main: May 2006 Archives

Later in the week, I'll be posting from Rochester, New York, and the ninth annual Swing 'n Jazz, an event supporting The Commission Project's music education of young people. In this context, "Swing" refers to both music and golf. A tournament on Sunday raises money for the education. Workshops accomplish the learning during a three-day event, and throughout the year by way of commissioned works that provide educational opportunities for children of all ages. Trumpeter Marvin Stamm is the musical director of this year's Swing 'n Jazz. His faculty comes from the Eastman School, other educational institutions and the New York City jazz scene. Reversing the old axiom, this is a case in which those who can, do, and teach.

Last year's faculty stayed over for two days and recorded a CD, The Swing 'n Jazz All-Stars, under the direction of the trombonist Fred Wesley. It was just released. I can't offer a full-fledged review, but I liked what I heard the first time through. Stamm is impressive throughout, and there's a nifty bass duet by Jay Leonhart and Keter Betts. Sadly, Betts died not long after the session.

May 31, 2006 1:06 AM | | Comments (1)

Following the posting about Paul Desmond playing "Take Five" in a video, Rifftides reader Jon Naylor wrote from Seattle:

In regards to, they have a great piece of history with Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie being presented a Down Beat music award by Leonard Feather and columnist Earl Wilson. Watch the look on Parker's face when Earl Wilson refers to him and Dizzy as 'you boys' and the painful look on Feather's face earlier when Earl tries to use some hipster lingo with the phrase, "Gimme some skin." A classic.

Wilson's clueless introduction preceded a performance of "Hot House," with Parker and Gillespie accompanied by pianist Dick Hyman, drummer Charlie Smith and bassist Sandy Block. It is rare film of Diz and Bird together.

For those interested, see previous Rifftides postings on Parker (and others) on video here and here and here .

May 31, 2006 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)

It is a truth so commonplace that it has become a cliché: You needn't be American to be a first-rate jazz musician. The United States of America brought together and mixed the elements that made jazz. But it is not, after all, something in the water, the genes or the sociology of The United States that makes good jazz improvisers. Rather, it is talent, inspiration, hard work and experience--the combination that creates artists in any field. Some black musicians used to say of white ones, "They're stealing our music." Some American musicians used to say that of non-Americans. America gave jazz to the world. To borrow Dizzy Gillespie's wonderful phrase, you can't steal a gift.

Hardly a week goes by when the mail or the express truck does not bring at least one reminder that the gift is coming back, generously expanded, from all regions of the planet. I have yet to hear a jazz CD from Mongolia or Yemen, but when one shows up, I won't be greatly surprised. Here is a list of a few recent arrivals that I have liked, with brief comments. Some of these albums will be hard to find. The links may help.

Roberto Magris Europlane, Check In (Soul Note). Forthright modern mainstream music from Magris, an Italian pianist. His quintet includes his countryman Gabriele Centis on drums, saxophonists Tony Lakatos (Hungary) and Michael Erian (Austria) and the impressive Czech bassist Robert Balzar.

Yaron Herman, Variations (Laborie). Herman is a young Israeli living in Paris. I might quibble with his harmonies on "Summertime," but he takes stimulating solo piano flights on a couple of Fauré pieces, a rarity by Clare Fischer and several originals.

Flip Philipp-Ed Partyka, Something Wrong With You? (FF Records). The Austrian vibraharpist Philipp and American trombonist Partyka, superb players and writers, lead a ten-piece band populated mostly by Germans. Their music draws on the Birth of the Cool tradition, European avant-gardism and humor.

Hiromi, Spiral (Telarc). This tiny Japanese pianist (last name, Euhara) sometimes channels her formidable technique into new-age meandering. Her electronic keyboard manipulations can curl your teeth. But, as in the title track, she is capable of lyrical creativity.

Eldar, Live at the Blue Note (Sony Classical). The piano prodigy from Kyrgystan (last name, Djangirov), now nineteen, has chops to spare, but the surest sign here of his maturity is his restrained, beguiling Latin ballad playing on "Besame Mucho."

Fay Claassen, Two Portraits of Chet Baker, (Jazz 'N Pulz). Two CDs. In the first, the Dutch singer wordlessly replicates Baker's trumpet in a recreation of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet. Baritone saxophonist Jan Menu plays Mulligan's role, most impressively. In the second CD, Claassen sings, beautifully, songs that Baker sang. Jan Wessels handles the trumpet solos with a Baker orientation. Hein Van de Geyn is the noteworthy bassist.

Enrico Pieranunzi, Live in Paris (Challenge). Van deGeyn is also the bassist on this two-CD set, joining pianist Pieranunzi, the dean of modern Italian jazz pianists, and drummer Andre Ceccarelli. A stimulating couple of hours of trio music that owes much to Bill Evans.

The Dutch Jazz Orchestra, The Lady Who Swings the Band: Rediscovered Music of Mary Lou Williams (Challenge). "File Under Jazz/Historical," it says on the back of the CD box. Don't file at all, is my advice; play daily. Nine of these thirteen pieces by the brilliant composer-arranger have never before been recorded. If you're not familiar with this sterling big band there is no finer introduction than this gem.

You will find further recommendations in the next exhibit.

May 29, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Here are more recommended CDs by jazz artists not from the United States.

Gilad Atzmon, Musik: Rearranging the 20th Century (Enja). It is unlikely that Atzmon can separate himself from Israeli-Palestinian politics--or that he wishes to--but this CD is more about music and less about ideologies than, say, his Exile. The context of the album is, I suppose, world music, but it has plenty of Atzmon's fearsome, lovely, sax and clarinet work. I have heard private recordings of his straight-ahead jazz tenor playing. Why isn't that on CD?

Watch Out! Svensk Jazzhistoria,Vol. 10 (Caprice). The final box set in Caprice's monumental survey of jazz in Sweden from its beginnings covers 1965-1969. It has Bengt Hallberg, Rolf Ericson, Monica Zetterlund, dozens of other Swedes, and distinguished visitors like Red Mitchell, George Russell and Don Cherry.

Ed Bickert, Out of the Past (Sackville). This comes from 1976, when guitarist Bickert, bassist Don Thompson and drummer Terry Clarke constituted the rhythm section of what Paul Desmond affectionately called his "Canadian Group." Issued for the first time, this CD by the trio reaffirms the reasons for Desmond's affection.

