be such a bad description after all.

Weeks went by during which Silverman received another impersonal, misaddressed form letter acknowledging a $75,000 installment, and then yet another robotic form letter. At last, a meeting with a living, breathing Red Cross officer led to improvement.

Finally, the Red Cross informed Silverman that at the annual dinner dance of the organization in New York, Desmond would be honored with a posthumous tribute. On April 8, 2003, Silverman accepted the honor in Paul’s memory. He announced at the banquet that Desmond’s total contribution to the Red Cross had reached four-million dollars and was growing.

The bequest now approaches five-million dollars. In the light of recent events, it is impossible not to wonder how efficiently Paul’s legacy is being used.

December 16, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Regarding the posting about Denny Zeitlin, Rifftides reader Dave Berk writes:

It was the early seventies, and the Trident was the Sausalito stop for a date, good jazz and some marvelous petrale sole. Ah, but the view...... Well, the visit with Dr. Zeitlin evokes memories of tastings above the California Wine Merchant in the Marina, and listening to Chuck Wagner (the owner of Caymus) "pleading" for one to buy his cab for $100/box.
Things are a bit different, now.

Yup. Adjusted for inflation, the $100 for a case of Caymus cabernet in 1972 is $456.11 in 2005 dollars. However, you won't get the current Caymus cab at that price. is offering the 2001 at $1,403.99, plus shipping. That's an example of price adjustment dictated by the law of supply and demand. Cheers.

December 15, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Rifftides reader Peter Bergmann in Berlin responded to the posting about Ben Webster.

Great Webster.
Ben Webster is buried in Copenhagen, close to Kenny Drew with whom he frequently played at the Cafe Montmartre in the 6o's and early 70's. His legacy is alive in Copenhagen - and the rest of Europe.
December 15, 2005 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Jack Tracy’s story about Jake Hanna’s reflexive quip the night he learned of John Lennon’s murder inspired an assortment of responses from readers of the Jazz West Coast listserve. Here is one exchange, courtesy of the JWC list:

From: Jeff Jansen
Subject: John Lennon Anecdote

Is this what jazz people consider humor: celebrating the murder of one musician and wishing for the murders of three more? Oh, yeah I forgot the jazz credo: if it's not jazz, it's not music; and if you don't play jazz you're not really a musician. I guess we can now add: if you're any other kind of musician, you deserve to die soon.
Jake Hanna is a bastard for making the joke, and Jack Tracy is a bastard for loving Jake for saying it, but neither deserves to die before his time.
Jeff Jansen | Portland, Oregon | USA

From: joseph lang
Subject: RE: John Lennon Anecdote

I do not know your age, but I have seen several comments about the Jake Hanna anecdote off-list that lead me to conclude that the reaction to Jake's comments might to be generational. I do not believe that Jake, or anyone, welcomed Lennon's death in any real sense. He was just smugly reacting to the effect that the advent of the Beatles had on musical tastes, and the concomitant effect that it had on the music business, especially for jazz players. The Beatles, and rock music in general, certainly did not help jazz musicians, except for those who benefitted from studio gigs on rock recordings. I can understand how one could be offended by reading Jake's comment in the abstract, but, given the kind of humor that is often a part of the jazz culture, Jake's comment does not seem any more insensitive than a lot of other comments by jazzmen that have been passed along through the years. To those who put Lennon on a pedistal as some kind of super cultural icon, a judgement that I do not share, I guess that they could never understand the whimsy of Jake's comment. I personally considered many of Lennon's positions, particularly his rather public acknowledgement of his involvement in the drug culture, to be as offensive to me as Jake's comment is to you. I guess that it is all a matter of perspective.
Joe Lang

For information about subscribing to the Jazz West Coast list, click here.

December 14, 2005 11:29 AM | | Comments (0)

Many Rifftides habitues also visit Terry Teachout's About Last Night. Indeed, many of you first came here because Terry referred you. As you may know, TT has been in the hospital for several days. I just talked with everyone's favorite arts polymath as he was packing his bag to return home. He will be writing about his ordeal and his prospects when he resumes blogging. Let us hope that will be soon. In the meantime, his About Last Night co-conspirator, Our Girl In Chicago, is holding the fort.

