main: January 2006 Archives

Eric Felten’s call for suggestions of odd or unexpected pairings brought enough responses that we’ll run them in two installments. My first thought was simply to list the names of the musicians and their performances, but the comments accompanying your messages were as interesting as the couplings themselves. Wherever possible, the Rifftides staff has provided links to pertinent recordings. Some of the pairings don’t seem all that disparate, but perhaps oddity is in the ear of the beholder.

I’ll get the ball rolling with two unusual Duke Ellington partnerships. The first was Bing Crosby singing “St. Louis Blues” with the Ellington band in 1932. At 27, Crosby was in the early stage of his stardom. If you have doubts about how much he owed Louis Armstrong, be sure to hear this. Mae West does “My Old Flame” in full insinuando backed at one point by gorgeous Ellington voicings for clarinets. She sang several numbers accompanied by the Ellingtonians in the 1934 film Belle of the Nineties.

Now, it’s your turn

One of the oddest pairings in jazz, I think, was between Gil Evans and the music of Jimi Hendrix on Evans’ Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was supposed to participate on the project, but he died before it could happen.
My favorite unexpected pairing of people was between Ray Charles and Milt Jackson for the album Soul Brothers, Soul Meeting.

Carl Abernathy

Cahl's Juke Joint

I have a few off the top of my head.

The first one I offer may not be deemed as successful by most, and it certainly was miles from commercially successful, but I think it is surprisingly effective, Stan Kenton and Tex Ritter (Rare Capital LP from 1962-The cover has a spur dangling from a Mellophonium! ) particularly "Wagon Wheels."

(Note: There have been reports recently that Capitol will reissue Stan Kenton and Tex Ritter and, as a masochism bonus, Kenton Plays Wagner. DR)

Dizzy Gillespie and Bobby Hackett

(Note: the Hackett-Gillespie album comes up again in the next installment. I'll offer a reminiscence. DR)

Bing Crosby and David Bowie (Crosby Christmas TV Special doing a medley on 'Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy', yes, not an album but amazingly good.)
Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong ('Summer Song' from The Real Ambassadors.)
T-Bone Walker and Johnny Hodges (Doing 'Stormy Monday Blues' on JATP tour 1967. This is GREAT.)

Pat Goodhope
"Avenue C"
WVUD FM 91.3 or
University of Delaware Public Radio

Doug --

I thought Brubeck and Anthony Braxton on that old Atlantic LP from the late Seventies worked. With time, I don't consider it to be such a strange pairing, but as a 21-year-old at the time, it was a real headscratcher.
John Chacona


I don't know if this qualifies, but here goes: 1972''s BILL EVANS-GEORGE RUSSELL album.
The late pianist Bill Evans was a mere sideman on several of composer George Russell's highly experimental late 50s recordings, but in 1971, with a major contract with Columbia Records, he commissioned a work from the notoriously uncompromising Russell for his second release for the label. The result was the album Living Time, one lengthy, often raucus avant-garde piece in eight "events" -- some with rock rhythms - that was so radically removed from Evans' lyrical pianistic style, that he got lots of hate mail, and his Columbia contract was dropped. With Evans' well-known penchant for a conservative, inwardly developmental approach to his own art, it still makes one wonder "What was he thinking?"

Jan Stevens


January 31, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

Click on the highlighted words to link to the recordings.

My hometown friend Bob Godfrey offered three nominations:

Thelonious Monk and Pee Wee Russell

Count Basie and Teresa Brewer

Count Basie and Oscar Peterson

Basie and Peterson recorded Satch Meets Josh in 1974 and followed it up over the years with four additional two-piano collaborations. For the 1998 reissue of Satch Meets Josh, aka Count Basie Encounters Oscar Peterson, I wrote:

If Art Tatum and Fats Waller had teamed up in a recording session, the results would undoubtedly have been something like this. Whether Waller would have induced as much restraint in the virtuosic Tatum as Basie does in Peterson is debatable, but the effect is not unwelcome. Peterson is not repressed, but there are times when you can almost hear him listening to Basie for direction. Basie’s direction is simply straight ahead, with the emphasis on “simply.” No pianist has surpassed Basie in boiling material down to its essentials. No pianist has surpassed Tatum in building material up from its essentials, but Peterson has come close. The joy of this album is not only in the contrast between style but in the compromises, most of which are made by Peterson. So who’s the stronger piano player?


Here are two odd combinations that worked: Roland Kirk and Al Hibbler...Joe Venuti and Zoot Sims

One that failed miserably was Benny Goodman and Stan Kenton singing together (!) on a Capitol record on which they spoofed each other. It was terrible.

Jack Tracy

Mr. Tracy is a former editor of Down Beat magazine.


I very much enjoy reading your site.

I don't know if this counts as an "odd" coupling, but one that has always struck me is Blue Note's pairing of Grant Green with Coltrane's classic rhythm section on Matador. Green's straight-ahead melodic lines worked wonderfully, I thought, with the dense, blockier sound of Tyner-Garrison-Jones. Green showed the subtle and subdued side of the section in the same way that Hartman showed the gentler side of Coltrane. And you have to respect Green for having the guts to record "My Favorite Things" with these guys right in the middle of Coltrane's heyday ... and pulling off such a great rendition.

Caleb McDaniel

Mr. McDaniel is an historian at Johns Hopkins. His blog fits the broad Other Matters category in which the Rifftides staff assumes you are all interested.


I'd like to nominate for an "unlikely" duo the 1971 recording titled Giants, which featured Diz & Bobby Hackett backed by the extraordinary & undervalued Mary Lou Williams, George Duvivier & Grady Tate.

Not only do these gentlemen exhibit jazz & technical chops, they seem to fit together like a Stilton with a great port.Their remodeling of"Jitterbug Waltz" never fails to leave me breathless.

This session was recently reissued on the Lone Hill Jazz label, distributed by the Fresh Sound folks.

Dave Berk

The Overseas Press Club in New York, where Giants was recorded in concert in 1971, was just up 42nd Street from WPIX-TV, where I was employed. That evening, I took a leave of absence from preparation of my late newscast and caught as much of the music as I could. The fondness Diz, Bobby and Mary Lou had for one another was as visible as it is audible on the recording. A great event.


I have followed your blog daily from its beginning and find it the most interesting thing on the internet. Thank you for starting and maintaining it. On the subject of albums that work but shouldn't, I would recommend the Verve label's Time for 2. The pairing of Anita O'Day and Cal Tjader and his group looks like a recording execs plan to put two people on the same label together and hope either name will draw. The results are a great vocal and small group combination with terrific efforts on everyone's part. People forget Tjader could play "straight ahead" with the best of them and was a very sensitive team-player. The recording represents many of the same musicial values the Brubeck-Rushing has. It was recorded in 1962 and has been out on cd since 1999.

Jim Wardrop

That brings the entries up to date, but there's no statute of limitations; if you have a favorite odd musical coupling, let us know.

January 31, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

A last-minute contribution from a Rifftides reader who identifies himself only as John.

Worked: Don Pullen and the Chief Cliff Singers.

(Sacred Common Ground, a collaboration between the pianist's avant garde African Brazilian Connection and a Native American vocal group. DR)

Didn't (at least for me): Louis Armstrong and Leon Thomas.

(Louis Armstrong and Friends, a 1960s album including Thomas, a sort of free jazz yodeler; Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, Tony Bennett and others in a small choir. The musical direction, sort of, is by Oliver Nelson, who on other occasions exercised control. The phrase "herding cats" has rarely been more appropriate. It's a bit of a mess, but Armstrong's warmth and charisma come through the melee. DR)

January 31, 2006 1:03 AM | | Comments (2)
I would gladly give all my symphonies, had I been able to invent the locomotive. —Anton Dvořák
“Happy Go Lucky Local”...told the story of a train in the South, not one of those luxurious, streamlined trains that take tourists to Miami, but a little train with an upright engine that was never fast, never on schedule, and never made stops at any place you ever heard about. After grunting, groaning, and jerking, it finally settled down to a steady medium tempo. —Duke Ellington
January 30, 2006 1:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Very good site!
January 28, 2006 12:53 PM | | Comments (1)

This week, Jackie Cain, the surviving member of the vocal duo Jackie and Roy, sang with some of their arrangements from nearly half a century ago. Ms. Cain’s angelic voice, an instrument of purity and tonal accuracy rarely equaled in any area of music, has seldom been heard since Roy Kral, her husband, died in 2002. Her re-emergence performing with a big band was an event. Here is a bit of Zan Stewart’s report from the Newark Star-Ledger.

