main: September 2006 Archives

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers called this morning with the news that Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond is the winner of a 2006 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, my second. I am unable to tell you the names of the winners in other categories. ASCAP is waiting to make an announcement until all of them have been notified. I'll give you a report when that happens.

What a lovely day. ASCAP called, and we finished painting the shed.

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The first Deems Taylor, in 1997, was for the essay accompanying the Bill Evans boxed CD set The Secret Sessions. I'm having a good weekend. I hope that you are, too.

September 29, 2006 12:39 PM | | Comments (6)

A Rifftides reader wrote to say that he did not understand drummer Nick Martinis's quote in Charlie Shoemake's anecdote about swinging or not swinging. Martinis said to his bandmates....."Well cats, do we swing tonight or do we hide 'one'?" Perhaps there are other readers who don't get it. Here's an oversimplified explanation.

"One" is the first beat of the measure. A leader is likely to begin counting off in half time--"One, two," then double the time to the tempo he wants--"One, two, three, four..."

If "one'" is not expressed--if it is hidden--the band, and quite likely the audience, will be in a rhythmic no-man's land. Some musicians who adventure on the edges of jazz, beyond the traditional concept of swing, want to be free of what they consider the tyranny of steady time. Others feel that the rhythmic quality we have come to call swing is at the heart of jazz, that "one" is essential.

Among those who believed strongly in the importance of "one" was Gerry Mulligan. Trumpeter John McNeil's new CD East Coast Cool is influenced by Mulligan, yet McNeil takes liberties with time. He also swings, demonstrating that both things are possible and underlining the warning that my explanation of "one" is oversimplified. After my Rifftides review of the album, McNeil sent a message that included a quote indicating that Mulligan thought jazz that abandons the imperative to swing is an indulgence of interest mainly to the insiders who play it.

I hope Mulligan is smiling somewhere, but he's probably saying "That cross-the bar hide-the-one shit is just for other cats--nobody else digs it." (an actual quote) He'd like the sonorities and the counter lines, though.

Apropos of little but proof that McNeil's turn of mind is as wry as his turns of time are tricky, here's his latest e-mail gig alert:

Sunday, October 1st
Night and Day Restaurant and Jazz Room presents the
John McNeil/Bill McHenry Quartet
Applying a cool, damp washcloth of jazz to the fevered brow of Brooklyn's cultural elite since 2006.
Featuring the music of Russ Freeman, Denzil Best, Wilbur Harden and a host of other neglected composers.
John McNeil -- trumpet
Bill McHenry -- tenor
Chris Lightcap -- bass
Jochen Rueckert -- drums
This week's intermission pianist -- Dred Scott

"I'd really love to go hunting with these guys..." -- Dick Cheney

8:30 -- 11:00

230 Fifth Avenue (at President) Park Slope, Brooklyn

(718) 399 - 2161

If I lived in Brooklyn or nearby and didn't have all this painting to do, I'd be there.

September 26, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (3)

Posting will be light, if at all, for the next few days. For one thing, the Rifftides staff will be employed in prepping and painting the larger of the two sheds at Rifftides world headquarters. For another, The Seasons Fall Festival is underway, there's a lot of jazz and classical music to be heard, and I've been pressed into service to read a few short Carl Sandburg poems when The Bill Mays Trio and the Finesterra Trio collaborate. Among other joint efforts, they will combine Charlie Parker and J.S. Bach and play a movement of the Mendelssohn D-Minor Trio.

The big question: Will the jazz and classical cats agree on where "one" is?

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

Charlie Shoemake, the vibraharpist, leader and teacher, checks in with a story pertinent to the Rifftides discussion about swing and jazz values.

Thought you would get a laugh out of a true anecdote that concerns the current topic in your column. 40 years (or so) ago I was playing a night at Dontes in North Hollywood with the guitarist Ron Anthony. (George Shearing, Frank Sinatra). In the group that night was a drummer named Nick Martinis (member of Pete Jollys' trio for many years among other west coast names) who was (and is) well known for his off-center personality and remarks.

Before the group hit the stand for the first set Nick said to all of us standing at the bar....."Well cats, do we swing tonight or DO WE HIDE 'ONE'?" That concept has been around for close to half a century now and yet many of today's younger players still think of it as "the new thing." Whenever I hear a group playing like that now I always think of Nick and laugh. It's certainly a valid concept but I'll always feel (probably because of my generation) that acheiving what Percy Heath and Kenny Clarke (or Paul Chambers and Philly Joe) did with the time is much more difficult. Old fashioned or not.

Charlie Shoemake

September 25, 2006 1:16 AM | | Comments (1)

In the right-hand column under Doug's Picks, we have three CDS, a DVD and a book. One of the CDs is old and up to date. The book is old with a message that's never out of date.