Moutin Reunion Quartet, Red Moon (Sunnyside). It opens with an exhilirating duet on "Le Mer" between French bassist Francois Moutin and his drummer brother Louis. When pianist Baptiste Trotignon and saxophonist Rick Margitza join for the title tune, the energy level--improbably--increases.

David Dorůžka, Hidden Paths (Cube Metier). A young Czech who studied at the Berklee School of Music in Boston and is back in Prague, Dorůžka is an abstractionist who often fragments or floats his lines. He can also dig in, as he does on Monk's "Evidence." A guitarist to watch.

Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, The Bass in the Background (Storyville). A compilation of the late bassist in support of and soloing with Bud Powell, Coleman Hawkins, Svend Asmussen, Ben Webster, Zoot Sims and others. And what support. NHOP was a marvel.

NHOP is the bassist on Thad Jones and the Danish Radio Big Band Live at the Montmartre (Storyville). Recorded during a residency in 1978, before Jones moved to Copenhagen, this CD is packed with his extraordinary arrangements. The ensemble playing is superior. There are solos to match it by saxophonist Jesper Thilo, pianist Ole Kock Hansen, trombonist Vincent Nilsson, and trumpeters Allan Borschinsky and Idrees Sulieman. Jones's only cornet solo--on "Old Folks"--is memorable.

ICP Orchestra, Aan & Uit (ICIP). The bizarre and the beautiful. The irrepressible pianist Misha Mengelberg seems to be the guiding spirit in this project of ten musicians, most of them Dutch, who include the avant garde drummer Han Bennink. Just when you think the hi-jinks are getting out of hand, a gorgeous piece of arranging takes over. Their treatment of Hoagy Carmichael's barely-known "Barbaric" is a highlight. Now zany, now touching, this is music for the open-minded listener with a sense of adventure and a sense of humor.

May 29, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Just as the music is everywhere, so are Rifftides readers. A recent check of the site meter shows you in these places, among others:



Guelph, Ontario
Belleville, Ontario
Toronto, Ontario


Czech Republic




Bet Nehemya
Tel Aviv




United Kingdom
Parkwood, Gillingham
West Byfleet, Surrey

United States
Seattle, Washington, to Astatula, Florida, and all regions between

Welcome, one and all. We're glad to have you aboard. Let us hear from you.

May 29, 2006 1:03 AM | | Comments (0)

Twenty-nine years ago this weekend, Paul Desmond bid his girl friend goodbye as she set off for London, urging her to have a good holiday. That was on Friday. He would be fine, he told her; he had friends coming the next day. But his only companion was the lung cancer that had ravaged him during the past year. His housekeeper found him dead on Monday, Memorial Day. Marian McPartland said, “It’s just like Paul to slip quietly away when everyone’s out of town, not to bother anybody.” Details of his passing—and his life—are in this book.

In a coincidence for which I am grateful, this morning I received a message guiding me to a newly discovered video clip of Paul playing “Take Five.” It was made at Lincoln Center in 1972 in a concert reuniting him with Dave Brubeck. Alan Dawson is the drummer, Jack Six the bassist. Unlike most of the videos of Desmond that pop up here and there, this one is in color. It lingers after the piece ends while Paul bows and thanks the audience. I have watched it three times. I gave up hard liquor many years ago, but I am going watch the clip once more tonight, make a toast and have a sip of Dewars. If you would like to join me, go here.

May 27, 2006 9:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Like, dig! I'm in step.

When it was hip to be hep, I was hep.

I don't blow but I'm a fan.

Look at me swing. Ring a ding ding.

I even call my girlfriend "man,"

'cuz I'm hip…

—Dave Frishberg, “I’m Hip,”1965

It has been well said that ‘the arch-flatterer with
whom all the petty flatterers have intelligence is a
man’s self.’

—Francis Bacon, “Of Love,” 1605

May 27, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Terry Teachout's ecstatic review of pianist Roger Kellaway's new drummerless trio makes me want to hop a plane to New York. Kellaway has lived in California for years. He is back in The Apple for an engagement at the Jazz Standard.

The three men opened the set with a super-sly version of Benny Golson’s “Killer Joe,” and within four bars you knew they were going to swing really, really hard. So they did, with Kellaway pitching his patented curve balls all night long, including a bitonal arrangement of Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash” and what surely must have been the first time that the Sons of the Pioneers’ “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” has ever been performed by a jazz group.

To read all of TT's hymn of praise, go here.

There's nothing new about Kellaway's wizardry. It's just that for a few years his playing took a back seat to his composing and arranging. He came back into the public ear as a pianist with a flourish that coincided with the 2004 film biography of Bobby Darin, for whom Kellaway was once musical director. His solo CD of songs associated with Darin was one of the piano album highlights of last year. If you're not a Darin enthusiast, don't worry; you needn't be to appreciate what Kellaway does with the music. Here's a bit of what I wrote in Jazz Times about I Was There.

The quality of playing here is so high that it's difficult to designate one track as an apogee among the performances. I lean toward Berlin's "All By Myself," with its headlong swing, orchestral depth and a shout chorus worthy of the Count Basie brass section in the Harry Edison-Buck Clayton days. But, then, "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" has Kellaway's flawless runs and arpeggios complementing and commenting on the melody, putting that timeless ballad in a new light.

To read the entire review, go here. Kellaway followed up the solo album with a trio CD of music Darin sang, employing the drastically underappreciated guitarist Bruce Foreman and bassist Dan Lutz. If you've been asleep on Roger Kellaway, now's the time to wake up.

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

The Before & After test I did with Miguel Zenon at the Portland Jazz Festival appears in the June issue of Jazz Times, now on news stands. Here's a sample of his acute hearing and assessments:

3. Gonzalo Rubalcaba “Los Buyes” (from Paseo, Blue Note). Rubalcaba, piano; Luis Felipe Lamoglia, alto sax; Jose Armando Gola, electric bass; Ignacio Berroa, drums. Recorded in 2005.

BEFORE: This is Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s group, all Cuban. Luis Felipe Lamoglia is a tenor player, but he sounds great on alto on this tune. It sounds like this is an arrangement of a Cuban traditional song. Great performance. Incredible band.