Cain was spotlighted on several ballads, among them "Darn That Dream," "I'm Glad There Is You," and "Angel Eyes." These were arranged with panache by Bill Holman, whose beguiling washes of sound both supported and surrounded Cain.
Here, the qualities of her voice and her strengths as a fine interpreter of classic material stood out. Her pitch was spot on. She moved lyrics and rhythms subtly, giving them a personal swing, and decided emotion. She was a little thin on top, though she held long high tones without wavering. Her middle and lower notes were full; she closed phrases with tight vibratos. For someone her age, 77, who has not sung regularly, Cain was first rate.

Singing again in public must be therapy for Jackie Cain after the loss of her husband and artistic partner of more than fifty years. It is bound to be therapy for her audiences. To read the rest of Stewart’s review, click here.

January 28, 2006 12:47 PM | | Comments (2)

Eric Felten—trombonist, singer, bandleader and occasional Wall Street Journal contributor—is asking for Rifftiders’ suggestions, to wit:

The other day I heard a cut that I had heard a time or two before, "Shine On Harvest Moon," with that remarkably odd combination of Jimmy Rushing and the Brubeck outfit. I found it weirdly compelling. It got me thinking about what other odd pairings have been made in jazz. Some have been great artistic triumphs—Coltrane/Hartman, anyone? And I imagine there have been others that have been disasters.
Often it seems the odd pairings (as in Coltrane-Hartman) are driven by record company decisions that have nothing to do with musical judgments and everything to do with getting contractual obligations out of the way.
I would be interested in your readers' candidates for "oddest couplings that worked," and "oddest couplings that didn't."

Send your nominations along. I’ll forward them to Eric and compile them for a Rifftides posting. Use the e-mail address in the right-hand column, please.

Eric may find those combinations—Brubeck and Rushing, Coltrane and Hartman—odd, but they worked perfectly. The Rushing collaboration album with the Brubeck quartet brought out a certain reserve, call it self-editing, in Brubeck that resulted in some of his most economical and attractive solos. It coaxed forth the bluesy side of Paul Desmond. Mr. Five By Five sang at the top of his game. It’s one of Rushing’s best latterday recordings. As for Coltrane, he was compounding his “sheets of sound” style in 1962 and was well on his way to the free approach that led to “A Love Supreme” and beyond (way beyond), but in the album with Hartman, he is supremely melodic in his solos on a collection of great ballads.

January 27, 2006 6:10 PM | | Comments (1)

I saw a sign, beautifully hand-lettered, in front of a garden apartment not far from my house.


A good thought on a frigid January day.

January 27, 2006 6:05 PM | | Comments (0)

Several Rifftides readers have written that they regret not having been at the International Association of Jazz Educators bash in New York. Many of them were disappointed at not hearing the conversation between Ira Gitler and Sonny Rollins. Because of that session’s overlap with one I did, there was no chance for me to hear it. I thank DevraDoWrite for alerting us to a way to get tapes or CDs of that interview and dozens of other IAJE presentations.

None of the major concerts is available, for obvious permissions and copyright reasons, but several of the educational sessions included demonstrations that amounted to mini-recitals. Among them are the Marvin Stamm-Billl Mays “Art of Duo Playing” and Fred Hamilton’s guitar master class. If you click here, you will go to a printable PDF file listing all of the sessions available on audio. It includes an order form and the mailing address. I’m ordering the Rollins CD today.

If you can’t open the PDF file, here is the contact information you’ll need:

On-Site Recording Productions
5551 Fremont Street
Emeryville, CA 94608
phone (510)985-0335
fax (510)985-0335

On-Site tells Devra that it is working on a way to order directly from its web site, but doesn't yet have it in operation. I presume that they'll take telephone orders.

January 27, 2006 12:57 PM | | Comments (0)

The web site has added a Paul Desmond page with a biography and links to Desmond CDs and books. The site offers resources to researchers and entertainment to browsers. Fair warning: one thing leads to another on Be prepared to spend time.

January 27, 2006 1:02 AM | | Comments (0)

In the current issue of The Village Voice, critic Francis Davis assesses venerable jazz survivors. Here's his lead:

The votes are in: Monk and Coltrane at Carnegie Hall in 1957, my choice as the best jazz CD released in 2005, is the winner in JazzTimes' critics' poll, scoring 165 points to 87 for Dizzy and Bird at Town Hall in 1945—my runner-up as well. Number three with 73 points is Coltrane at the Half Note in '65, followed by the highest-ranking living performers: Sonny Rollins (40 points) and Wayne Shorter (34), both septuagenarians.
Who could've imagined that finally becoming part of a critical consensus would leave me feeling so blue?

And for good reason. To read Davis's Voice piece, go here.

January 26, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

Once in a while, the Rifftides staff checks the traffic report to see where our postings are being read. The most recent sampling includes:

Cremorne, Victoria, Australia
Manchester; London; Elsfield, Oxfordshire;
and Hampstead Norris, West Berkshire, England
Bors, Vastra Gotaland, Sweden
Beijing, China
Clarkson, Ontario, Canada
Tigery, Ile-de-France
Dozens of places in the US, from Tavares, Florida, to Port Angeles, Washington
Several places identified by the site meter only as "Unknown Country." That's mysterious.

We are not alone.

Thanks for being here. Let us hear from you, wherever you are. The e-mail address is in the right-hand column. There is also a comment link at the end of each item.

January 26, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)
A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.

—Samuel Johnson

No writer ever truly succeeds. The disparity between the work conceived and the work completed is always too great and the writer merely achieves an acceptable degree of failure.

—Phillip Caputo

January 25, 2006 2:52 PM | | Comments (0)

Tim DuRoche's response is also posted as a comment to Dave Frishberg's Page Three story, but I didn't want to risk its being lost in the blog backwater. He wrote:

I read Page Three a while back when I was doing a profile of Dave for a Portland magazine that went broke before they ever published their first issue. Here's my piece on him:
DAVE FRISHBERG: Shooting from the Hip
"I’m from the old school
The proper and the prude school
Where it’s stiff upper lip
stay quietly hip"
—Dave Frishberg, "The Hopi Way"
Portland, Oregon takes great pride in its hipster indie-cred, in a certain low-slung holster of free-and-loose, artistic, frontier-justice ideals, a cool DIY ingenuity. To many in the younger ranks, a 72-year-old, four-time Grammy-nominated songwriter with a body of witty, poignant songs that make you think of (as well as tap your foot to) subjects as obtuse as attorneys named Bernie, long-gone ball players, Oklahoma toads, and the legislative process might seem the absolute antithesis of Johnny-on-the-spot hip.
But then again they've probably never met Dave Frishberg, jazz pianist, composer and one of our most enduring beau ideals of Beat-meets-Bing Crosby, cultivated cool.
A pianist ("I never tell people I'm a musician, because they might think I'm responsible for what's on the radio.") with an unassuming, avuncular wryness, Frishberg is unparalleled in his musings on the vagaries of daily life and the seismic impact of love, death, nostalgia, and the state of the world. Known for penning such things as Schoolhouse Rock's "I'm Just A Bill," featuring a mopey, lil' animated legislative writ, as well as such well-traveled tunes like "My Attorney Bernie," "Blizzard of Lies," "Heart's Desire," "Peel Me a Grape," I'm Hip" (with Schoolhouse Rock mastermind Bob Dorough), Frishberg (once called the "e.e. cummings of jazz") is a master of curveball lyricism and hip delivery. His tunes have been performed by vocal greats like Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Michael Feinstein, Diana Krall, Mel Torme, Anita O'Day, Cleo Laine, and Jackie & Roy among others, and his sly sense of right place/right timeness even landed him a role as a piano-playing pawn in Henry Jaglom's 1986 film Someone to Love (with a gargantuan Orson Welles).
Now better known for his songwriting and singing, Frishberg initially wanted to be one of the boys in the band—fielding chord changes and supporting the song, a Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance team-player. Growing up in St. Paul, MN in the '30s and '40s, nurtured on the golden days of baseball, bebop and writers like James Thurber, S.J. Perelman, and Robert Benchley, Frishberg understood the triumvirate of America's great gifts to the world—baseball, jazz and democracy (concerning the waning currency of the latter, listen to his "My Country Used to Be"). But a nice, Midwestern boy didn't just up and become a jazzman.
We forget that jazz was the original "alternative" music. It was lowlife crazy-cool, outsider, indie and DIY to the nth (long before that was necessarily a good thing), and definitely the kind of thing your parents didn't want you doing. As Frishberg has written, "You choose music, you say goodbye to. . .a predictable future. . .My parents listened to my pianistics with puzzled disapproval, and I once overheard my dad telling his friends that I wanted to be a 'klezmer' . . .a low class performer, a clown, maybe a step above organ grinder."
After earning a degree in journalism, spending two years in the Air Force, and doing time in the ad-world, Frishberg landed in New York. NYC in 1957 was a hotbed of jazz and the arts—a wild creative frenzy of activity between the clubs (Village Vanguard, The Five Spot, The Shalimar, and the Half Note), the studios, and after-hours haunts like painter David X. Young's famed loft, where the cream of the jazz elite stretched out and blew. With a regular gig at the Half Note, Frishberg was in the thick of it—developing into a wonderful, on-call pianist able to traffic in an array of jazz piano styles. Throughout the 1960s, he worked with an A-list of jazz's greatest, including Ben Webster, longstanding confreres Al Cohn/Zoot Sims, Carmen McRae, Jimmy Rushing Roy Eldridge, and Gene Krupa, to name a few.
And it was during the '60s he began writing his own tunes, inspired by the model of the great Frank Loesser, a masterful lyricist and composer known for such shows as Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, as well as "Baby, It's Cold Outside," "On a Slow Boat to China" and "Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition." Loesser himself advised the would-be songwriter that his "role was less that of the poet, but more that of the journalist. . . [guiding] the listener through the song."
From his first published work ("Peel Me a Grape" for Anita O'Day) onward, Frishberg produced songs firmly rooted in jazz with breezy echoes of Loesser—clever, well-crafted songs rich in everydayness and a tasty topicality (minus the ur-satire of say, Tom Lehrer or the cloying smartiness of Randy Newman). This droll and playful, felicitous ease is in evidence as far back as the 1968 tune "Van Lingle Mungo," a lovely paean to ballplayers' names—essentially a long, elliptical list-poem. . ."Heeney Majeski, Johnny Gee, Eddie Joost, Johnny Pesky, Thornton Lee, Danny Gardella. . . ."
In 1971, Frishberg "took a left" and moved to Los Angeles, where he fell in with the studio/jazz scene there. Once there he worked on a short-lived variety show hosted by Gene Kelly and subsequently with the great songwriter Bob Dorough on the ABC Schoolhouse Rock franchise. LA has a habit of weighing on the soul (to misparaphrase saxophonist Paul Desmond, "It's like living in a house where everything's painted red"), so after 15 years he moved to the less imposing environs of Portland, feeling it was a better place to raise his children (his second son was born here).
These days Frishberg rarely does his bit—that is, singing his songs around Portland—preferring instead to work as a sideman-named-Dave with saxophonists or singers. It's in those moments, however, you realize just how underrated he is as a piano player. Relentlessly musical and undeniably swinging, he plays tickle-and-pounce, left hand-right hand, cat-and-mouse games with tunes—suggesting moments of Harlem stride, Count Basie-esque chugging momentum, and the pre-bop sublimity of players like Joe Bushkin, Jess Stacy, John Bunch, or a less heavy-handed Dave McKenna. And it's a delight.
Regardless of the hat he chooses to wear, there's an ever-present special reserve of warm humor, musicality, and an affinity for vivid storytelling in the work of Frishberg—revealing a left-field romantic with a gentle sense of irony. And this mashup of Plains-prophet wit (a la Hoagy Carmichael), a keen Ring Lardneresque eye for cupidity, and a deferential big-city urbanity (playing free-and-loose with our expectations of status quo) might just be what we need to keep us honest and indie of spirit.
Tim DuRoche
PS: Shelly Manne's 2-3-4 is one of my favorite albums ever (Raksin's "Slowly" is superb).
January 24, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

The Rifftides staff is racing a deadline for a large article that, unlike the blog game, will result in remuneration. More on that later. Posting this week will be done in proportion to progress on the project. We know that you understand.

January 24, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

I will be a guest this (Monday) evening on Michael Atleson's Point of Departure program on WPMG, Portland, Maine. We will discuss Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, recent CDs and whatever else comes up. Air time is 9:00 pm EST, 8:00 pm Central, 6:00 pm PST. In the Portland listening area, go to 90.9 FM. Elsewhere, you can hear the show by going to WPMG's web site and clicking on "Listen." Hope you can join us.

January 23, 2006 1:07 AM | | Comments (0)

Before Dave Frishberg the pianist became Frishberg the celebrated songwriter, singer and wit, he was a journeyman musician. When he had established himself in New York in the late 1950s, he played with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Ben Webster, Jimmy Rushing, indeed, a cross section of the best jazz artists of the day. In the course of working into the jazz community, however, he took the jobs he could get.

Pianist Jack Reilly recently sent me an account that Frishberg wrote some time ago about one of his early New York gigs. I was so taken with it that I asked Dave if it had been published. He said that it had only been circulated now and then among friends. What would he think about its appearing in Rifftides, I wondered. Here is part of his reply:

I've never considered putting something out on the internet—in fact this is the first time it's been proposed to me. All in all, I would be pleased to see the piece in Rifftides, and there's a good chance that my audience—(retired dance band musicians) and your readership might overlap to some degree.

With Mr. Frishberg’s permission, you will find in the next exhibit his account of a moment of Greenwich Village history that, alas, can never be recaptured because of the passing of many of the central characters.

But first, in the unlikely event that you don't know his work, I refer you to two essential Frishberg CDs, one in which he sings many of his best-known songs, the other concentrating on his piano playing. Just click the links to find them.

January 23, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (1)

By Dave Frishberg

Around the time I first came to New York, during the late fifties, I got a call from a piano player named Johnny Knapp. He asked if I would be interested in replacing him with the band at The Page Three. It was a two piece band--piano and drums. "You have to play a continuous show," he told me, "the hours are 9pm to 4am, and the pay is seventy-five a week." I told him I would be interested.

The Page Three was a cabaret on Seventh Avenue a block south of the Village Vanguard and, situated there, it was an ideal gig for me. I was living right across the street on Waverly Place, and I could dash out of my apartment five minutes before we hit, and even dash back and forth during intermissions. I took the gig.

I thought I was hip, but I wasn't ready for The Page Three. When I first walked in it took me a while to realize that most of the staff and many of the customers were dressed as the opposite sex. It was like a museum of sexual lifestyles. I knew nothing of this.

The musical part was equally intimidating. The policy was continuous entertainment, and although we must have been provided with intermissions, my memory is that the drummer Jimmy Olin and I were never off the stage. Six entertainers did three shows a night. They rotated out of a stable of ten so that each entertainer worked four or five nights a week. This was a hell of a lot of music and paper to deal with, since everybody needed rehearsals, and some of the performers came with thick books of arrangements.

Kiki Hall was the MC. After the first rehearsal I had to take Kiki's music home and work on it. He did risque patter and naughty lyrics, and there was a lot of ad lib accompaniment and stops and starts, and it all went by very fast. Kiki did Noel Coward material like "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" and "Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington," and some Dwight Fiske material, and other stuff I had never heard of. He was ruthless about the piano part, tolerated no mistakes, and demanded extra rehearsals during the week. He was a pain in the ass.

The hostess, Jackie Howe, was a solidly built woman with a big friendly smile who always dressed in a tweed business suit. She liked jazz musicians, and she sang obscure songs like "Mississippi Dreamboat" and "Like a Ship in the Night." I was learning a lot of unfamiliar and interesting material.

The rest of the cast was a jumble of characters, talented and untalented: There was Kerri April, who dressed in a tuxedo and made up his face to look like a woman, and Laurel Watson who was a terrific rhythm and blues singer, and Bubbles Kent, a female body-builder who did a strip dance to "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails." Tiny Tim, who was just beginning to do his act, was from time to time a member of the cast, although during the months I worked there he appeared only a couple of nights, subbing for one of the other acts. I remember the occasions chiefly because of the fact that Jimmy Olin and I were able to get off the stage for a cigarette or two while Tiny accompanied himself on the ukelele or whatever it was. Jimmy and I would listen from the front bar, and we had some good laughs, but the fact was that in the context of The Page Three staff, entertainers, and clientele, Tiny Tim didn't seem all that bizarre.

The Unique Monique was especially unrewarding to play for. She was a beautiful blonde Viking who was apparently buffaloed by the prospect of singing a song, and seemed to have borrowed someone else's hands and feet for the ordeal. She sang "Guess Who I Saw Today," and at the end she would jab a finger toward some poor guy sitting at a front table and give him the "I saw YOOOOO," on the major seventh, dismally out of tune.

What Jimmy and I looked forward to each night was Sheila Jordan. Sheila was magic. The customers would stop gabbing and all the entertainers would turn their attention to Sheila and the whole place would be under her spell. She was doing "If You Could See Me Now" and "Baltimore Oriole" and some of the other material that she subsequently put on record.