September 25, 2006 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)

Saxophonist, composer, bandleader and educator Bill Kirchner writes from New Jersey:

I've read all the comments with interest--fortunately, they all come from thoughtful persons. Otherwise, discussions like this can be insufferable.

My favorite rejoinder in such discussions comes, I believe, from drummer Paul Wertico: "It don't mean a thing if all it does is swing." I can think of some truly stupid music I've heard that swings quite well. The moral is that jazz--and all good music--needs to do something *besides* swinging.

In recent decades, there have been jazz artists who have used the term "swing" almost as a weapon, with a kind of phallic posturing. As critic Larry Kart perceptively wrote: "Warmth, soul, and swing are among the hallmarks of a Ben Webster or a Dexter Gordon, but for them these things seem not be sought after in themselves. Instead
they are an inevitable byproduct of the act of playing jazz, virtues that arise as a matter of course when one makes musical and emotional contact with the material at hand."

The Dizzy Gillespies and Miles Davises of the world never indulged in phallic posturing about swinging. They simply played great music, and it worked on all levels, including swinging. And there are many different ways to swing--not just boom-chicka-boom. Miles' 1970 LIVE-EVIL, for example, swings mightily to my ears (considerable
thanks to Jack DeJohnette, among others), even though it comes from a period of Miles' career that some doctrinaire folks refuse to regard as jazz. We're still discovering new ways of swinging, thank God--at
least, many of us are.

If you are new to this discussion of swing and what constitutes jazz, you can go here to catch up and follow the links back through the previous postings.

September 23, 2006 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)

We have posted several new comments about Mel Narunsky's communique concerning what is and is not jazz, including a new one from Mr. Narunsky himself. You will find them here, appended to the original message. We also received a mini-essay from the bandleader, arranger, composer, trombonist, vocalist and libationologist Eric Felten, who has given the matter considerable thought. Here is Mr. Felten's meditation on the groove:

The question of swinging, and whether it can coexist with a post-modern jazz sensibility brings to mind a phenomenon that I have witnessed repeatedly -- a modern unwillingness to let swing time settle into a groove.

Here's what I mean: When jazz musicians take on funk or hip-hop or Latin idioms, they seem to recognize that the repetitive quality of the rhythm is an essential part of the music. In other words, the music has a "groove" (indeed, when some prominent jazz musicians put together hip-hop-influenced ensembles, they call them their "groove bands." For there to be an effective and affecting groove, the rhythm has to lock into some degree of consistency and repetition, whether in funk, hip-hop or Latin styles.

And I would argue that the same is true for the swing idiom. And yet, it is as though a couple of generations of jazz musicians have been brought up to think that there is something lame or uninventive about a consistent, repeated swing groove. It is rare that I hear a modern rhythm section go for more than four bars (well, really, even just two) without in some way "breaking up the time." Subverting the swing groove is now as reflexive a gesture as "playing outside." So much so that I think many players feel uncomfortable in a steady swing groove just as "outside" harmonies have become so ingrained in our ears that they are the new diatonic, if you will.

Let me be clear, by the way, that I am not saying there should be no more breaking up of straight-ahead time. Sadly, so much discussion of jazz falls into false dichotomies and accusations of apostasy. I once wrote an article arguing that melody has been neglected in modern jazz and I was denounced for 1) declaring that jazz was dead (which I never said in the slightest) and 2) declaring that no one should ever do anything other than play the melody (again, which I never even suggested), and 3) saying that there is no one on earth left who knows how to play a melodic solo (again, not what I said).

So, in this case let me emphasize that what I am saying is that there is power in "groove" including the groove known as swing. Groove-Power is easily recognized when jazz players are crossing over into other idioms, but all too often forgotten when they are working in a straight jazz context. I long to get lost in a swing groove as hypnotic as any hip-hop or trance loop. This is not a retro manifesto: I would suggest that there is untapped potential to reassert the power of the jazz groove in a modern context. And I would further suggest that "breaking up the time" would be far more musically interesting if it were used more sparingly -- that is, if some real time were established before the breaking of it begins.

And lastly, I would suggest that jazz musicians wouldn't have to go so far afield in search of the satisfactions of grooving if they were more willing to develop the grooves in their own backyard.


Mr. Felten's right to use "cheers" for his closing is hard-won. His How's Your Drink column appears most Saturdays in The Wall Street Journal. Just think of all that testing and tasting.

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

Reaction to Mel Narunsky's forthright declaration that it don't mean a thing if--well, you know--is posted following his manifesto. Frankly, I thought there would be more comment, and I hope that there will be.