AFTER: Gonzalo is one of the most original voices on piano over the past twenty years. For me, he’s probably the most impressive pianist I’ve ever seen, in terms of playing the instrument with flawless technique and great sound. He’s one of those guys who can do anything he wants, at any moment. He’ll give you all the technique, but he also has a great feel and sensibility for improvisation.

The complete Before & After will be on the Jazz Times website eventually, with audio samples of the records he heard, but for now you'll have to be content with the print version.

May 26, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

The ambitious multiple blogger Jerry Bowles has put together blognoggle, a clearinghouse for several blogs. In a message to Rifftides, he writes:

I started blognoggle pages on new music, business and politics because I realized that only a small fraction of internet users now bother with RSS readers and those who do become quickly overwhelmed by too much information. My hunch is that web readers (particularly music lovers as opposed to techies) would much rather go to a web page where the most important and freshest posts from the best sources have already been automatically selected for them to quickly review.

A good idea. I, for one, don't know from RSS. The blognoggle page on new music is here. Among other valuable leads, it will take you to video of an Art Tatum performance of “Yesterdays.” Tatum stuck pretty much to his virtuoso routine on the piece, but he always incorporated a surprise or two. In this case, listen for his “Salt Peanuts” fillips.

The blognoggle music page has links to Bowles’s politics and business pages. I’m adding a link to it—and by proxy, them—in the Rifftides Other Places guide in the right-hand column. Mr. Bowles is also the proprietor of the excellent Sequenza21 blog on classical music. Bravo, sir. Sequenza21 gets an Other Places link, too.

May 23, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

The distinguished audio expert Jim Brown saw the Rifftides piece on the possible demise of the last jazz radio station in Los Angeles and sent this reminder that the music is threatened at stations across the nation.

Although I've just completed a move to Santa Cruz, I did learn during a recent visit to Chicago that WBEZ, the NPR station there, has announced discontinuance of all music programs in favor of the magazine format that has dominated an increasing portion of their airtime over the past ten years or so.

While that magazine format has been mostly done well, the jazz programming segment has both shrunk and suffered a serious decline in quality. I blame both the president and general manager (Torey Malatia) and Chris Heim, his appointed music director for those ten or so years. I got out to hear jazz at least once a week. I never saw Ms. Heim in a jazz venue, nor have I talked to anyone who has. Prior to her tenure, all the jazz jocks "lived it and loved it," in the words of the legendary Chicago DJ Daddio Daylie, and it showed in their on-air work. Under Malatia/Heim, there were tight playlists (white bread), jocks are not allowed to say much of value, and good jocks were either fired or quit. In the same time frame, a low power suburban station, WDCB, has only musicians on the air as jocks and gives them plenty of running room. As a result, the real jazz fans deserted WBEZ in droves. This undoubtedly was reflected during pledge drives. Although I love NPR and their news programming, I withdrew my support years ago in protest of the mess they were making of jazz (and told them so), and supported WDCB generously. Now that we're here, we'll support KCSM.

Which brings up another threat to both jazz and NPR—we can't hear KCSM on the air here, although they're only 50 miles away, because there's a 10 watt translator (for an Idaho religious broadcaster) on their frequency two miles away! If you travel across the country, you'll find this is a common problem, as religious broacasters have gobbled up both high- and low-power licenses on the fringes of the major NPR stations. This mess, for example, caused WBEZ to need to add three translators to fill in the newly created "dead zones" that they previously covered quite well. In much of the United States, it is now far easier to get saved (and be fed the political agenda of the saviors) than it is to get the news.

WBEZ is run by a board composed of the same sort of large donors that fund PBS stalwart WTTW Channel 11 (whose upper crust-focused programming earned them the moniker "Wilmette Talks To Winnetka.” That, I suspect, has a lot to do with the Legends of Jazz debacle).

Jim Brown

May 22, 2006 1:06 AM | | Comments (1)

A Rifftides reader writes

I just came across Rifftides, as I was searching for Coleman Hawkins' Centennial CD/DVD package. I was at a loss in identifying some of the players on the DVD, and your post from 2005 helped a great deal. Especially in introducing me to Harry Sheppard and Dickie Thompson, neither of whom I'd known previously. I'm still wondering who the piano, bass and second tenor players are, however. Any help there? Anything would be appreciated.

The pianist is Willie “The Lion” Smith. The bassist is Vinnie Burke. The other tenor saxophonist on “Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid” is Lester Young.

Thanks, as well, for your excellent blog; I'm now a reader. I especially liked your pieces on New York in spring and on the Garage (a nice place to play) and Virginia Mayhew. I know her, and agree with your comment on the jump in her playing.

E. J. Decker
New York, NY

Oh, no, thank YOU. Just for fun, here’s a reprise of that July 7, 2005, Doug’s Pick:

Coleman Hawkins:The Centennial Collection.This two-disc CD/DVD package was part of Bluebird's observance of RCA Victor's 100th anniversary. The CD has twenty of the tenor saxophone patriarch's recordings made over several decades. All of them have been reissued repeatedly. The news here is the DVD showing Hawkins in 1950s television programs with peers like Charlie Shavers, Pee Wee Russell and J.C. Higginbotham, and younger musicians, too; bassist Vinnie Burke and a very good unidentified vibraharpist among them. In fact, none of the musicians is identified, a drastic production failure. Still, the music is terrific. The piece de resistance is a jam session performance in which Hawkins and Lester Young--the most revered tenor men of their era--trade four-bar phrases on "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid." Seeing and hearing them together is a joy.
May 22, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

As he moves toward the middle of his eighty-sixth year, Dave Brubeck is not slowing down. He's picking up speed—and honors—and preparing a major work. Today he is at his alma mater, University of the Pacific, to collect another medal. For a story about Brubeck's whirlwind week and his new project, go here.

May 20, 2006 12:57 PM | | Comments (0)

A story in today’s Los Angeles Times has this headline:

Straight-ahead jazz may lose its KKJZ-FM gig

And this quote:

"KKJZ is a very famous jazz station and there aren't many more around like them," said Frank Sinatra Jr., son of the singing legend, and a professional musician who lives in West Los Angeles. "[Straight-ahead] jazz is the biggest music in the world, except in the country (where) it was created. It would be such a big loss if they stopped playing jazz. That station is the last lighthouse in the fog."