During my time at The Page Three I began to grasp the fundamentals of how to be a helpful accompanist and by the time I was ready to move on even Kiki Hall was pleased and confident with the way I played for him. In fact when I told him I was leaving to join Sol Yaged at the Metropole Kiki threw a tantrum. "Oh, no! Who's going to play my Noel Coward material?"

"I got just the guy," I told him.

About a week earlier I had met the pianist Herbie Nichols, who was a unique jazz stylist, very advanced and adventurous and as unorthodox and original as Thelonious Monk. But I heard Nichols play in a conventional situation, and I immediately understood that this guy could be musical and appropriate in all kinds of contexts. I sounded him about the Page Three. He was interested.

Sure enough, Herbie was a hit with the cast, and became the new pianist. I stopped in one night to dig him, and Jackie Howe gave me the big smile and the OK sign. Herbie sounded like a million bucks and everybody
was happy.

A few weeks later I dropped by The Page Three after my gig. When Kiki Hall saw me he began hissing "It's your fault!", and Jackie Howe had to restrain him from going for my throat. The Unique Monique was on stage, and she seemed even more lost than usual. "I saw YOOO.." she sang on that dismal major seventh, and the pianist resolved the chord a half step down so Monique's note became the tonic. It was shocking and unearthly, and the customers began to laugh. . Monique stumbled off the stage in tears. I looked at the pianist and I didn't recognize him. Herbie Nichols had sent a sub. The other singers were sitting in a booth, all very upset, and they were refusing to go on. Kiki was climbing the walls, and Bubbles Kent had gone home.

Sheila Jordan greeted me with a big smile. "You really missed something tonight," she said. "You should have heard Kiki's show. You should have heard "Mad Dogs and Englishmen." It was really out there! You know who that is on piano, don't you? You don't? That's Cecil Taylor," she told me. "Herbie sent him to sub. He's been here all night, played for everyone. You've never heard a show like this in your life."

I thought that over for a moment, wishing I had it on tape. Then a thought hit me. "Sheila," I said. "Dare I ask? Could it be true? Did Tiny Tim perform tonight?"

"No, damn it," she said. "Wouldn't that have been priceless."

"Well, Tiny Tim doesn't use piano anyway," I said, "so it wouldn't have happened."

Sheila said, "Oh yes it would have happened. Cecil would have played. Cecil would have insisted on playing."

Herbie Nichols came back the next night and I assume all was forgiven. Herbie died not long after this took place.. My path and Sheila's path still cross once in a while, and naturally I go into my Page Three routines. I can still get a laugh with my Monique imitation, but the Page Three survivors list is dwindling, and there are few of us left to share the memories, real and imagined.. But I keep the stories going, and I have been known in weak moments to announce that I once saw Cecil Taylor play for Tiny Tim. So let the word go forth now that it never happened. I only wish it had happened. Of course, I'm assuming that they never got together privately.

©2006 Dave Frishberg

January 23, 2006 1:03 AM | | Comments (1)

Our posting about pianist Denny Zeitlin’s recording debut on Jeremy Steig’s 1963 Flute Fever coincided with critic Owen Cordle’s review in the Raleigh News and Observer of a rarity, a new CD by the flutist. Sample sentence:

Steig is a busy soloist, and his tonal palette ranges from ravishing pure sounds to guitarlike overdriven grunge.

To read the whole thing, go here.

Zeitlin apparently has a cache of Flute Fever LPs and offers them for sale on his web site, autographed, for fifteen dollars...a low price for a collectors item.

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

While he was in New York to accept his award as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, John Levy talked with National Public Radio's Sara Fishko. The result was a beautifully produced seven-and-a-half-minute piece that highlights the emotional side of a 93-year-old man who went from bassist to respected artists manager. It ran yesterday. If you missed it, click on this link to NPR's All Things Considered.

January 23, 2006 1:00 AM | | Comments (0)

I completed the Yakima-Seattle-New York-Seattle-Yakima odyssey Tuesday evening, only slightly the worse for wear, now rested and restored. Here's a wrapup of some of my experiences at the IAJE conference and elsewhere in New York:

Buddy DeFranco, approaching his eighty-fourth birthday, played in concert with the U.S. Army Blues Jazz Ensemble. Made up of sergeants of various stripes and led by Chief Warrant Officer Charles Vollherbst, the Blues (named for their dress uniforms) is one of the best big jazz bands at work, military or civilian. It has a stompin’ rhythm section, impressive brass and wind sections, fine soloists, and arrangers with skill and imagination. Staff Sergeant Liesl Whitaker’s lead trumpet work places her among the best in that demanding, punishing craft. Sergeant First Class Graham Breedlove of Lafayette, Louisiana, in addition to being a resourceful trumpet soloist, wrote a masterly piece in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina’s devastation. “Nola’s Lament/Nola’s Return” parallels, in a thoroughly modern idiom, traditional New Orleans funeral music, with a mournful first section and a joyous return. Few non-New Orleans drummers get it right when they attempt a Bourbon Street parade beat. In the turnaround between the two sections, Sergeant First Class Steve Fidyk of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, nailed it.

Eyes closed, a listener might have thought he had been transported to 1949, so finely tuned were DeFranco’s clarinet chops and his creativity. He made his way through a cross-section of patented bop patterns on “I Got Rhythm” changes as he warmed up with “Lester Leaps In.” But in “Mr. Lucky,” a staple item of his repertoire that might have encouraged coasting, he reached for surprising intervals and melodic turns. Then came George Gershwin’s “Soon” in an arrangement by Master Sergeant James Roberts of Washington, DC, the band’s guitarist. Building on the kaleidoscopic impressionism and time shifting of Roberts’ introduction, DeFranco constructed a solo of breathtaking logic and lyricism, a timeless solo, one that must be among the best of tens of thousands he has played since he turned professional in 1939. In his cadenza on the final piece, Rob Pronk’s “Don’t You Ever Learn,” DeFranco muffed a note in a downward glissando. He played the cadenza again. He still wasn’t happy. He played it a third time, to perfection, and came out of it grinning like a schoolboy. It was an endearing self-correction that a less seasoned player might not have had the nerve to make. Jazz Master, indeed.

It is impossible to predict the course of an artist’s career, but here’s a name to file away: Logan Strosahl. He is a sixteen-year-old alto saxophonist with the Roosevelt High School Jazz Band from Seattle, Washington. Strosahl has the energy of five sixteen-year-olds, rhythm that wells up from somewhere inside him, technique, harmonic daring with knowledge to support it and—that most precious jazz commodity—individuality. If he learns to control the whirlwind and allow space into his improvising, my guess is that you’ll be hearing from Logan Strosahl.

I signed copies of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond at the Tower Records store at IAJE, which was impressively managed by Tower’s Larry Isacson. Toward the end of the session I shared the table with Maria Schneider. We sold a respectable number of Desmond books, but the line of fans buying CDs for Maria to sign was along the wall of the store, out into the Hilton hallway and halfway to 54th Street. It seemed never to get shorter. A Grammy and four Grammy nominations will do that. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving—or nicer—person. Maria’s one-on-one conversation with NEA Jazz Master Bob Brookmeyer, her mentor, was a high point of the events I attended. She opened with a sound montage of Brookmeyer arrangements that covered decades, then discussed music with him composer-to-composer. The wisdom, affection and humor were palpable. The room was packed. Toward the end of the two hours, Clark Terry took over from Maria for an emotional reunion of two men who made it plain that when they say they are brothers, it is not just rhetoric.

The final night of the conference, Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette played in the cozy setting of the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton. The room is approximately the size and dimensions of two football fields. It was overflowing, every seat filled and people standing jammed to the walls on both sides and in the back. And yet, the three wizards managed to achieve intimacy as they moved through “Solar,” “Milestones” and “But Beautiful.” Corea, always the conceptual arsonist, seemed to be firing the ideas at first. Gomez was being excessively acrobatic at the top of the bass. The set settled into a cooperative three-way exchange of the kind achieved on a good night by players who have profound knowledge and appreciation of each other’s work.

Out of the hotel, into a cab and over to Columbus Circle to grab a bite at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, publisher Mal Harris and I had no idea who was playing. We also had no reservation, but Dizzy’s honcho Todd Barkan succumbed to our disappointment at the initial turndown and installed us on stools along the wall. To our intense satisfaction, the band turned out to be Lewis Nash’s quartet with pianist Renee Rosnes, vibraharpist Steve Nelson and bassist Peter Washington. It was Detroit week at the club and the quartet played a set of pieces by Thad Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Milt Jackson, and one each by John Clayton and Tadd Dameron from Jackson’s repertoire. Nash’s unaccompanied introduction to Flanagan’s “Eclypso,” using only his fingers and the palms of his hands across the drums, was electrifying. The dignified woman on the next stool was moved to break her silence. “My gosh,” she said.