There is a fortunate byproduct of this discussion. I clicked on the link in the ID at the end of DJA's pithy comment and found that DJA is Darcy James Argue, a young composer, arranger and leader of an eighteen-piece band in New York. Argue is drawing praise from Bob Brookmeyer and attracting to his band musicians of the quality of trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, pianist Mike Holober and tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin. I recommend site seeing, and hearing. You will find streaming demo performances at the site. Click on "Live Archive" in the right column. Be patient; the pieces take time to download, even with broadband. I'm not sure whether Mr. Narunsky will agree, but it sounds to me as if swing is being committed by Argue and his colleagues. Of course we could always argue (small a) about what swing is.

September 22, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Quite apart from nailing down a definition of swing, Ornette Coleman agreed to talk with Ben Ratliff of The New York Times about the nature of music itself. To his credit, Ratliff got the perenially unorthodox musician to emerge, even briefly, from the cloud of vagueness in which he has customarily hidden from attempts to get him to be specific about art in general, and his in particular. He mentioned to Ratliff his early saxophone influence, Charlie Parker.

With regard to his Parker worship, he kept the phrasing but got rid of the sequences. "I first tried to ban all chords," he said, "and just make music an idea, instead of a set pattern to know where you are."

The full report is in Friday morning's Times.

September 22, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (1)

This is Chico Hamilton's eighty-fifth birthday. I spent some of it listening to his new recordings, admiring his taste and versatility and marveling at the undiminished energy he pours into his drum set, an instrument that challenges the physical resources of players a quarter his age.

Like many listeners, I first knew of Hamilton when the Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker, Carson Smith and Hamilton became an overnight phenomenon in late 1952. But his experience goes back to the beginning of the 1940s and encompasses work with Duke Ellington, Slim Gaillard, Lester Young, Lena Horne, Nat Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald, among others, before he joined Mulligan. In 1955, he formed his own quintet. It used cello, flute and guitar in soft textures and driving swing and set Hamilton on a course of leadership and innovation from which he has not diverged in more than half a century. He is known for discovering and developing musicians. When I heard him in Los Angeles not long ago at the helm of the latest edition of his band, Hamilton's intensity, swing and radiant pleasure in performing made him the youngest man on the bandstand.

This morning on NPR's Morning Edition, Ashley Kahn interviewed Hamilton, told his story and played some of his music. To hear Ashley's piece, go here and click on "Listen."

Happy birthday, sir.

September 21, 2006 3:10 PM | | Comments (1)

Bennie Maupin was on the New York jazz scene as a saxophonist and bass clarinetist in New York in the 1960s and '70s, most famously as a member of Miles Davis's Bitches Brew cast and of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi group. He worked off and on with Hancock for twenty years. In Penumbra (Cryptogramophone), he nods briefly toward those jazz fusion days, but the loveliest music on the CD is in the Castor and Pollux interrelationship of Maupin on bass clarinet and bassist Darek Oles. The highlight is "Message to Prez," which builds langorously into a colloquy of low-register counterpoint and, finally, perfectly intoned unison on the dance-like melody.

Oles uses his unAmericanized Polish name, which is Oleszkiewicz, for his album Like a Dream (Cryptogramophone). Like George Mraz, Frantisek Uhlíř and so many other Eastern European bassists, Oleszkiewicz has prodigious technique and a full sound. He also has good time and a rich improvisational imagination. In three different combos, his sidemen include pianists Brad Mehldau and Adam Benjamin, guitarist Larry Koonse and, briefly but vigorously, Bennie Maupin on tenor saxophone. All of the tunes but "You Don't Know What Love Is" are Oleszkiewicz's. The mood of the CD matches its title.

Oles joins pianist Alan Pasqua and drummer Peter Erskine for Pasqua's My New Old Friend (Cryptogramophone). Pasqua intersperses the title tune and other originals among several standards. He has a knack for ingeniously deconstructing melodies at the beginnings of the tunes and reassembling them for the final choruses. Pasqua's sure touch and skill as a tonal colorist center the music, but the strength of Oles' bass lines and Erskine's restrained power interacting with the piano make this an integrated trio. Anyone inclined to doubt that Pasqua comes out of Bill Evans is invited to listen to "One More Once."

The leader of The Jeff Gauthier Goatette is an acoustic and electric violinist, whose other instrument is listed as "effects." In One and the Same (Cryptogramophone), guitarist Nels Cline and pianist David Witham also play effects, meaning electronics. When all of the effects and all of Alex Cline's drums are working at once, as in a piece called "Water Torture," the result resembles random noise of the universe, the perfect accompaniment for astral travel. Nearly everywhere else in the album, the Goatette commits melody. Even in "Water Torture," there is an interval of lovely free improvisation between Gauthier's violin and Joel Hamilton's arco bass. Two pieces by the late Eric von Essen are particularly moving. Gauthier, not incidentally, is the moving force behind Cryptogramophone.