The story is about what may be the next major step in the decimation of jazz on radio in the United States. Stations across the country are cutting back or abandoning jazz programming. They include independent broadcasters and many National Public Radio affiliates that have dropped NPR’s Jazz Profiles, Jazz Set, and Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz. KKJZ’s owner, the Long Beach branch of California State University, is soliciting proposals designed to put the station under management that will make it what the chairman of Pacific Public Radio calls “a cash cow ” for the university. Pacific Public Radio is the current operator of KKJZ and one of five radio companies asked to submit proposals.

To read the Times story, go here.

To listen to KKJZ on your radio in the Los Angeles area, tune to 88.1 FM. To hear it on your computer, go here.

The provost and senior vice president of Cal State Long Beach, the station's license holder, is Dr. Dorothy Abrahamse, e-mail

May 20, 2006 11:21 AM | | Comments (0)
What can be hoped of an art which must necessarily depend on the favor of the public—of such a public, at least, as ours? Good work may, does sometimes, succeed. But never with the degree of success that befalls twaddle and vulgarity. Twaddle and vulgarity will always have the upper hand.

—Max Beerbohm, Saturday Review, September, 1908

We know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart;
But, the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: It’s
clever, but is it Art?

—Rudyard Kipling, The Conundrum of the Workshops

May 20, 2006 11:20 AM | | Comments (0)

John Birchard writes from Washington, DC.

Reading TT's disgusted remarks about the American Masters Nat King Cole show brought to mind the only time I saw Cole in person.

It was 1956. I was in Uncle Sam's Air Force, stationed at Craig AFB outside Selma, Alabama. A jazz fan friend of mine and I learned that Cole would be coming to Birmingham as headliner of a tour that included June Christy, the Four Freshmen, Ted Heath's British band and comedian Gary Morton, who later would become more widely known as Lucille Ball's husband. We got tickets and drove to Birmingham, eagerly anticipating a show that turned out to be both more and less than we bargained for.

Alabama in '56 was still very much a Jim Crow state. The audience for the Cole concert was divided by race—whites for the early show, blacks to attend the late one. The evening started enjoyably enough. The artists went through their tunes and jokes until it was time for Cole to appear. The curtain went up on the Trio, with Nat seated at the piano, turned half-way toward the audience, floor mic between his knees. The audience greeted him warmly and he began to sing. Suddenly, there was noise from the rear of the hall, quickly followed by four men, two in each aisle of the Auditorium, racing toward the stage. They leaped onto the stage, one of them tackling Cole, knocking him off the piano bench onto the floor.

There was instant chaos. the audience on its feet, screaming. Before you could blink, there were what seemed like a hundred cops onstage, grappling with the four white men, dragging them away. Now, the audience was shouting, cursing. My friend and I were, of course, stunned at what had happened and now, a couple of Yankees in a strange land, we were scared that the all-white audience might be calling for Cole's blood. But no, they were angry at what had just taken place, calling for the scalps of the rednecks who had attacked Cole and ruined the evening.

In the midst of the confusion, the curtain had come down, Nat and his guys had disappeared and the crowd was milling about when the curtain rose again, this time on a scene of musicians from the Ted Heath band scrambling into their chairs. Amidst the chaos, someone had ordered Heath to play the national anthem and, to add to the bizarre quality of the night, the Brits launched into "God Save the Queen".

That was the end of the show. Cole was slightly injured in the fracas and considerably shaken up by this ugly homecoming to his native state. There was a second show for the black audience, but Cole did not sing. He appeared on stage to apologize for not performing, but of course his fans understood. Later, we learned from newspaper accounts that the four racists who launched the attack were local Klan members who cooked up this plan. They did some jail time for assault abd battery or some such minor charge. The Birmingham police apparently had been tipped off that there might be trouble at the concert and were stationed backstage. Cole's biography includes more details for anyone interested.

I have long regretted that it was my only chance to enjoy Nat Cole live, but on the other hand it was a bit of history.

Mr. Birchard is a news broadcaster for the Voice of America.

May 19, 2006 9:51 AM | | Comments (0) neighbor Terry Teachout suggests that I pass along an item from his About Last Night. As a followup to recent Rifftides discussions about the quality of television music programming, here it is—a public service:

If you missed last night’s PBS American Masters documentary on Nat King Cole, don’t even think about catching a replay. Not only was the script a dumbed-down, once-over-lightly account of one of the most significant careers in the history of American popular music, but the show contained next to no uninterrupted footage of Cole in performance. In between the snippets was a numbing succession of talking-head interviews with such irrelevant celebrity interlopers as Whoopi Goldberg and Carlos Santana. Rarely have I endured so witless a piece of junk. Avoid it at all costs.

He didn't llike it.

May 18, 2006 11:38 AM | | Comments (3)
Very interesting (fascinating actually) subject, I think. Doug, I am thrilled that you are exploring the origins of the Jazz Messiahs and the emergence of Ornette Coleman. Pianist Don Friedman mentioned to me that this band played several gigs in the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver during this period, late 1957 (just prior to his joining a newly formed Buddy DeFranco group for an east coast tour). I have been searching many years for a possible recording made of the Jazz Messiahs from a CFUN Canadian Radio broadcast in late 1957. The group for this broadcast supposedly consisted of Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Don Friedman, Ben Tucker(filling in for Don Payne), and Billy Higgins. Another interesting tidbit as told to me by Don Payne....he recalls Scott LaFaro filling in for him on bass with this group on at least one occasion. I look very much forward to more of your writing on this topic.

Mark Ferrante, New York

If new information surfaces, we'll report it. For Don Payne's followup to the original posting, go here.

May 18, 2006 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)

Matthew Lurie writes from Chicago:

I just thought I'd drop a line and link to an article I wrote about Legends of Jazz for Time Out Chicago. Because Ramsey Lewis is from here (as are the rhythm section of Larry Gray, Willie Pickens, and Leon Joyce) and the show was shot here, we viewed it as our special Chi-town duty to try and address some of the problems of the show.

Did he ever. Two samples:

The younger musicians who do make it in the show (Chris Potter, Roy Hargrove and Kurt Elling) perform beneath themselves despite herculean efforts to the contrary—they can’t escape the stylistic straitjacket the producers have imposed.
The problem with Legends is that jazz, the most quintessentially spontaneous music, is treated like a still photograph of someone who’s already dead and gone.