The playing by all hands was exciting, culminating in Jackson’s blues “SKG,” which included Nash’s New York debut as a scat singer. Full of harmonic knowledge as well as rhythm, Nash was not pulling a stunt. He was making music. The piece swung so hard that Barkan was grooving in his seat as he waited to make his post-set announcement. The gumbo was good, if not quite New Orleans quality. The panoramic view of the rainy city through the floor-to-ceiling windows was pure New York. It was a fine end to a long, rewarding day and an IAJE conference so packed with opportunities that no one could take advantage of more than a small percent of them.

Finally, with a couple of hours to spare on Sunday before we left for the airport, Mal and I hiked rapidly through the suddenly freezing New York streets to the Museum of Modern Art. We were particularly interested in the exhibit called The Forty-Part Motet, a work by the Canadian artist Janet Cardiff. She recorded the Salisbury Cathedral Choir singing the 1575 Thomas Tallis work Spen In Alium Nunqua Habui, composed in 1575 in honor of Queen Elizabeth The First's fortieth birthday. Cardiff assembled the singers in an oval in groups of five, each singer recorded on a separate microphone. In the museum, the oval is recreated with a single speaker for each singer. If you stand in the middle of the oval, the choir wafts over and around you from all sides. If you walk slowly past the speakers inside the perimiter of the oval, you hear the individual voices singing their parts. Most, but not all, sing in tune. If you find an especially intriguing baritone or a bewitching soprano, you can concentrate on his or her voice. This is ultimate surround sound. I’d love to hear, say, the Bill Holman Band or the Vanguard Orchestra, or the U.S. Army Blues Jazz Ensemble recorded this way. Is the Cardiff installation art? It’s in the Museum of Modern Art, isn’t it?

Other pieces of interest in the lightning tour of MoMA:

William Kentridge’s Felix In Exile, a wall projection video of Kentridge’s animated drawings, a disturbing impressionistic story of South African bondage and freedom.

Peter Fischli’s The Way Things Go, another piece of video art, this one displayed on monitors. It shows an endless Rube Goldberg chain of actions and consequences involving fire, ice, explosions, water, oil, tires, metal balls, tipping cans of liquid, dropping weights, catapulted objects. It’s fascinating and exciting. A couple of small boys seated on the floor near where I was standing erupted in glee every time there was a new burst of flame or an explosion. Better than a car chase. Is it art? I refer you to the previous question.

January 19, 2006 10:48 PM | | Comments (2)

Back at Rifftides world headquarters, following the semblance of a night’s sleep, I prepared an introduction of the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, which played a rousing concert to a full house last night at The Seasons. Although the BBQ played a few Dave Brubeck pieces, listeners who may have come expecting to hear a tribute band covering Father Brubeck’s greatest hits were treated to originality, vitality and power. I knew Dan Brubeck’s drumming and Chris’s electric bass and trombone work, but pianist Chuck Lamb and guitarist Mike DeMicco were new to me. Each is a first-rate soloist and a talented composer.

Lamb’s “Prime Directive” and DeMicco’s “Lydian Grin” were highlights of the evening, along with Chris Brubeck’s “Bullwinkle’s Revenge,” an amusingly disjunctive blues with a bridge. Chris described his brother as “an animal on the drums.” Yes, but there is more to Danny Brubeck than concentrated energy. He is also one of the most sensitive brush artists at work today. Perhaps by genetic predisposition, this little band is centered in rhythm. It swings as hard as any I’ve heard lately. If the Brubecks and friends come to your neighborhood, I recommend not missing them. Saturday night the BBQ joins forces with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. It will also be the occasion of the American premier of Chris Brubeck’s Prague Concerto For Bass Trombone and Orchestra.

January 19, 2006 9:28 PM | | Comments (0)

The Rifftides staff is still wending its way from New York back to headquarters. Our two-day stopover is in Seattle, which is entering its thirtieth consecutive day of rain. Perversely, Seattleites are simultaneously complaining about the ceaseless downpours and saying, oh, what the hell, we're this close, let's hope we break the record. The thirty-three-day record was set in 1953. Washington and Oregon east of the mountains are getting less precipitation than the Puget Sound area, but enough that there is a good chance the three-year drought over there will end. That's fine with the growers of apples, alfalfa, hops, peppermint, wine and the other agricultural products that drive the economy on that side of the Cascades.

Tonight, friend Jack Brownlow and I watched the first disc of the expanded two-DVD update of Jean Bach's film about the monumental Art Kane photograph A Great Day In Harlem. Look for a report on that remarkable documentary after I've seen the whole thing.

Later in the week, I'll post a few more observations and impressions gathered at the IAJE meeting in New York. Hang in there with us, please. These seven days have been full of rewarding events, with little time for blogging.

January 17, 2006 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)

The new class of NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) Jazz Masters was sworn in tonight at the IAJE bash: Ray Barretto, Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, Bob Brookmeyer, Buddy DeFranco, Tony Bennett and John Levy. Each spoke briefly and movingly as he accepted his award. Jon Faddis led a big band that played, beautifully, the "Beige" section of Duke Ellington's "Black, Brown and Beige." Bill Hughes and Dennis Wilson led the Count Basie band in a set that turned out to be mostly accompaniment for the singer Nnenna Freelon, who did her patented jazz-cum-show business thing.

Barry Harris was brought up to join the Basie band on piano for one number. Oddly, the most important living Bud Powell successor was relegated to providing accompaniment for Freelon. The two bands combined at the end in "Battle Royale," a piece the Ellington and Basie bands famously recorded together in the early 1960s. Then, the massed forces played "One O'clock Jump" as a finale, with Paquito D'Rivera, Slide Hampton, Corea, Jimmy Heath and James Moody sitting in. Moody, who apparently left his saxophones in his hotel room, scatted some of the most interesting music of the evening.

There materialized on the bandstand an extremely short, extremely young person holding a trumpet and looking as if he couldn't wait to start blowing. After D'Rivera on clarinet, Slide Hampton on trombone, Corea on Piano, Heath on tenor saxophone and Moody had soloed, the boy played four or five chourses of the blues. He played well enough--within a narrow range but with continuity of ideas--that the world-class musicians surrounding him looked at first perplexed and then delighted. On the final choruses, Heath and D'Rivera set a riff, everyone joined in, including the boy, and the evening ended in affirmation.

I managed to make my way through the throng at the foot of the bandstand to find out something about this poised youngster. He told me that his name is Tyler Lindsey. He's from Virginia Beach, Virginia. He's ten years old. He plays in three bands in his hometown, and he came to the IAJE meeting with his dad. "I was glad to hear you," I told him. "I was glad to play," he said. It was quite a night for him. And for the rest of us.

January 13, 2006 8:57 PM | | Comments (0)

Here at the conference of the International Association of Jazz Education (IAJE) in midtown Manhattan, seven-thousand-odd jazz people are swarming in and between two enormous hotels. If life is a succession of choices, this is dramatic evidence. As I write this at 5:00 p.m., there are ten events on the schedule, six of which I am sorry to be missing. For three days, every waking hour has more or less that many concerts, clinics, demonstrations, workshops, panels and research presentations. The result is that, for most of us, there are many more waking hours and far fewer sleeping hours than usual.

Here are four highlights from what I’ve heard so far:

The WDR big band from Köln, featuring guitarist Biréli Lagréne, playing the arrangements of Michael Abene under Abene’s direction. This band dispels any remaining illusion that Europeans haven’t mastered the art of swinging or haven’t produced first-rate soloists. Alto saxophonist Karolina Strassmeyer and pianist Frank Chastenier are sterling improvisers. Chastenier resembles George on the Seinfeld show and plays like a direct descendant of Eddie Costa. The band contains two gifted Americans, trumpeter John Marshall and bassist John Goldsby.

The Sultans of Swing, led by David Berger. The Sultans are a New York big band that plays with a perfect balance of precision and looseness. Their “Jumpin’ At The Woodside” was the perfect twenty-first century manifestation of the legacy of Count Basie. Bassist Dennis Irwin, drummer Jimmy Madison and pianist Isaac ben Ayala are the powerhouse rhythm section manning the engine room.

Dan Morgenstern in an interview session with Steve Schwartz of WGBH in Boston, on Louis Armstrong:

He loved to make people feel good, to bring happiness. That’s what motivated him. That’s what made him such a universally admired person. People could sense that.

Clark Terry, interviewed by Nat Hentoff, on the hard work required to become a master of improvisation:

If you don’t prepare yourself for all kinds of surprises, you’re going to be surprised.
January 13, 2006 2:38 PM | | Comments (0)

If you don’t check the other blogs now and then, you’re missing things. For instance, you may have not have seen Jan Herman’s Straight Up piece about a singer who made his reputation in another field. This singer/author sublimated himself into one of his novels as a character who, among other things, appeared in Don Giovani and wrestled with how to do the serenade.