When von Essen died in 1997, he had become one of the busiest bassists in Los Angeles and a favorite of not only Gauthier and the Cline brothers but also of established mainstream musicians like Jimmy Rowles, Lou Levy and Art Farmer. In addition to bass, von Essen played guitar, piano, cello and chromatic harmonica, but his legacy to Cryptogramophone, and therefore to all of us, is that of a prolific composer. Cryptogramophone has released three CDs of songs from the dozens he left, played by musicians with whom von Essen worked. It is no coincidence that those players were--and are--at the core of the Los Angeles jazz community. Except for Bennie Maupin, they include everyone mentioned in the above paragraphs, plus Alan Broadbent, Putter Smith, Kendall Kay, Dave Carpenter, Stacy Rowles, Larry Koonse, Tom Warrington, Kate McGary and several others. The three volumes of The Music of Eric Von Essen constitute a living document of the harmonically demanding, yet intriguing and accessible compositions of this extraordinary musician.

Four years ago, Paul Conley did a substantial feature about Von Essen for National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Sunday. You can listen to it by going to the NPR archive. Click here.

September 21, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Rifftides reader Mel Narunsky writes regarding
Recent CDs, Part 4:

From a modern moldy fig

I know I'm going to get a lot of flak from this, but as an old timer, let me be among the first to acknowledge that, with a few exceptions here and there, I am one of those who do not "accept that jazz values can exist apart from standard song forms and harmony, and without being tied to a steady 4/4 pulse" - the exceptions mainly being some new recordings from the older, familiar musicians - many of whom joined the "funky", "smooth", "fusion", "jazz rock" , "electronic" and other types of watered-down jazz at the end of the 1960s which became so successful commercially when discovered by the non-purists.

I now approach all jazz recordings made by musicians with whom I'm not familiar with much trepidation. My old ears and brain are unable to cope with improvisations that I find impossible to follow, ergo I don't enjoy the experience. In most cases I find the sounds very ugly. The question has been asked before, and I ask it again: whatever happened to beauty in music? Similarly, I find it difficult to listen to contemporary so-called "classical" music. I think of it as anti-music.

But the worst aspect of the jazz in question is that it simply doesn't swing.

And Duke Ellington was quite right when he said, "It don't mean a thing......"

Let's hear other viewpoints on this matter. To respond, click on the "Comments" link at the end of this post.

September 21, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (10)

In its ninth year, the little Cryptogramophone label is attracting increasing attention for recordings on the forward edge of music, with good sound and imaginative packaging. Myra Melford and Nels Cline have new CDs on the label, both likely to attract listeners who accept that jazz values can exist apart from standard song forms and harmony, and without being tied to a steady 4/4 pulse.

Myra Melford

In The Image of Your Body, Melford continues her fascination with music of India. A fearless piano improviser and a composer of meticulous precision, she introduces her new five-piece band, Be Bread. She called her last five-piece band, which had nearly the same instrumentation, The Tent. The mystique of band-naming aside, Melford's music uses the evocative capabilities of electronics and amplification to summon up the exotic atmospheres of the subcontinent and hint at the spiritual mysteries there. She employs the Indian instrument the harmonium, as she did in her previous album, The Tent, to impart a kind of folk simplicity as one layer in the complexity of "Equal Grace," "Be Bread," "If You've Not Been Fed" and the title track.

The iconoclastic trumpeter Cuong Vu is on board again. Guitarist-banjoist-vocalist Brandon Ross, bassist and electronicsician (it's a new word) Stomu Takeishi and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee are recent arrivals in Melford's world, which is wide. For all of the unfettered--not to say unhinged--expressionism in the improvisation throughout a piece called "Fear Slips Behind," Melford wraps up the track in the last twenty-six seconds with a lapidary bit of ensemble writing that might have come from Andrew Hill or Sam Rivers in the 1960s. There are too few extended passages of her piano playing, though one of them begins the long performance called "Yellow Are the Crowds of Flowers." Then the piano melds into Ross's keening guitar, and we seem headed into a stretch of ECM-ish floating. Before long, however, the band is generating gale-force mutual improvisation that lasts until Melford calms things down at the keyboard and the sun comes out just as it is setting. Did I mention that this is evocative music?

Cuong Vu's own CD, It's Mostly Residual, includes his Melford bandmate Stomu Takeishi and the always gripping guitarist Bill Frisell. It is well worth hearing.