December 13, 2005 10:12 AM | | Comments (0)
I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.—George Eliot
Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness—Maya Angelou
December 13, 2005 1:05 AM |

Rifftides reader Bob Walsh writes:

Almost every review of GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK has applauded the rich tenor saxophone work of Matt Catingub on the soundtrack. But no one has mentioned that the work owes much to Ben Webster...and that Matt is the son of Mavis Rivers. (I saw them together at the Monterey Jazz Festival in the early 70s.)

Good points, especially the one about Ben Webster. I will dodge no opportunity to bring Webster to the attention of people who have not made his acquaintance. A good first step is to get his sound in your mind. Once you do, it is unlikely to leave. Follow this link for a short but complete sample of his tenor saxophone ballad artistry. Don't bother clicking on the album cover you see there; it doesn't take you to the album displayed, but the next Rifftides link does. The CD is Ben Webster at the Renaissance, in which he plays with Jimmy Rowles, Jim Hall, Red Mitchell and Frank Butler. Years later, when Ben was at a low point in his life and career, he said, "Why can't I play with guys like that anymore?"

In Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of its Makers, I began a chapter called "Unabridged Webster" with this paragraph:

On the day my friend Swartz turned forty, he had a revelation. Entering my office at what for him was a gallop but for most of us would be a saunter, he announced that he had just heard on the radio a saxophonist named Ben Webster. He accurately described the fullness and the breadth of Webster's tenor saxophone sound, his unmatchable phrasing, his gruff softness. Swartz added, with the sheepishness of one who realizes that he has just discovered something obviously long in the public domain, that there must be a lot of Ben Webster to catch up on.

It is nearly impossible to go wrong with a Webster CD. If you'd like to get started with him, here are three indispensable albums from among dozens available.

Duke Ellington:The Blanton-Webster Band
Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster
Ben Webster and Associates

Webster was born in 1909 in Kansas City, Missouri. He lived most of his final decade in Europe and died in Amsterdam in 1973.

December 12, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

The following message appeared today on the Jazz West Coast listserve.

With all the ink flowing about this being 25 years since John Lennon bought the farm, I must tell you how I heard about it.
I was at Dante's jazz club in the San Fernando Valley and the TV set above the bar was on and showing the Monday night football game. The band was on a break. Howard Cosell made his now-notable announcement that Lennon had been shot and killed. It was silent. Then Jake Hanna looked up at the screen from his bar seat and proclaimed firmly in his best W.C. Fields voice, "One down, three to go."
I love Jake.
Jack Tracy

Jack Tracy is a former editor of Down Beat.

Jake Hanna is a great drummer.

December 10, 2005 11:37 AM | | Comments (1)

John Schaefer, Drew McManus and I had a good time addressing the proposition: to applaud or not to applaud. It was on WNYC Radio's Soundcheck program. The discussion included calls from listeners with intelligent observations. If you missed it, you can listen to it by going to the Soundcheck page on WNYC's website. You'll be able to hear the whole hour or choose individual segments.

Following our get-together, John brought on Judy Kaye and Donald Corren, stars of the Broadway play Souvenir, which tells the story of the classical diva (ahem) Florence Foster Jenkins, likely the worst singer ever to maintain a career. We hear clips of Jenkins' caterwauling and a live performance of Judy Kaye approximating it. There is a priceless sketch from the play in which Corren, as accompanist Cosme McMoon, attempts to teach Madame Jenkins to syncopate "Crazy Rhythm." Florence Foster Jenkins was awful to the point of unintentional comedy, but she loved to sing and her sincerity was touching. All of that is probably why her recordings, including this one, still sell like hotcakes.

December 10, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

In a recent Rifftides posting, I wrote:

It must be tempting, if you own a newspaper, to break down the traditional separation between the news side of the paper and the advertising department. There are plenty of advertisers eager for credibility they think will come from a more direct connection with news content, and there are plenty of good reasons why a breakdown of separation is a bad idea for a news organization.