To read all of Lurie's review of the series, go here.

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

Coincidentally, on the heels of yesterday's Rifftides piece about the Legends Of Jazz television series, an e-mail message alerted me to a video performance that demonstrates the visual restraint, taste and directorial discretion that is missing in the Legends series. It is a solo piano performance by Denny Zeitlin of "What Is This Thing Called Love," preceded by a few minutes of free playing as an introduction. It was videotaped at the 1983 Berlin Jazz Festival, with Zeitlin at a C. Bechstein concert grand.

Just as good writing should make the reader forget that he's holding a book, good television presentation of music should make the viewer forget that he's watching television. In the Zeitlin video, the setting, lighting, camera work and director's shot changes are in partnership with the music, never calling attention to themselves or to production values. Even a cutaway shot of the Bechstein's inner working makes sense with the improvisation. Pianists interested in Zeitlin's technique are rewarded with sequences of his long fingers at work, the keyboard shot at a perfect angle for study. Since the subject here is not Zeitlin's playing, suffice it to say that his improvisation is brilliant. Listen for the recurring Coltrane reference.

The only distracting notes come not from Zeitlin's piano but from visual plugs for his latest solo album and his website.They momentarily fill the screen while he's playing and break the spell. It is a minor flaw, but a crucially placed minor flaw. Commerce would have been served less jarringly when the music ends. But it is Zeitlin's website and his call. To view the video, go here and look for the download instructions for Windows, Mac or iPod. With a broadband connection, the download takes more than a minute.

The full-screen option results in a slight loss of visual quality, but I found that expanding the picture, moving back a few feet from the monitor and cranking up the sound gives a sense almost of being there. To make the picture bigger, click on the box to the left of the X in the upper right corner of the realPlayer window.

May 17, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

I watched the Legends of Jazz episode that featured Jim Hall and Pat Metheny and found it disappointing. Jim and Pat and associates played fine--as expected, of course. But the overall "happy talk" tone was rather shallow and not very enlightening; for that, the producers and writers are responsible. Jim's good-natured grouchiness was a relief.

And for a show that's supposed to be educating a mostly novice audience about jazz, there were some obvious balls dropped. Like identifying the titles of songs, for example. Only Jim & Pat's duet on "All the Things You Are" was identified. When Jim played "My Funny Valentine," couldn't they have at least printed the title on the screen? These days, you can't expect an audience under age 60 to know even so-called standards, especially if they're played rather abstractly.

And wouldn't it have been nice for someone to introduce bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez? The only identification they received was in the closing credits, which went zipping by in small print. Again, I fault the producers.

I know that we're all supposed to be grateful nowadays for getting any jazz on television. But classic jazz TV half-hours like the 1959 Miles Davis & Gil Evans show (produced by Robert Herridge without a superfluous word) have me spoiled. Or the Ralph Gleason Jazz Casual shows. Music shows that don't seem like game shows.

—Bill Kirchner

May 17, 2006 1:04 AM |

Last July, Rifftides examined the pilot program for the Public Broadcasting System series Legends of Jazz. Here is part of that posting.

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

Larabee was right. No successor to The Sound of Jazz, let alone a series, emerged. That does not mean that it couldn’t happen.

Nearly a year later, has it happened? No. Since the 1950s, television has accumulated so many layers of technical advances, production oversight, marketing skills, promotion know-how and showbiz values that even if a producer wished in his deepest being to create a program with the straightforward simplicity of The Sound of Jazz, it is doubtful that he could prevail over what television has become: slick.

Thus, Legends of Jazz is slick. And entertaining. I mean that in the kindest way. In format, it resembles Ralph Gleason’s Jazz Casual. Each program in the series is a half hour. In TV time, a half hour is 24 minutes and 27 seconds. The host is pianist Ramsey Lewis, who does a relaxed job of briefly interviewing the principal performers. The rest of the time, minus opening and closing credits, is devoted to music.

Some of the highlights of the shows I have seen on the air or on DVD:

Alone at the piano, Chick Corea generating as much swing in “Armando’s Rhumba” as if he were driven by a rhythm section.

Benny Golson on tenor saxophone, pouring himself into a performance of his “Killer Joe.”

Clark Terry in his incarnation as “Mumbles,” playing and mumbling beautifully, ending with “If I keep talking like this, I might get elected.”

Singers Kurt Elling and Al Jarreau, inventive on “Take Five," surpassing what either might have done alone.

In another duet, Dave Brubeck and Billy Taylor collaborating at two grand pianos on “Take The ‘A’ Train” with humor, grace and the wisdom of 85-year-olds.

Dave Valentin in a flute performance full of Latin rhythm and pzazz, marred only by a few seconds of showboating at the end.

John Pizzarelli in an astonishing moment of vocal accuracy and control as he executes doubletime in guitar-voice unison during his solo on “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

Roy Hargrove expresssing astonishment in conversation when Chris Botti describes his record company’s elaborate promotion scheme: “What record company is that?”

To be inclusive and reach the wide audience marketing studies encourage, the program presents a range of music including genres that have accreted around jazz without quite being jazz. It gives us the master alto saxophonist Phil Woods not with one of his peers—say, Bud Shank, Charles McPherson or Jackie McLean (who was alive when the show was taped last year)—but with the smooth-jazz player David Sanborn. The producers team Clark Terry and Roy Hargrove with the pop-jazz trumpeter and singer Chris Botti, rather than with Ryan Kisor, Jeremy Pelt, Terell Stafford or one of a dozen other top-flight young jazz trumpet artists. Jane Monheit, a creation of publicity, is the one female vocalist in the series; not, for example, Karrin Allyson, Diane Reeves, Nancy King, Tierney Sutton or Meredith d’Ambrosio—singers steeped in jazz. Under the “contemporary jazz” label, Legends of Jazz brings together the rock-jazz-soul-funk fusion experts Marcus Miller, George Duke and Lee Ritenour. They are good at what they do. They are entertaining, and so are the urban blues singers and guitarists Robert Cray and Keb’ Mo’.

Maybe those are the kinds of compromises producers must make in the 21st century to get a “jazz” television program on the air. Or, it could be that they believe Sanborn, Monheit and Ritenour are jazz artists.