Nels Cline

Cline, a guitarist not shy about using electronic enhancement, is one of a small stable of Cryptogramophone semi-regulars. For twenty-five years he has worked in jazz fusion, jazz rock and free jazz, and made occasional forays into folk (with Ramblin' Jack Elliot) and country (with Willie Nelson). Cline's New Monastery: A View Into the Music of Andrew Hill, draws on all of those genres with the exception, perhaps, of country. I say "perhaps," because in the tidal wave of electronics and percussion that engulfs the listener in the final three minutes of "Compulsion" there could be hidden away some little allusion to C&W. That seems unlikely but, then, I've heard it only five or six times.

At the other end of the decibel scale, a delicate rubato duet between Cline's guitar and Ben Goldberg's clarinet on "McNeil Island" contains suggestions that swing may be about to break out. Sure enough, shortly before the three-minute mark, Scott Amendola's cymbals and Devin Hoff's bass begin sliding into the mix. Now, they are Cline's customary band, The Nels Cline Singers, which has no vocalist, plus Goldberg. Soon cornetist Bobby Bradford is aboard, as slippery around tonal centers as he was in the late fifties and early sixties when Bradford, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy and John Carter were enfants terribles of the Los Angeles avant garde.

They meld into "Pumpkin," one of Hill's beyond-boppish themes. It may not be your grandmother's kind of swing, but now they're swinging. On other tracks, Andrea Parkins joins on accordian. Yes, accordian. At times the cumulative sound is so dense that the ears can barely penetrate it. At others, the music is gentle, open and lyrical almost in the Viennese sense or it tends toward the kind of atmospheres generated by Miles Davis of the post-Bitches Brew period. Lack of dynamic range is not a problem here. In addition to Bradford, Goldberg and Parkins, Cline brings in his twin brother Alex on a couple of tracks to ramp up the percussion.

After decades in low profile following his success in the 1960s, Hill has begun attracting renewed attention as a pianist and composer. Cline's treatment of his music may be part of the beginning of Hill's rediscovery by a new generation of musicians and listeners. His approach is not to recreate Hill, but to use his compositions as launching pads for his own ideas, which have depth and complexity.

Next time, short reviews of a few other Cryptogramophone releases, among others.

September 19, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

That may be a conservative estimate of the number of times Dave Brubeck has played "Take Five" since Paul Desmond's infectious tune became a massive hit forty-six years ago. The Brubeck Quartet's 2006 Newport Jazz Festival peformance is not the most recent; wherever Brubeck played last night, he played "Take Five." But in July the cameras were rolling, or whatever digital cameras do (dig?) at Newport and caught a jovial 85-year-old leader and his band in good form and a beautiful setting. Notice the clouds reflected in the piano's surface. Brubeck is laughing as the piece starts because the group had just completed an outrageously swinging "Margie," of all things. I have seen that clip on the MSN video internet site, but can't seem to find it again. If anyone has the url for "Margie," please report it to Rifftides World Headquarters.

In the meantime, here's a thirteen-minute "Take Five." You will be treated to a short commercial going in, but from there it's clear sailing (after all, this was Newport).

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

The Paul Gonsalves stories keep rolling in. We had them from Germany and the US. Here's one from Canada.

The friendship of Clark Terry and Paul continued long after CT's Ellington-time. It was Clark who introduced me to Paul when both were in Toronto, CT as a soloist at the old Colonial Tavern, and Paul with Duke, who was at the Royal York's Imperial Room, I think it was. Probably '68 or '69. I was on the air live until midnight, and would run to the Colonial (or the Town Tavern) to catch a last set. One night after CT's gig, he said "Let's go see Paul", and off we went to the now-gone Lord Simcoe Hotel (the band members never stayed at the Royal York-- too expensive). We found one of the other band members in the lobby, who directed us to Paul's room.

I've rarely seen such an open display of true affection between friends. From somewhere, a bottle of scotch appeared, but there was only one glass around, so Clark came up with a brilliant solution: you know how ice machines will make the cubes with a big 'dimple' in them? That's what became our 'glasses' -- a new twist (for me, anyway) on Scotch/ice. They held a tidy half-ounce or so, so the bottle was passed quite often during the next hour or so.

I visited Duke the next night, and seeing that I knew Clark, Paul took my word for it that we had met. He might not have remembered me, but I sure remembered him...

I believe Paul was one of the under-recognized great tenormen in jazz.
Ted O'Reilly

Mr. O'Reilly has been a jazz broadcaster in Toronto for forty-one years.

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

The Rifftides staff is hard at work on that survey of recent recordings. There are so blasted many of them, and things keep intervening. But part 4 is in the works. See the archive (right column) for parts 1, 2 and 3.