DevraDowrite is also distrubed by the apparent trend toward a melding of news and advertising and alerts us to another step down what she correctly calls a slippery slope. To read her post and follow her link to further information, go here.

December 10, 2005 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

The other day, we declared the following item from The Los Angeles Times the winner of the Rifftides everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-in-the-lead newswriting competition.

Ed Masry, the flamboyant, crusading environmental lawyer portrayed by actor Albert Finney in the movie "Erin Brockovich," which was based on Masry's landmark $333 million settlement against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for ground water contamination in California's high desert, has died.

Reader Dick McGarvin of Los Angeles had this response:

Word has it that, at the beginning of this item, Ed was still alive.
December 10, 2005 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

The Rifftides applause discussion of the past several days attracted attention off the web as well as on. Drew McManus of Adaptistration and I will join John Schaefer of WNYC radio in New York to talk about applause for jazz and classical music.

The broadcast will be tomorrow, Friday, December 9, at 2 pm Eastern time, 1 pm Central, 11 am Pacific, 9 am Honolulu, 8 pm Paris. You can hear it on WNYC's live audio stream. Please do.

December 8, 2005 4:08 PM |

One of the great albums of the early 1960s has never been reissued on CD, a circumstance that calls for a listener uprising and perhaps a congressional investigation. It was Flute Fever by the Jeremy Steig Quartet (Columbia CS 8936 stereo, CL 2136 monaural). Copies of the LP in good condition, when they can be found, sell for upwards of $200. Great music should not be available only to rich collectors.

Steig, son of the brilliant cartoonist William Steig, was, and is, a flutist of audacity, force and humor. Flute Fever was his debut recording, as it was for his pianist, a young medical student named Denny Zeitlin. On the Sonny Rollins compostion “Oleo,” each of them solos with ferocious thrust, chutzpah, swing and—one of the most challenging accomplishments in jazz—a feeling of delirious freedom within the discipline of a harmonic structure. The structure happens to be the most lenient in jazz apart from the blues, the chord pattern of “I Got Rhythm.” Nonetheless, Steig and Zeitlin used it for two of the most exhilirating rides anyone since Charlie Parker had taken on “Rhythm” changes. Great as they both were, if I were forced to referee, I’d have to give the round to Zeitlin. His choruses constitute one of the most memorable stretches of improvisation by an unknown player ever captured on record.

Zeitlin’s anonymity ended with that solo, which triggered enthusiastic reviews. He went on to make a series of five LPs for Columbia. Only two of them are available on CD, not including the brilliant Live At The Trident. He was graduated from medical school and became a prominent practicing and teaching psychiatrist, never abandoning the piano. In the notes for Flute Fever, Willis Conover quoted the prospective MD: “I love medicine as much as music…I can play more of what I feel is in myself instead of playing what I have to for hamburgers.” While in full-time medical practice, he has managed to turn out seventeen albums and make regular appearances in clubs and concerts. He had an electronic period, with interesting, if mixed, results. He has done a fair amount of solo playing, but it seems to me that Zeitlin had made his most effective music with trios, none of which has been more stunning than his current one with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Matt Wilson.

Music and psychiatry are not enough to absorb Dr. Zeitlin’s curiosity and energy. He is also devoted to mountain biking, fishing, gastronomy and wine. Nor does he dabble in those interests. He Pursues them. I should mention his newest passion, his web site. With the aid of internet maven Bret Primack, Zeitlin recently set up shop on the web. I recommend a visit, but go when you have time to explore, among other areas of his life, the Zeitlin wine cellar. He gives you a video tour that, if you love wine, will activate your olfactory and saliva glands—and whatever gland stimulates envy. When you get there, click on "Denny's Wine Cellar."

Zeitlin’s old partner in excitement, Jeremy Steig, is still in business, as you may hear on a recent CD. He has a website, too. His primary interests are music and art. His site gives us glimpses of a few of Steig’s paintings, which he creates with the same imagination and whimsy that he brings to his music.