A word or two about production: The sound is excellent. The lighting on the performers is superb. The shifting, often pulsating, colored light effects in the background are a distraction from the music. The quick shot changes, swooping pans and frequent zooms are irritating. Television producers and directors brought up on action films and cartoons believe that pictorial stillness and calm are to be avoided at all costs. The seasick viewer pays the costs. Constant motion is de rigueur, and if there's no motion in the subject, directors produce it by moving the camera. The car-chase mentality of shooting and cutting now extends to all television, even news programs. One of the wonderful things about The Sound of Jazz and Jazz Casual was that the camera and the director served the music, drew the viewer into it, allowed us to observe people simply doing what they do best. There should be no distractions.

The house band of pianist Willie Pickens, bassist Larry Gray and drummer Leon Joyce, Jr., deserves more credit than a lightning roll-by in the end titles. How about spoken credit by Ramsey Lewis or the old-fashioned, and effective, technique of superimposing their names in the lower third when they appear on screen? That may not be acceptably hip in the post-MTV school of television production, but it sure lets you know who you're seeing and hearing.

May 16, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

Django Reinhardt died on this date in 1953. He was forty-three years old. Reinhardt melded jazz and the wild élan of the gypsy music he grew up with in Belgium and France. He began to be noticed in 1930 when he was twenty. By the mid-1930s he, violinist Stephane Grappellii and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France were sensations of Europe. By the end of the decade Reinhardt was also working and recording with Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Dickie Wells, Rex Stewart and other leading American jazzmen.

A few of his compositions—“Nuages,” “Djangology,” “Manoir de Mes Reves”— are in the basic repertoire. He was memorialized by John Lewis with one of the greatest jazz compositions, “Django.” The spirit and style of Reinhardt’s playing influenced innumerable guitarists, and several groups have patterned themselves on the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, but there has never been anyone like Django. If you need a reminder of or an introduction to his artistry, go to, scroll down to “Oh, Lady Be Good” and hear the joy Reinhardt and Grappelli generated shortly after they found each other in 1934. The site offers thirty-eight other QHCF tracks as RealPlayer downloads (complete recordings, not mere samples). This four-CD set at a bargain price is a fine survey of Reinhardt with and apart from the QHCF.

May 15, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

The May issue of Allegro, the monthly publication of the New York local of the American Federation of Musicians, has reviews by Bill Crow of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, the reissue of Gene Lees’ superb biography The Worlds of Lerner and Loewe, and the first volume of Don Rayno’s Paul Whiteman, Pioneer in American Music.

From the review of the Whiteman book, a dart in the side of conventional wisdom:

This account refutes the accusations that accumulated in the jazz press in later years that Whiteman was an exploitative entrepreneur who squelched jazz luminaries in his band like Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Trumbauer. Joe Venuti is quoted as saying, "Don't ever make fun of Paul Whiteman. He did great things for American music. He took pride in having the finest musicians in the world as sidemen, and he paid the highest salaries ever paid."

To read the reviews, go here, then scroll down and click on Book Notes.

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

The You Tube website has put up a seven-minute video of the Dave Brubeck Quartet playing Brubeck's "London Flat London Sharp" at the North Sea Jazz Festival. Sound, production qualiy, camera work and direction—except for one brief asleep-at-the-switch moment—are excellent. Bobby Militello's alto solo is one of the most cogent I've heard from him. It's interesting to watch Brubeck digging Michael Moore as he comps for Moore's bass solo. The first half of Brubeck's own solo is about as close to daintiness as you're likely to hear from him, but before it's over, he unleashes both hands on the piece's substantial harmonies. To see and hear it, go here. The same page of the site has two video performances of "Take Five" by the classic Brubeck quartet with Paul Desmond, Gene Wright and Joe Morello and one by the current group.

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

While you're there, don't miss Elis Regina singing Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Aguas de Marco." This is the irreplaceable Elis in solo, apparently a predecessor to the video of her doing the song with Jobim.

May 13, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Bob Brookmeyer is as forthright, and often unorthodox, in his conversation as he is in his music. Here's some of what Brookmeyer told The New York Times's Ben Ratliff about how jazz soloists often relate to the music he writes:

If you give a soloist an open solo for 30 seconds, he plays like he's coming from the piece that you wrote. Then he says, 'What the hell was that piece that I was playing from?' And the next 30 seconds is, 'Oh, I guess I'll play what I learned last night.' And bang! Minute 2 is whoever he likes, which is probably Coltrane.

Ratliff's article, "Bob Brookmeyer: Raging and Composing Against the Jazz Machine," is in today's Times. The Rifftides staff recommends it. If it doesn't give you enough of Brookmeyer's undiluted opinions about music and life, go to his website, scroll down and click on "Currents."

May 12, 2006 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)
Love your blog...

Got it from Kenny Harris* here in Bermuda. I am a tenor and soprano sax player living in Bermuda as Kenny is. Trying to keep flame alive. Damn, there are so many steel pan players here, but I guess that's what the tourists want.

The real reason I emailed you is response to the baritone sax players. ~~~ great. Just a plug for my old friend, Nick Brignola. Never seemed to get his due, but could also play great tenor and soprano. May he RIP.
Keep up the good work.

George Kezas

*The British drummer Kenny Harris played in New York in the 1950s with Sonny Stitt, Paul Bley and others and appeared at clubs including the Hickory House, Basin Street East and The Embers. He had a memorable encounter in Bermuda with Paul Desmond, recalled in Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, pages 248-9. Harris wrote a biography of his teacher and hero Don Lamond, First Call Drummer, out of print but worth seeking. —DR

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

John Birchard, a firmly committed Washington, DC, jazz listener who moonlights as a Voice of America correspondent, sent this report. The Rifftides staff added links.

I attended a jazz concert at the Kennedy Center's "K-C Jazz Club" venue - the Baritone Saxophone Band in a Gerry Mulligan tribute. I had been looking forward to the evening for some time and was not disappointed. On the remote possibility you're not familiar with the group, Ronnie Cuber has rounded up Scott Robinson and Gary Smulyan for a three-bari front line that displays a remarkable variety of sound combinations due to Cuber's skills as an arranger - gruff and punching here, smooth and crooning there. He also avoids the mistake of routining each tune the same with head followed by horn solo, horn solo, horn solo, bass solo and drum fours, then out. If only more jazz band leaders would give that rote approach some thought, their music would be more stimulating.