September 18, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

The Video of Paul Gonsalves caught napping attracted the following comments.

The Gonsalves clip brings to mind an incident that happened when I was editing Down Beat.

Ellington was making one of his regular two-week appearances at Chicago's Blue Note, and on opening niight, in front of a full house that included local press and celebrities, Gonsalves nodded out in then same manner we see on the video.

But to compound it all, he also fell out of his chair, got to his seat again, then promptly nodded out once more.

I went back the next night and had a chance to talk to Duke privately,and I said something to him like, "I know it is none of my business, Duke, but isn't it of great personal embarrassment to you when something like that happens?"

Ellington simply smiled urbanely and told me that one must be able to overlook such indidents when they involve a man who served his country so well in India (as a soldier in WWII) and who, while in that service, contracted a rare tropical disease that "occasionally makes him fall asleep."

I could only smile in rueful appreciation of his answer--I had been satisfactorily squelched and told to mind my magazine and he would mind his band.

I had been ducally euchred.

Jack Tracy

Mr. Tracy was editor of Down Beat in the mid 1950s.

There is a famous story about Paul, not quite as asleep as he is in the video, but well in his cups when Hamilton nudged him to let him know it was his solo next. Paul roused himself and stepped to the microphone. Hearing the continuing applause for the previous soloist, he thought he must have already played, so he bowed and returned to his seat.

Bill Crow

Mr. Crow is a distinguished bassist and author.

Paul Gonsalves was great, on the countless Ellington sessions as well as outside that band. Check out the "Sittin' In" session, recently reissued by Verve, where he's playing together with Stan Getz and Coleman Hawkins.

The whole Copenhagen 1965 concert, from which the "Perdido" clip is taken, is available on DVD.

Paul's sleeping causes a couple more interesting scenes during the evening, like Cootie Williams coming down for his solo and saying "WAKE up Paul, WAKE up!" when passing him. At one point Ellington tells Jimmy Hamilton to wake Paul up, and Hamilton just extends his arm to hold Paul's shoulder, with this incredibly bored look on his face. He doesn't shake him or anything, just puts his hand on Paul's shoulder.

Also, not Paul-related, Duke does this little juggler's trick with the head of a mike that keeps falling off. That takes the bored look off many of the musicians' faces for a moment: they are really surprised.

Somewhere I've read this Clark Terry story that Clark would always write postcards to Paul's mother, pretending it was Paul. Like "Hi Mom, we're in such-and-such place, love you, Paul." And then whenever Paul would come home, the first thing his mother would ask, "how's my boy Clarka Terry?"

Hans Doerrscheidt

(Writing from Germany)

The story about Mrs. Gonsalves is from the liner notes I wrote for the Clark Terry CD Daylight Express--DR

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

If you're attending the opening night of the Monterey Jazz Festival, you're not reading this. If, like me, you wish you were there, you will enjoy this feature by Paul Conley of KXJZ radio in Sacramento, California. The closing is priceless. Follow the link and click on "Listen."

A year ago I was at Monterey, where I shared a signing table with John Scofield (on the left). He sold more CDs than I sold books. We had a nice chat about many things, including his days with Gerry Mullligan early in Sco's career.

September 15, 2006 8:33 PM | | Comments (0)

Paul Gonsalves, the tenor saxophone star of Duke Ellington's band for nearly a quarter of a century, was a wonderfully warm man who had, as the jazz magazines used to euphemistically write, "personal problems." His most obvious personal problem was alcohol. When he had overindulged, it was often Ellington's practice to good naturedly punish him by requiring him to play extra solo choruses, sometimes dozens. In clubs, Ellington sometimes attempted to elevate Paul's metabolism and hasten the sobering-up process by sending him into the audience like a strolling violinist to serenade the patrons at their tables.

Julius LaRosa (yes, that Julius LaRosa) just brought to my attention a 1965 video of an Ellington performance of "Perdido" in which it is clear that Paul would be playing no solo, let alone extra choruses. And there was going to be no strolling this night. So, Duke and the band worked around the problem. In the eight-minute clip, you will hear an introductory solo in which Ellington interpolates "C-Jam Blues," then solos by Jimmy Hamilton on clarinet, Ray Nance on trumpet, Hamilton subbing on tenor sax for the indisposed Gonsalves, and a marvelously melodic drum solo by Sam Woodyard. You may observe subtle reactions to Paul's situation from some of the band members, including Johnny Hodges. To see the performance, go here. This band was nothing if not cool.