Now, the question naturally arises: when will these two magicians make music together again?

December 8, 2005 1:06 AM | | Comments (1)

As you may have noticed, I maintain an interest in what is happening in journalism. Quality of writing is a particular fascination. I've begun keeping a sort of journal of examples of writing and of broadcast speech. I may occasionally share an entry with you.

The year is nearly over, so I think it is safe to declare a winner in the 2005 Rifftides everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-in-the-lead-sentence competition. No one's going to top this:

Los Angeles Times
December 6, 2005

Ed Masry, the flamboyant, crusading environmental lawyer portrayed by actor Albert Finney in the movie "Erin Brockovich," which was based on Masry's landmark $333 million settlement against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for ground water contamination in California's high desert, has died.
December 8, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Rifftides reader Steven Marks responded to a recent more or less lighthearted posting with this::

As a former writer for Down Beat and other arts periodicals, this post made me laugh. I know what you mean about the writer's minimum wage, esp when it comes to arts journalism -- I'd say it's about 2 bits. Which is why I became a medical science writer - don't ask. It isn't nearly as much fun, but it does pay the rent. How you guys are able to survive on the pittance the editors are willing (or able) to pay continues to amaze me.
(Reminds me of something funny that Calvin Trillin once said. When asked about The Nation's Victor Navasky and his closed-wallet policies, Trillin demurred, noting that Navasky always paid him "in the high 2 figures.") While there certainly is more to life than money, financial recognition for the wisdom, experience, and grace required to move words around a blank page in a compelling manner is no small potatoes either. You gotta love it, I guess. And one can always hope the reader is enlightened, amused, infuriated, or otherwise moved. That too is something. Count me among the entertained and informed.
December 8, 2005 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Minimum Wage duty calls. Today, I must write like crazy to finish what one might amusingly describe as a paying job. I also have to figure out what I'm going to say tonight when I introduce a performance of the Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn "Nutcracker Suite" at The Seasons. It will be played by a band from the Central Washington University music department, a good one. The likelihood of further posting in the next thirty-six hours is small, but not nonexistent. You might visit the archives (right column) and my talented neighbors (farther down the right column).

December 8, 2005 12:04 AM | | Comments (0)

A month ago, in the discussion of Good Night, And Good Luck, I included this item about Diane Reeves’ important contribution to the film’s success. Thanks to Rifftides reader Paul Conley of KXJZ in Sacramento for calling my attention to his interview with Ms. Reeves about her role in the movie.

Conley being Conley—a craftsman whose reports are those of a documentarian with a fine production touch—it is more than an interview. He knows how to let music help tell the story, as he has proved in a number of full-length programs, including this one, for NPR’s Jazz Profiles series. The Reeves piece is a representative sample of his work. To hear it, click here, then click on “Listen.”

December 7, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

We are about to wrap up the discussion about whether to applaud, and when. First, if you'd like to see the comments of classical fans who responded on Drew McManus's Adaptistration , go here, then come right back.

Unless something extraordinary pops up, we conclude with a comment from Bill Kirchner, who more or less initiated the conversation.

Fascinating views from the classical part of the spectrum. Maybe the overall lesson is that regimented, obligatory, unspontaneous responses from an audience are a drag for all concerned. Let people respond as and when they wish, but *because* they wish to, not because they believe it's their duty.
A composer friend of ours tells of going to hear a performance of a work by a famous contemporary composer. After twenty minutes, our friend was so overwhelmed in a negative sense that he started booing and was escorted out of the hall. "But you know," our friend remarked, "I give ________ credit; he got an honest and deep reaction out of me."
As a rule, I don't advocate booing, but perhaps both jazz and classical audiences need to be encouraged to trust their guts more and be less encumbered by tired conventions of conduct.

I would like to tell you the names of both composers, but a promise is a promise.