I wanted to put it up a half tone, so I could get it in the key of three flats, but I didn't. It's in the key of two sharps, the worst key there is for a singer, especially the high F sharp at the end, that catches a baritone all wrong, and makes him sound coarse and ropy. The F sharp is not in the score, but it's tradition and you have to sing it. God knows why Mozart ever put it in that key, unless it's because two sharps is the best key there is for a mandolin, and he let his singer take the rap so he could bring the accompaniment to life.

Here’s an easier stylistic clue:

I was in the Tupinamba, having a bizcocho and coffee, when the girl came in. Everything about her said Indian, from the maroon rebozo to the black dress with purple flowers on it, to the swaying way she walked, that no woman ever got without carrying pots, bundles, and baskets on her head from the time she could crawl.

Familiar style? To read all of Jan’s post and discover the identity of the novelist, go here.

Hint: It's not Proust.

January 13, 2006 1:03 AM | | Comments (0)

After reading about Jessica Williams’s tribute to Erroll Garner the other night, the nonpareil singer Carol Sloane sent this reminiscence of a summit meeting of pianists:

When Jessica Williams mentions both Tommy Flanagan and Errol Garner in the course of her set, it reminds me of a night in New York in the 1970's. I cooked dinner for Tommy and Diana Flanagan in the Greenwich Village apartment Jimmy Rowles and I shared. With hundreds of recordings available to us after the meal, we all agreed to listen to Errol Garner. Smiles all around. Jimmy affectionately called him "Orch" because "he sounds like an orchestra!"
January 12, 2006 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)

The American premier of Chris Brubeck’s new Prague Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra will take place with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, January 21. The concerto reflects Brubeck’s rangy interests and skills in classical music, jazz and rock. That may indicate a bouillabaisse of a composition, but the piece has coherence, unity, and good-natured seriousness. The concerto comes in three movements titled “The Return of the Prince,” “Song of the Mountains” and “Dance of the Neocons.” I think that it is likely to further advance the reputation of Dave Brubeck’s number-three son as an American composer of standing and substance. The concerto is one of three of his compositions on this new compact disc. River of Song has ravishing singing by Frederica von Stade; Brubeck keeps good company. The other major work on the YSO program will be Leonard Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On The Town.

In addition to the trombone concerto, the concert will present the quartet led by Chris, playing trombone and bass, and his brother Danny, a gifted drummer. Their colleagues are guitarist Mike DeMicco and pianist Chuck Lamb. They will play three pieces by Dave Brubeck—“Cassandra,” “In Your Own Sweet Way,” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” in addition to Chris Brubeck’s “We’re Still in Love After All These Years.” If there is an encore, it’s likely to be—guess what? Right: “Take Five.”

I was asked to write the program notes for the symphony concert and to chat about the music with the YSO music director and conductor, Brooke Cresswell. You can hear our conversation in four short podcasts on the YSO website.

Earlier next week, on Wednesday, January 18, The Brubeck Brothers Quartet will play at The Seasons, that acoustically blessed former church, in another of what is becoming an impressive series of concerts. To many Rifftides readers, Yakima, Washington, may as well be on the far side of the moon, but the word is getting around in jazz and classical circles that a gig at The Seasons is something to be desired.

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

The following story from Agence France Presse has been popping up in newspapers, on television and radio, and everywhere on the internet. It seems to have (ahem) struck a responsive chord. In the unlikely event that you have missed it, Rifftides brings it to you as a public service.

World's Longest Concert Sounds Second Chord
A new chord has sounded in the world's slowest and longest concert, which will take 639 years to perform.
An abandoned church in eastern Germany is the venue for the 639-year-long performance of a piece of music by American experimental composer John Cage.
The performance of "organ2/ASLSP" (or "As SLow aS Possible") began in the Buchardi church in Halberstadt on September 5, 2001, and is scheduled to last until 2639.
The first year-and-a-half of the performance was total silence, with the first chord, G-sharp, B and G-sharp, not sounding until February 2, 2003.
Two additional Es, an octave apart, were sounded in July 2004 and are scheduled to be released later this year on May 5.
Today, the first chord has progressed to a second, comprising A, C and F-sharp, and is to be held down over the next few years by weights on an organ being built especially for the project.
New pipes are being added to the organ in time for when new notes are scheduled to sound.
Cage originally conceived the piece in 1985 as a 20-minute work for piano, subsequently transcribing it for organ in 1987.
But organisers of the John Cage Organ Project decided to take the composer at his word and stretch out the performance for 639 years, using Cage's transcription for organ.
The enormous running time was chosen to commemorate the creation of Halberstadt's historic Blockwerk organ in 1361, 639 years before the current project started.
The organ, built by Nikolaus Faber for Halberstadt's cathedral, was the first ever to be used for liturgical purposes, ringing in a new era in which the organ has played a central role in church music ever since.
Cage was a pupil of one of the 20th century's most influential composers, Arnold Schoenberg.
Cage's avant-garde oeuvre includes works such as the notorious "4'33", a piece for orchestra comprising four minutes and 33 seconds of total silence, all meticulously notated.
Cage died in New York in 1992.
The organisers of the John Cage Organ Project say the record-breaking performance in Halberstadt also has a philosophical background, to "rediscover calm and slowness in today's fast-changing world." (AFP)

In recent years, Shirley Horn, RIP, was the leading exponent of that philosophy, although she never took quite that long between chords.

January 10, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Rifftides reader Garth Jowett writes:

The Miguel Zenon is "different" from what I expected, but wonderful in its own way. I would like to hear what he can do with "bebop" standards, as he has such great control of the instrument, and a wonderful sound. Thanks for the recommendation.

It's not quite a bop standard, but Zenon solos on "MDM" with the Mingus Big Band on I Am Three and has interesting solos in Not In Our Name by Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra. With Haden, he is at his most boppish in "America The Beautiful," but he is unabashedly a post-bop player.

January 10, 2006 1:01 AM | | Comments (0)

I’m off this morning to the IAJE bash. Travel will consume the better part of today and tomorrow. Blogging for the next few days will be catch as catch can, but I’ll keep my eyes and ears open among the throngs and the wall-to-wall music and keep you posted, even if sporadically.

January 10, 2006 1:00 AM | | Comments (0)

Jessica Williams played a magnificent solo concert Saturday night at The Seasons. A tall, luminous presence in dark tones and silver, she began with her new-agey composition called “Love and Hate” and followed it with an explanation that it was “the sort of thing you’d hear on top-forty radio.” Well, not quite, but it prompted concern in the hall that we might be headed for an evening in George Winston territory. That worry began dissipating when she was eight bars into Billy Eckstine’s “I Want To Talk About You.” It was gone forever by the time she played “Monks’ Mood,” which opened an extended Thelonious Monk medley that ended up swinging so hard and so deeply that the audience of 300 was a mass of smiling faces on bobbing heads. The nine-foot Steinway was stunning in its unamplified glory in the hall’s perfect acoustics. Her command of it was breathtaking.

Williams prefaced a Duke Ellington segment with the observation that she can’t play his music without feeling his warmth. The warmth filled the room as she explored “Mood Indigo,” “In My Solitude” and “Take The ‘A’ Train” in an Ellington segment laced with allusions to several of his other tunes. Engaging if charmingly distracted in her conversation between pieces, she told of opening for Bill Evans at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in the 1980s. After her first set, she recalled, she passed Evans on the stairs and he said, “Where the _____ did you come from?” a compliment she still relishes. (The chaste “_____” is hers, not mine). Then, she captured several aspects of Evans in her composition “Bill’s Beauty.”

“You’re such a great audience,” she said, “that I’m going to take requests.” Before she finished talking, someone jumped the gun. A loud male voice asked for John Coltrane’s “Wise One.” She grinned. “Just for that,” she said, “I won’t play it.” The next request was for “Giant Steps. No, she said; if Tommy Flanagan wouldn’t play it, neither would she. It was a good-natured, but odd, refusal. Not only was Flanagan the pianist on Coltrane’s celebrated 1959 recording of the piece, but he also recorded it in 1981 with his quartet, and made trio versions in 1982 with George Mraz and Al Foster and 1983 with Ron Carter and Tony Williams. No matter; Williams was happy to comply with the next request, for “’Round Midnight.” Again, Monk stimulated her most profound playing. The last piece, another request, Gershwin’s “My Man’s Gone Now,” had echoes of Evans that gave way to pure Williams, the kind of inspired creativity that jazz players in the thirties called “original stuff.”