Cuber is faithful to the Mulligan concept of a no-piano rhythm section that included Andy McKee on bass and Shingo Okudaira on drums. The set we attended included such Mulligan staples as "Five Brothers", "Walkin' Shoes", "Line for Lyons" and "Theme for Jobim", all of which had their attractions. The band really took off on an up reading of "Bernie's Tune", with Cuber digging in hard in his solo. After the applause died down, he referred to it as "ass-kickin'" music. Later in the set, he departed from the Mulligan book to take one from Art Blakey's library - Curtis Fuller's "A La Mode", which was 'way up and smokin'.

Robinson and Smulyan are excellent players and accomplished soloists, but clearly the boss is Cuber. Over the years since I first heard him with Maynard Ferguson's band in the early 60s, he has developed into a mature, gifted musician whose solos display swing, wit, soul, experience and whose ideas are given space to breathe. He's grayer and larger in the mid-section now than I remembered him, but he still has the stuff that has kept him employed with everyone from Mongo Santamaria to Woody Herman to Steely Dan and the Mingus Big Band. If there's a better owner/operator of the baritone sax around today, I haven't heard him/her. Ronnie Cuber is a rightful heir to the Gerry Mulligan/Harry Carney/Pepper Adams legacy.

John Birchard

Cuber, Smulyan and the late Nick Brignola recorded in an earlier three-baritones coalition paying homage to Mulligan.

May 11, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)
It seems to me that most people are impressed with just three things: how fast you can play, how high you can play, and how loud you can play. I find this a little exasperating, but I'm a lot more experienced now, and understand that probably less than two percent of the public can really hear. I mean follow a horn player through his ideas, and be able to understand those ideas in relation to the changes.

—Chet Baker

Whether I get adequate attention or not, people here do know the work I have been doing systematically and without compromise for over 40 years. I get tired of people making excuses for guys who don't continue the art because they can't make a living.

—Bill Dixon

May 11, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (1)

Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond has been awarded second place in the performing arts category for an IPPY, a 2006 Independent Book Publishers Award.

Here are the finishers:

Vivian Perlis and Libby Van Cleve, Composers' Voices from Ives to Ellington (Yale University Press)
Doug Ramsey, Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond (Parkside Publications)
Weathervane Theatre, Nights of Northern Lights:40 Seasons of the Weathervane Theatre

I don't think that Desmond would have been discouraged about losing to Charles Ives and Duke Ellington. Nor am I. Hearty congratulations to Ms. Perlis, Ms. Van Cleve and Yale. I can't wait to read their book.

May 11, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Rifftides reader Bob Walsh writes:

What ever happened to guitarist Mundell Lowe? I saw him often in the studio band of Merv Griffin in New York. I met him at Monterey when he was a fixture in backup groups. He later took over after Monterey impresario Jimmy Lyons' s forced retirement. I recall that he was married to vocalist Betty Bradley, who vastly improved as a singer after she wed Mundell. As a very young man, he was a guitarist with the Sons of the Pioneers, along with Ohio-born Leonard Sly (later known as Roy Rogers). He fit into any setting but never seemed to have an identifiable style or "voice." Reminds me that Marian McPartland was passed over many times for Monterey until John Lewis finally concluded she was no longer playing back others' voices and had found what was distinctively her own.

The last I heard, Mundell Lowe, at eighty-four, was working as much as he cared to. I think the Betty you have in mind is Bennett, who was a terrific singer long before she met Lowe. They live in southern California. Earlier, she was married to Andre Previn and in the early fifties dated Paul Desmond (Take Five, pages 205 and 206). I didn't know about Lowe’s being with the Sons of the Pioneers, but that doesn't surprise me. Many fine jazz guitarists are from the Southwest or deep South—Lowe is from Mississippi—and many played country music, among them Jimmy Raney, Herb Ellis, Charlie Christian and Hank Garland, not to overlook the amazing Thumbs Carllile. As for the question of Lowe's style and voice, he gets by on thorough musicianship, taste, intense swing and the undiluted admiration of his fellow musicians. All of his attributes, plus the lift of his rhythm guitar, are on this CD, a trio with Ray Brown on bass and Previn playing piano.

In case you are skeptical that there is a Thumbs Carllile, go here, scroll down and sample "Me and Memphis."

Roy Rogers was a good singer, better than Gene Autry. I wish that I still had a 78 rpm record of him singing a song called, I think, "Moaning Low." It seems to be missing from all of the Rogers CD reissues. Rogers recorded near misses like "Cleanin' My Rifle (and Thinkin' of You)" and lightweight novelties ("Gay Ranchero," "Pistol Packin' Mama). " But "Everything Changes," "Green Green Grass of Home," "Blue Shadows on the Trail" and his skilled yodeling on "My Little Lady" compensate for a lot of dross. Country music today could use a stiff shot of Rogers' unpretentious, straightforward approach. This album has generous samples of Rogers from all phases of his career.

May 10, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

You've had nearly a month to memorize those old picks, so they're gone. You'll find the new Doug's Picks in the right-hand column.

May 8, 2006 1:07 AM |

In jazz histories, as in all histories of human activity, small errors are repeated and become the standard version of events. Don Payne, the bassist on Ornette Coleman's first album, sent the following addendum to the Rifftides piece on Johnny Mandel's contribution to a Coleman compositon and the record deal that led to Coleman's emergence.

We soon did a one a.m. audition at the club. It was attended by John Lewis, Percy Heath, Milt Jackson and Connie Kay--the Modern Jazz Quartet. They brought Les Koenig, the owner of Contemporary Records. On the spot, he signed us, on a handshake, to a two-record deal. I remember Koenig taking Ornette by the arm and saying, "If I don't get you, Atlantic will." That first LP, now a classic, was Something Else: The Music of Ornette Coleman. That is history.

Payne's account differs significantly from the liner-note version, which says that bassist Red Mitchell suggested to Coleman that he take one of his compositions to Koenig, Coleman demonstrated the tune by playing it on his alto sax and Koenig signed him then. In light of the outcome--Coleman's fame--does it matter which version is true? Only if you think that accuracy in history is important.

After Coleman's two Contemporary albums, Atlantic did get him. He made eight albums for Atlantic before moving on to Columbia, then a variety of labels.