December 6, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Eric Jackson, Stephen J. Charbonneau and Steve Schwartz of Boston's venerable jazz station WGBH have launched a new weblog. It concentrates on music and musicians in the Boston area. Many of the best jazz players show up there, several live in the city or nearby and the WGBH blog has news about them. Schwartz recently went to the Regattabar in Cambridge to hear Kenny Barron's trio. He found Barron and Ray Drummond, but drummer Ben Riley was missing, replaced by young Francisco Mela. That worried Schwartz.

My apprehension was short lived. Mela, from Cuba and a former Bostonian (he came here to go to school, graduated and moved to New York but continues to teach at Berklee College of Music) was totally up for the task. This gig was the first time he had played with Kenny and Ray. It was as if he was born to be there.
He told me afterwards that Kenny heard him at a jazz festival in France, came up to him after and began talking to him. Kenny said he would call Francisco about gigs. Francisco told Kenny, “Maestro, please don’t tell me you are going to call me if you are not going to call me!”
Kenny took him by the shoulder and said, “Francisco, I’m going to call you!” Two days later the phone rang and this gig was a result of that conversation.

To read the whole thing, go here. I'm adding the GBH blog to the Other Places list in the right column. Please go there now and then, but don't forget to return to Rifftides. Bring a friend. There's lots of room.

December 6, 2005 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Please notice that we're beginning another week of Rifftides with a fresh batch of Doug's Picks. As always, we would appreciate knowing how you like hearing, watching and reading them. You'll find them in the right column.

December 5, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Rifftides reader Janet Shapiro, a veteran of the classical recording industry who produces television broadcasts of classcial music, saw our most recent installment of the applause debate. It concerned Bill Kirchner's hold-your-applause experiment the other night. She wrote:

Classical music is struggling to move in the opposite direction - the aficionados still shush the newbies at concerts when they make the "mistake" of applauding between movements, making the same argument that Bill Kirchner did. This has become a hot topic in classical music circles, but I must admit, as a knee-jerk applauder of jazz solos myself, I never thought of it as an issue in the jazz world.

Janet suggested that it would be a good idea to draw my colleagues Drew McManus and Greg Sandow into this diablog.

In an e-mail message, Greg, the proprietor of Sandow, responded with these comments:

First, different strokes. It's good for everyone to try something different, and shake the dust off. Jazz maybe benefits from stopping the ritual applause; classical music could gain by canning the ritual silence.
Second, a little more dubiously, this sounds like a step in the classicization of jazz, which isn't always a good thing.
Third, if the audience applauds, jazz musicians have a resource classical musicians don't. They can vamp till the applause dies down, or at least play music that's not going to lose anything if it's partly covered by applause. Last night, prowling around Amazon's new free downloads, I came across an Italian opera performance in which the audience started cheering in the middle of an aria. But they picked the right place to do it. The music they covered didn't lose a thing. (This was Carlo Bergonzi, singing "Di quella pira" from Trovatore sometime in the '60s. The audience cheered and clapped at the end of the aria proper, as the coda was beginning. The music worked fine with that, just a lot of noisy riffs from the orchestra.)
Finally, is there a danger in getting what you wish for? Or file this under the department of unforseen consequences. I know classical musciians, including many of my Juilliard students, who'd love some reaction from the audience. "Are they out there? Do they care? What are they thinking?" Of course, it's different in a club, when you can see the whites of your audience's eyes. A concert hall is more anonymous. So, as a counterpart to what you're saying, Doug, I had a student a few years ago who passed out a flyer at her graduate recital. "Please make noise. Interrupt the music any time you want. Cheer, shout, boo, yell, laugh, anything!" Or words to that effect. Comes back to different strokes.....

Drew McManus is a specialist in orchestra management. His thoughts came in a posting on his blog, Adaptistration.

It's all quite fascinating when you compare it to orchestra concerts; consequently, the topic would have made good fodder for an episode of "The Twilight Zone"...
Nevertheless, some of the discussion will ultimately come down to how artists relate with their audience. It's akin to having a new dance partner but not being able to figure out who gets to lead. Should the audience behave how they wish or should the artists create an environment, complete with rules and regulations, which instructs patrons on how to experience the event?
For orchestra managers, the latter is a web which becomes tangled all too often, with results leading to an antiseptic, artificial concert environment. Just visit the website for your local orchestra and see if they have a first-timers guide, "how to prepare" or a FAQ section which "suggests" how you should experience the concert.