She thanked the audience, bowed and left the stage to a standing ovation, not of the knee-jerk variety that has been sweeping the land, but one motivated by artistry. Called back, Williams spoke about Erroll Garner, identified him as one of her heroes and cautioned her listeners never to take him for granted as a mere entertainer but to realize that he was “a great pianist and a great musician.” Then she went back to the Steinway and played a two-and-a-half-minute encore, “Body and Soul” (“Not in D-flat, but E-flat,” she said). Except for the key change, it was Garner circa 1951, to the life.

January 9, 2006 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)

New Rifftides reader John B. an estimable blogger, comments on the apparently endless fascination of Rifftiders with the phenomenon of applause.

I know this is an old post of yours, but I excuse this by saying that I've just learned of your blog and so "it's new to me." Apologies in advance for prattling.
This topic reminds me of something that happened at a concert by a Slovak orchestra that I attended some years ago in Mobile, Alabama. I can't remember the piece now, but at the end of the first movement many in the audience began applauding. The conductor, somewhat bemused, half-turned and acknowledged it with a slight bow of the head. But now a precedent had been established: at the end of the second movement, the audience again applauded. This time, though, the conductor's expression as he turned was a considerably less patient one--the smile tighter, the nod of the head slower. For me, at least, that moment created a tension that lasted the rest of the concert; the focus wasn't on the music but on that whole constellation of behaviors involved in concertgoing that were transgressed in part that night. The night became a question of what, in the end, do we attend concerts for: to hear music or to observe the obsequies attendant upon hearing music?
I suppose an appropriate analogy would be a deviation from the norm of a high-church's liturgy: Being a high-churcher myself, I am drawn to liturgy--it connects me to the church's long, long past in a way that more informal forms of worship do not. But I'm not there to worship liturgy.
January 9, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Jack Tracy writes concerning Pee Wee Marquette:

PeeWee also was noted for garbling some names, as when he announced the in-house presence one night of "Marlo Brandon." My favorite, however, was when bassist Teddy Kotick inevitably became "Teddy Kotex."
January 9, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

John Levy, who is about to receive his award as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, appeared this week on the Tavis Smiley Show on Public Radio International. The former bassist, active at ninety-three as a respected artist manager, discussed his life, career and thoughts about what is happening to jazz. He speaks as he looks, at least twenty years younger than his age and full of enthusiasm. John expresses even tough opinions with a smile in his voice. A sample:

Jazz has been put into a different category. In other words, to be in jazz today, to start out in it, you have to be young, you have to be white and, in most cases, female.

To hear the entire conversation with John Levy and see photographic proof of his youthful appearance , go to the Tavis Smiley archive. Thanks to DevraDowrite for bringing the interview to our attention.

The other new NEA Jazz Masters, as everyone probably knows by now, are Bob Brookmeyer, Buddy De Franco, Chick Corea, Freddie Hubbard, Ray Barretto and Tony Bennett. They will be honored at the IAJE conference in New York next Friday, January 13.

As Devra also points out, Bill Kirchner continues his radio series on WBGO in Newark. He sent a reminder that his show this weekend is devoted to a woman whose talent burned brightly and briefly.

Recently, I taped my next one-hour show for the “Jazz From the Archives” series. Presented by the Institute of Jazz Studies, the series runs every Sunday on WBGO-FM (88.3).
Sometime in the mid-1950s, a young woman from Detroit named Sara Cassey (1929-1966) moved to New York City. For a few years in the late ’50s and early ’60s, while she worked for Riverside Records, her beautifully-crafted pieces (calling them “tunes” doesn’t do them justice) were recorded by Clark Terry (with Thelonious Monk), Hank and Elvin Jones, Billy Taylor, Junior Mance, Johnny Griffin (with Barry Harris), Stan Kenton (with singer Jean Turner), and others. Cassey committed suicide at age 37, and she has been virtually forgotten. But her music still sounds fresh and original, as recordings by the aforementioned artists and others demonstrate. The show will air this Sunday, January 8, from 11 p.m. to midnight, Eastern Standard Time.
NOTE: If you live outside the New York City metropolitan area, WBGO also broadcasts on the Internet at
January 7, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

In that excellent Canadian newspaper, The Globe And Mail, J.D. Considine had a column this week that dealt with changes in the way people listen to music. One of his conclusions is that the more music people hear in more places, the less it registers. That development undoubtedly relates to the phenomenon of mindless applause discussed here a few weeks ago. The thread concluded with this posting, from which you may care to trace back through all of the entries about it.

I mentioned half a year ago that I have heard Paul Desmond, “in the Safeway while reaching for a box of Cheerios,” among many other places.

The truth is, I don’t want to hear Desmond, or any other music, in the Safeway, at the gas station, in Starbucks, the Mexico City subway, The Gap or the dentist’s office, certainly not on the street, and not often in my car. I don’t have an Ipod and don’t want one. I want a little peace and quiet now and then.

To read the whole thing, go here.

In the Globe And Mail piece, headlined “An Ipod Can’t Rock The House,” Considine recognizes that there are still audiophiles who demand perfect sound reproduced through perfect equipment perfectly placed.

For most of us, however, dedicated listening has become something of a rarefied pursuit. We hear music all the time -- in offices, in shops, in elevators, while driving, while dining, while socializing -- and its omnipresence has, ironically, cemented its place as background. Being awash in music most of the day has led to a sort of soundtrack effect, in which we want to hear music constantly but seldom stop and listen.
Perhaps the most poignant example of this effect is in nightclubs and concert halls, where the number of people chatting through a performance testifies to the lack of focus accorded music. It's not that the audience no longer respects the art of music-making. They simply don't consider rapt attention to be an essential part of listening.

He doesn’t so much blame technology as bow to the inevitability of it.

Technology eventually makes fogeys of us all. Baby boomers, who snickered at the scratchy sound of their grandparents' 78s, saw their parents' hi-fi sets evolve into sophisticated stereo systems, complete with record changers and eight-track tape players. All of which, in turn, seemed strange and old-fashioned to their children, who grew up on CDs and cassettes and thought of LPs as something used only by rap DJs.

To read all of “An Ipod Can’t Rock The House,” go here.

January 6, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

At more or less the last minute, I have decided to attend the conference of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) next week in New York. It is a massive gathering—at least 7-thousand educators, musicians and people from every nook and cranny of jazz as an art and jazz as a business. For three days, the Hilton and Sheraton hotels in midtown Manhattan will be overflowing with concerts, panels, workshops, clinics, lectures, meetings, exhibits, and folks milling around and hanging out. Paul de Barros of The Seattle Times and Down Beat has graciously agreed to let me join the authors on the panel he will moderate.

The panel subject is Jazz Lives In Print. The other biographers in the discussion will be Gary Giddins (Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker), Peter Levinson (Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Nelson Riddle), Ashley Kahn (Miles Davis, John Coltrane) and Stephanie Stein Crease (Gil Evans). The panel will be at 2:00 pm on Thursday, January 12 at the Sheraton New York. The convention program describes it this way:

The last decade has seen a torrent of new jazz biographies, some comprehensive and thorough, others mere hearsay and hagiography. What makes a good jazz biography? What are readers, fans and musicians looking for in a good bio? Personal anecdotes? Musical analysis? Social Context? A little of all three? Four prominent authors of recent jazz biographies discuss how they did their research and made their decisions about what to include (and not to include).

Make that four prominent authors and me. If you are at IAJE, I hope that you will join us. The folks at Parkside Publications have arranged for me to sign copies of Take Five:The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond at the Tower Records booth on the third floor of the New York Hilton at 2:00 pm on Saturday, January 14. I would be happy to see you there.

January 5, 2006 12:45 PM | | Comments (0)

The Voice of America’s John Birchard writes:

Your Philly Joe material reminded me of an evening back in the early 60s, a Monday Night at Birdland.
Joe had brought a quintet into the club. Following the obligatory oratory by PeeWee Marquette, Jones—very clean in a hip three-piece Ivy League suit—slid behind the drums and counted off the first tune, one of those up-tempo bop jobs that discouraged amateurs from even thinking of sitting in.
There's Philly Joe, with one stick tucked under his arm, adjusting the angle of the cymbals and tightening the head of the snare with his free hand while never missing an accent on the complex chart with his other extremities—and smiling a satisfied smile that said, (to me, at least) "I got this thing covered, baby, stand back!" And, at the exact moment the band reached the end of the head and arrived at bar one of the first solo, Philly Joe finished his fine-tuning, put the second stick in hand and gave his sideman a thunderous press roll as a launch pad. I couldn't help but laugh out loud at a terrific piece of show biz.
January 5, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

For the uninitiated: Pee Wee Marquette was a fixture at the old Birdland, known to the club’s audiences for his elecutionary introductions when he left his doorman’s post to be the MC, and to musicians as an extortionist. For a brief description of Pee Wee and a photograph of him with Art Blakey’s quintet, go to this page from a Japanese website and scroll down.

Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, includes an account of one of Marquette’s free enterprise methods. The quote is from Mort Lewis, the manager of the Dave Brubeck Quartet in the 1950s.

There was a black midget, Pee Wee Marquette, who was the master of ceremonies at Birdland. And every act that played there, the musicians had to give him fifty cents and he would announce their names as he introduced the band. Dave Brubeck gave him fifty cents, Joe Dodge gave him fifty cents, and Norman Bates gave him fifty cents. Paul Desmond refused to pay one cent. And when Pee Wee Marquette would introduce the band, he’d always say, in that real high-pitched voice, “Now the world famous Dave Brubeck Quartet, featuring Joe Dodge on drums, Norman Bates on bass,” and then he’d put his hand over the microphone and turn back to Joe or Norman and say, “What’s that cat’s name?” referring to Paul. Then he would take his hand off the microphone and say, ‘On alto sax, Bud Esmond.’ Paul Loved that.
January 5, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Saturday night, Jessica Williams is going to play a solo piano concert at The Seasons, which is developing into quite the performance hall. Word is getting around among musicians about the magical acoustics, the hip audiences, and the good treatment and respect players receive there. I will have the privilege of introducing Jessica. I’ve been thinking about her, so I visited the blog section of her web site to see what’s been on her mind. Philly Joe Jones, for one thing. She was in his band thirty years ago. She lived in Philadelphia, was newly married, had no piano and went to the University of Pennsylvania campus on Spruce Street to practice.

It was a nine-footer, a Steinway D. And it was summertime, and it was hot. And I had flung open these big windows that opened onto the inner square (the building had a big Liberty Bell in the foyer), so if you passed by these windows you could hear me playing.
That day, I was playing "Put Your Little Foot Out" by Miles Davis, and this cat in short sleeves and a hat stuck his head in the window and said 'I played that with Miles' and I knew it wasn't Paul Chambers or Red Garland, it had to be Philly Joe. He came inside and asked me to play "Tadd's Delight" (in A-flat, which scared the hell out of me, as I had always played it in F for reasons of sheer laziness) and If "I were a Bell," which was no problem, since I knew that one really well. That was my audition for the Philly Joe Jones Quintet (which usually turned out to be a quartet for some reason or other). Tyree Glenn was in that band, and a different bass player on every gig. We played the joints... in Camden, Trenton, Hoboken, all the seamy little holes-in-the-wall. I was terrified most of the time. I can't remember exactly why... probably just totally freaked that I was playing with THE Philly Joe Jones. I mean, gee whiz, kids!

To read the whole thing, go here. And if you happen to be in Yakima, Washington, Saturday night, drop by The Seasons, listen to Jessica, have a glass of good Washington wine and say hello.

For an assessment and appreciation of Philly Joe Jones, see Burt Korall's Drummin' Men:The Bebop Years. A sample:

...he had rare, surprising capacities that went far beyond the instrument he played. Jones was an appealingly facile tap dancer, a pianist, a composer, an arranger, and a songwriter. He sang ballads and scatted, improvising on standards and jazz originals. He could handle the bass violin—left-handed—and skillfully deal with the tenor saxophone. Jones read and Interpreted—with little apparent difficulty—transcribed solos by his friend and fellow Philadelphian John Coltrane.
If that weren't enough, he was, in addition, an entertainer with unusual stage presence and great ability as a mimic and comedian. I commend to your attention his now famous Bela Lugosi/Count Dracula imitation (Blues for Dracula—Philly Joe Jones, Riverside.)
January 4, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Rifftides reader Jim Brown writes from Chicago:

I've made it a habit to visit your blog daily when I'm near an internet connection and not totally overwhelmed by my own endeavors, and have been disappointed on days when there's nothing new. I've finally learned that periods of silence usually indicate research and writing, with results like the lovely new piece on Bill De Arango. Like your other efforts, this one is going to send me to the record sources for more listening.
January 3, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Ted O'Reilly writes from Toronto:

Before Christmas (Dec. 22) you had some Plato and Aristotle observations on music. How about adding some good ol' W. Shakespeare?


The man that hath no music in himself,

Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,

Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;

The motions of his spirit are dull as night

And his affections dark as Erebus:

Let no such man be trusted.

(Merchant of Venice, Act V)

You just did. Thanks.

January 3, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Bill De Arango, the guitarist who died at eighty-five the day after Christmas, might have become famous. While his colleagues Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie invited audiences into the new territory they had all opened together, he left New York in 1948 and went home to Cleveland. The next generation of guitarists, which included Jimmy Raney and Tal Farlow, gained followings that De Arango helped make possible. Even his contemporary Remo Palmier, who stayed on the New York scene longer, was better known. But considering his short time in the big leagues, De Arango appears on a surprising number of records.

His playing was characterized by technical skill, digital speed and canny application of harmonic understanding to create memorable melodic inventions. With Parker and Gillespie, De Arango was a part of Sarah Vaughan’s first recordings under her own name, but did not solo on them. A few days later in the spring of 1945, he recorded with bassist Slam Stewart’s quintet, which included Red Norvo and Johnny Guarnieri. With daring intervals in his improvised lines, on the Stewart sides De Arango bridged the divide between swing and bebop, notably in ”On the Upside Looking Down.” After recording in the swing mainstream with saxophonists Charlie Kennedy and Ike Quebec—both in 1945—he joined Gillespie’s seven-piece band for recordings that accelerated the pace of bebop’s acceptance. De Arango’s choruses on “Anthropology,” “Ol’ Man Rebop” and particularly his luminous solo on the second take of “52nd Street Theme” demonstrated why Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Al Haig and Don Byas, the other soloists on that landmark RCA Victor date in early 1946, accepted him as a peer.

De Arango appeared on four Trummy Young sides the trombonist cut in April, 1946. In May, two weeks apart, came two magnificent recording sessions that De Arango and the magisterial tenor saxophonist Ben Webster split as leaders. De Arango’s sextet session was a swing-to-bop transitional affair with Sid Catlett on drums, bassist John Simmons, clarinetist Tony Scott and trumpeter Idrees Sulieman, then still known as Leonard Graham. Argonne Thornton (aka Sadik Hakkim) was the pianist. Webster’s quartet date had the same rhythm section, except that Haig, another bop pioneer, took over the piano. De Arango and Webster made a glorious team and produced eight tracks that are among the best from a period when musicians of different styles and races mixed without a thought for the phony war some critics were promoting between bop and all other jazz. “I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good” and “Blues Mister Brim” are sterling examples of the empathy between the two. Both sessions are reissued under Webster's name.

De Arango next recorded with Eddie Davis, in the days before Davis appended the nickname “Lockjaw.” They did two blues and two “I Got Rhythm” variants, typical of quick record dates, with superior solos from De Arango. A favorite of tenor players, he was soon back in a studio with Webster, Scott, Haig, Simmons, Catlett and Sulieman for four septet sides under his own name on the Signature label. They seem never to have been reissued. In March, 1947, he joined Charlie Ventura in an all-star group with trumpeter Charlie Shavers, trombonist Bill Harris, pianist Ralph Burns, drummer Dave Tough, and bassist Chubby Jackson. They recorded four tracks, including “Stop and Go,” with De Arango’s electrifying solo the very definition of early bebop fleetness. A week later, the same group with Curley Russell on bass and Sid Catlett spelling Tough on one piece, played a concert at Carnegie Hall. It was recorded, but the only CD reissue seems to be in a gigantic Jazz At The Philharmonic box.

By 1948, De Arango was back in Cleveland. He opened a music store. He gave lessons. He continued to play—brilliantly, by all accounts—until illness prevented it in his last few years, but he was out of the spotlight, rarely recording. In 1954 he made a ten-inch LP using Stan Getz’s rhythm section of pianist John Williams, bassist Teddy Kotick and drummer Art Mardigan. It has not been reissued. De Arango returned to New York for a short time in the late 1960s and early 1970s, playing what his Cleveland colleague tenor saxophonist Ernie Krivda described as “heavy metal jazz.” An album he recorded in 1993 with Joe Lovano as a sideman gives the flavor of his playing in that period. But it was his dazzling work of the mid-forties that made him a model for other guitarists. If you follow the links in this posting, you’ll find nearly everything De Arango recorded when his talent flowered during a vital phase of jazz history.

January 2, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

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This page is a archive of entries in the main category from January 2006.

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