May 8, 2006 1:06 AM | | Comments (1)

Bill Crow did not stop collecting jazz anecdotes when he published Jazz Anecdotes and From Birdland to Broadway. He has a column of anecdotes every month in Allegro, the newspaper of New York’s Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians. With Bill’s permission, here is one that deserves circulation beyond the 802 membership. The Rifftides staff has added links to music by the principals.

Bassist Don Payne, who now lives in Florida, was three years out of the Army in 1958. He moved into a cottage in the Hollywood hills where he and a group of local musicians that called themselves “The Jazz Messiahs” often rehearsed, trying to develop their own sound. Don Cherry, the trumpet player with the group, introduced them to Ornette Coleman, who had written some interesting originals. One day they were working on “The Blessing,” one of Ornette’s tunes. Walter Norris had worked out the harmonies, and they were playing it over and over to memorize it. Suddenly the door opened and Payne’s next door neighbor walked in. After nodding hello, he took a sheet of music paper and quickly wrote down the tune they had been playing, and added an improvement to the chords at the end of the bridge. He reached over Walter’s shoulder and put the music in front of him on the piano, bowed and smiled to the other musicians and went back out the door. Walter played what he had written and said, “This works!” He turned around to say thank you, but the man was already gone. He asked, “Who was that?” Don said, “That’s my neighbor, Johnny Mandel.”
Jazz is a small community, but I would never have imagined a connection between Ornette Coleman and Johnny Mandel.

I called Don Payne this afternoon to fill in a couple of blanks. He said that The Jazz Messiahs was Don Cherry’s group. Don Friedman was the original pianist, replaced by Walter Norris when Friedman moved to New York. James Clay was the tenor saxophonist, Billy Higgins the drummer. After Clay left to join Red Mitchell, Ornette came in on alto saxophone. The quintet’s showcase performance at a Hollywood club led to Coleman’s being offered a record deal. The band eventually went pianoless and became the Ornette Coleman Quartet. Payne left Los Angeles to join guitarist Mundell Lowe, then Ralph Sharon’s trio backing Tony Bennett.

Payne’s memories of the circumstances leading to the emergence of Ornette Coleman are at odds with conventional accounts, which he says perpetuate initial reporting errors that distort history. Eventually, we’ll have more of Payne's recollections of that yeasty period.

May 5, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

The Trumpet As Metaphor

You must stir it and stump it, And blow your own trumpet, Or trust me, you haven’t a chance.—W.S. Gilbert
With the pride of the artist, you must blow against the walls of every power that exists the small trumpet of your defiance. —Norman Mailer
The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet.—Theodore Hesburgh
May 3, 2006 1:05 AM |

Reading, hearing and seeing stories this week about the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival triggers memories of the festival’s beginnings and of the years I lived in the Crescent City (please, not The Big Easy). JazzFest, as it was christened at its birth in the late 1960s, began as the purest of jazz festivals, integrated with a judicious smattering of associated events involving Louisiana food and culture. The 1968 and ’69 festivals, along with certain years at Newport and Monterey, were among the music's milestone large events. They were not big money makers and they did not fit some New Orleans movers’ and shakers’ vision of what a festival should be in a city whose motto is “Let The Good Times Roll.”

From an earlier Rifftides piece about Willis Conover, who produced the 1969 JazzFest:

The ’69 festival turned out to be one of the great events in the history of the music. It reflected Willis’s knowledge, taste, judgment, and the enormous regard the best jazz musicians in the world had for him.

I won’t give you the complete list of talent. Suffice it to report that the house band for the week was Zoot Sims, Clark Terry, Jaki Byard, Milt Hinton and Alan Dawson, and that some of the hundred or so musicians who performed were Sarah Vaughan, the Count Basie band, Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond, Albert Mangelsdorff, Roland Kirk, Jimmy Giuffre, the Onward Brass Band, Rita Reyes, Al Belletto, Eddie Miller, Graham Collier, Earle Warren, Buddy Tate, Dickie Wells, Pete Fountain, Freddie Hubbard and Dizzy Gillespie. The festival had style, dignity and panache. It was a festival of music, not a carnival. An enormous amount of the credit for that goes to Willis. His achievement came only after months of infighting with the chairman and other retrograde members of the jazz establishment who did not understand or accept mainstream, much less modern, jazz and who wanted the festival to be the mini-Mardi Gras that it became the next year and has remained since.

To read more about Conover’s role in the festival, go here.

In 1970, George Wein’s Festival Productions company took over JazzFest from the locals who created it, renamed it the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and—with promotional skill and canny marketing—made it the world-famous party it is today. The fact that the bash is overwhelmingly pop, secondarily heritage and minimally jazz doesn’t bother the promoters and doesn’t bother New Orleans. It was probably inevitable in the city that care forgot, that JazzFest would become a big, fat, swirling celebration full of R&B, rock, gospel, Zydeco and soul. The headliners this year are Bob Dylan, Dr. John, Herbie Hancock, The Meters, Dave Matthews, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Keith Urban and Fats Domino. Perhaps you’ll have no trouble finding the one jazz name in that list.

In the aftermath of Katrina, with much of the city resembling a post-war nightmare, a party called a jazz festival symbolizes New Orleans’ determination to recover. That speaks of a spirit that rises from within New Orleanians and cuts through a malaise of failed leadership, politics and bureaucracy. For eight years, I was a New Orleanian. I understand that spirit. It grows out of the curious combination of laissez faire and obstinance that animates folks whose blood has a component of coffee with chicory.

Partying is wonderful. Food is wonderful. Boogying and getting down is wonderful. Few Orleanians would disagree with any of that. But this is the city that gave us Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, Henry “Red” Allen, Barney Bigard, Raymond Burke, Danny Barker, Paul Barbarin, James Black, Johnny Vidacovich, Al Belletto, Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison and the Marsalises.

Clearly, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is here to stay as a kaleidoscope of entertainment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the city also had room for a festival that honored and nurtured the music that is the living symbol of the New Orleans spirit. Somehow, jazz ended up in a minor role at what the natives still call JazzFest.

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

Today, favorite blogette DevraDoWrite is celebrating the first anniversary of her web log. Many happy returns.

If you'd like to learn how Devra likes to horse around, go here.

May 1, 2006 4:10 PM |

About this Archive

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

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About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
State of the Art
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

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

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

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

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

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

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off

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