There's much more on this from Drew. His conclusion is hilarious. To read the whole thing, click here.

Now, how about a big hand for Bill, Janet, Greg and Drew.


And you? If you're not too busy applauding, let us know your position on this matter, which is not crucial, merely fascinating.

December 5, 2005 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Carl Doering has given me permission to show Rifftides readers the message he posted yesterday on the Jazz West Coast listserve.

I am so excited. The day before yesterday, Miles Davis was elected to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. What a great day for the jazz world. Finally one of its own has gained enough stature to be included with such luminaries as Elvis Presley, The Animals, Michael Jackson and the never-to-be-forgotten AC/DC. Miles can now rest in peace. His legacy will live on.
I wonder if anyone can nominate someone to the hall of fame. Think what it would do for the reputation of Stan Kenton. I know Duke would have been proud.
Let's start a campaign to get some more jazz folks in.
I'm proud to be a jazz fan.
Carl Doering
Sweet Home, Chicago

To find out how to join the Jazz West Coast listserve, send a message to this address.

December 2, 2005 1:02 AM | | Comments (0)

In my Jazz Times review of a Bill Charlap concert, I included this observation:

The complexity and clarity of Charlap's work and the trio's unity were compelling, nearly mesmerizing. Their listeners were frequently so engrossed that they abandoned the self-conscious rote clapping after each solo that jazz audiences have come to believe is an obligation. The audience's concentration on the music was a far greater expression of appreciation than little explosions of applause.

That provoked Bill Kirchner to try an experiment for his own concert at the New School in New York Monday night. He called the concert "Everything I Love." This was the band:

Bill Kirchner, soprano saxophone
Eddie Monteiro, MIDI-accordion, vocals
Ron Vincent, drums
Jackie Cain, vocals
Nicki Rivers, vocals

This is the paragraph Kirchner added to his program notes:

Most of us as jazz listeners learned early on that it is considered "good manners" to applaud at the end of every solo--good, bad, or indifferent. There are even "jazz for kids" books that tell youngsters that if they don't clap for every solo, the performers will be offended.
This mindless custom serves no purpose other than to interfere with truly hearing the music, especially the beginnings of each solo. If you want a key to a jazz performer's intent, listen to how he or she starts a melody or an improvisation.
So for tonight, we'd like to relieve you, the audience, of the burden of rote clapping for solos. At the end of each selection, if we've done something that moves you, we of course hope that you'll respond enthusiastically.
If this new concept of "jazz etiquette" appeals to you and enables you to hear the music better, please tell your friends. Maybe together we can start a movement!

This is Bill's report on the experiment:

Well, the concert went very well--full and enthusiastic house, and all the cats played and sang great. Despite my program notes, people still clapped for every solo, which perhaps indicates that 1) some folks don't read programs too carefully and/or 2) the clapping-for-every-solo habit is so ingrained in so many jazz listeners that's it's automatic.
But if an audience digs the music and responds, I can hardly complain.

If you missed the concert, you'll find the same group, minus Nicki Rivers, in top form on the new Kirchner CD, also titled Everything I Love. (Patience; it's a slow downloader.) For my mini review of the album, click here.

December 1, 2005 1:05 AM |

The deadline and I are neck and neck heading down the stretch. I have every intention of winning, so bear with me. I may be able to post some little Rifftides bauble tomorrow. The article, for Jazz Times, is only a couple of thousand words, but it requires an extensive amount of listening, so much that by the time it's done, there will be a violation of the writers minimum wage law. Where's my agent?

What do you mean, I don't have an agent?

Oh, that's right. I fired him.

What do you mean, there's no writers minimum wage law?

Now you tell me.

December 1, 2005 1:04 AM |

About this Archive

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Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
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Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
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lies like truth
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