Far from letting incidents like this sour him on Gonsalves, Ellington remained fond of him personally and musically. He once surprised Gonsalves by scheduling a recording session and informing him that he would be the only soloist on every tune. The result was the marvelous Duke Ellington and His Orchestra featuring Paul Gonsalves. Gonsalves remained with the Ellington band until the end of his career. He, of course, is the one who played the galvanizing marathon tenor solo on the interval in "Diminuendo in Blue" and "Crescendo in Blue" at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. Paul Gonsalves died in 1974.

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

Not me. Ornette.

Brian Wise of WNYC in New York sent an alert that Ornette Coleman will be the guest on Soundcheck tomorrow to talk "about his life and career, touching on some of his classic albums as well as his most recent one, Sound Grammar." Soundcheck airs from 2:00 to 3:00 pm EDT at 93.9 FM and streams online here. It is also broadcast at 3 pm ET on XM Satellite Radio. This will be a rare opportunity to hear the perpetually iconoclastic alto saxophonist speak.

September 14, 2006 4:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Thanks for gathering and posting the remarks on the Sudhalter "celebration", for that's what it was, as Dan Levinson and I agreed in L.A. over Labor Day. The timing of your posting is right since the AFJS is having its Washington Conference this coming weekend. I ask your permission to copy and distribute it there and to post it, with full attribution, to our website.

Jim Jones President
American Federation of Jazz Societies

Permission is happily granted. Have a good meeting. Maybe we'll get a few new Rifftiders as a result. Follow the website link above for information about AFJS and the conference.

September 14, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)
The concert for Sudhalter went very well. Good attendance, and the musicians limited themselves to one or two numbers, so the evening moved along just right. Frishberg's "Dear Bix" brought a tear to my eye, and to his, I believe, as well. Marian McPartland, Joe Wilder, Jackie Cain and Steve Kuhn were especially good, and the backstage hanging out was wonderful. Loren Schoenberg's big band topped off the evening just right. Sud was touched and happy, and though he couldn't speak his thanks, he stood there and beamed while a friend read a lovely thank-you statement that Dick had written. His speech and his legs aren't working right yet, but his mind is still there, working elegantly. The room was full of love, and our hopes for his improvement are high.

Bill Crow

Mr. Crow played bass at the concert with The Biagi Band.

What a great event and congratulations and thanks to all the participants. I've been deeply sorry to hear of Dick's condition. Not only was he a cornetist who greatly inspired my own efforts early on, but his writings belong in the select pantheon of Otis Ferguson, George Frazier, Whitney Balliett and a very few others. Indeed I would regularly buy an album for the pleasure of his liner-notes alone. We one mutually lamented the plight of the jazz polymath who both writes and plays but if one artist alone can restore the title to its proper honourable estate it must be Richard M. great in the cornet chair as he was - and is - at his typewriter.

Good wishes,
Digby Fairweather

Mr. Fairweather is a distinguished British trumpeter and long-model cornetist.

It was a remarkable evening, one in which I was proud to participate and will always remember. Such an outpouring of affection for Dick by so many great players! And I learned so much! Thanks to all the great musicians who performed selflessly and exquisitely.

Armen Donelian

Mr. Donelian played piano at the concert with the Bill Kirchner Trio.

As I watched the show unfold, I imagined a headlline for a news article: "LOVE AND LOYALTY" Every musician present had been touched in some way by Richard's simply caring about them and the music we all play. Dick credits me with giving him his 1st gig (Cape Cod 1960). He more than reciprocated by getting me playing again when he came back from Europe in the mid-1970s. Appearances at Carnegie Hall (the Whiteman band) and the Smithsonian (Hoagy Carmichael show); a chance to play with legends like Al Galladoro and Eddie Barefield; a shot at being a founding member of Vince Giordano's band in '75, and some wonderful recording trips. I and many of our mates owe him for keeping us out there. Dick Katz got it right when he said it was a love-in. And Bill Kirchner's set was about the loveliest music-making I've heard in this century. What I came away with was the enormous sense of community among us lunatics that play this music. I mean - a group of veteran stock analysts wouldn't do it that way.

Sam Parkins

Mr. Parkins is a record producer and clarinetist. He played in The Biagi Band.

I'm utterly speechless!! You did a major major mitzvah..and just in time for the High Holidays.

muchimas gracias,
Daryl Sherman

Sie sind willkommen

Ms. Sherman played piano and sang at the concert.

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

How's this for an eclectic playlist?

"Fancy" Julia Murney, I'm Not Waiting
"Unexpressed" Gavin Creel, John Bucchino, It's Only Life
"Travellin'Thru" Dolly Parton, Transamerica
"Chasing Cars" Snow Patrol, Eyes Open
"Sweet and Lovely" One for All, The Lineup
"Butterfly" Corrine Bailey Rae
"Die Vampire! Die!" Original Cast, [Title of Show]
"Harvest Moon" Neil Young, Heart of Gold soundtrack and DVD
"Lonely Girl" Sandi Thom, Smile, It Confuses People
"Postcards from Richard Nixon" Elton John, The Captain and the Kid
"I Know I'm Not Alone" Michael Franti and Spearhead, Yell Fire!

Those are the pieces Ashley Foot is playing on his new Radio Allegro podcast, Sounds of Summer, most of them picked by his guests on the new show. I thought that the classical critic Greg Sandow and I might be fish out of water, but Foot's production savvy and effervescent hosting bring it all together. Go here and click on "Listen."

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

I was unable to attend Sunday night's benefit concert for Dick Sudhalter because St. Peter's Lutheran Church in New York is 3000 miles from Rifftides world headquarters. Friends who went, some of whom performed, sent reports. By their accounts, the event was a success on all fronts.
Dick Sudhalter
Richard M. Sudhalter, as many of you know, is an invaluable jazz historian and a respected cornetist and trumpeter. His biography of Bix Beiderbecke is the benchmark work about that genius of early jazz. His biography of Hoagy Carmichael is a modern classic. Sudhalter's monumental book Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contributions to Jazz 1915-1945 is balanced, objective, and brilliant. Many of its detractors, once they saw its subtitle, read no further or read through lenses of bias and launched vicious attacks accusing Sudhalter of racism. To anyone who knows him, that would be laughable if it wasn't so untrue and unfair.

For a couple of years, Dick has been in the long aftermath of a major stroke. He is also battling the effects of a rare condition called multiple system atrophy (MSA). His current debts and prospective medical costs are huge. Allthough his speech and movement are limited, his brilliant mind and ability to write are not. The trumpeter Randy Sandke and the clarinetist Dan Levinson organized the concert to help with expenses. Dick's companion Dorothy Kellog executed the planning. Judy Kahn, Bill Kirchner's wife, was the stage manager. The Jazz Ministry of St. Peter's cooperated in the presentation. The friends honoring and supporting Dick played to a full house. The review that follows is an amalgam of reports from Jill McManus, Dan Morgenstern, Daryl Sherman, Randy Sandke and Bill Kirchner.

This is not a short posting. I hope that it gives you a sense of the evening.

Sandke sets the scene and provides the lineup:

I thought it was a warm and very touching tribute. More than 70 musicians offered to participate. Because of some airline snafus, a few couldn't get in on time, but below is a list of the musicians and groups who did in fact play at St. Peters last night:

OPENING REMARKS BY DAN MORGENSTERN - Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies

ED POLCER'S GANG FROM 54th STREET Ed Polcer - cornet, Tom Artin - trombone, Joe Muranyi - clarinet, Harry Allen - tenor sax, Dave Frishberg - piano, Bucky Pizzarelli - guitar, Frank Tate - bass, Jackie Williams - drums

DAVE FRISHBERG (piano solo: "Dear Bix")

DAN LEVINSON'S LOST CHORD SEEKERS Jon-Erik Kellso - trumpet, Orange Kellin - clarinet, Dan Levinson - C-melody sax , Brad Kay - piano, Jeff Healy - guitar/vocal, Brian Nalepka - bass, Kevin Dorn - drums, Molly Ryan - vocal

DARYL SHERMAN (piano solo/vocal); one tune with Joe Wilder, trumpet

CAROL SUDHALTER BAND Carol Sudhalter - sax, Dick Katz - piano, Jim Ferguson - bass, Jackie Williams - drums, Keisha St. Joan, vocal

STEVE KUHN - piano

DAVID OSTWALD'S GULLY LOW JAZZ BAND Jon-Erik Kellso - trumpet, Tom Artin - trombone, Joe Muranyi - clarinet , James Chirillo - banjo, David Ostwald - tuba, Kevin Dorn - drums

JACKIE CAIN with Steve Kuhn - piano

HEALY'S HAPPY HARMONISTS Brad Kay - cornet/piano, Dan Levinson - clarinet, Jeff Healy - guitar/trumpet/vocal Scott Robinson - bass sax, Kevin Dorn - drums

MARIAN McPARTLAND with Frank Tate - bass

THE BIAGI BAND Jordan Sandke - trumpet, Carol Sudhalter - sax, Sam Parkins - clarinet, Andy Stein - violin , Chuck Folds - piano, Bill Crow - bass, Giampaolo Biagi - drums, Francesca Biagi - vocal

SY JOHNSON vocall and piano

BILL KIRCHNER TRIO Bill Kirchner - soprano sax, Armen Donelian - piano, Jim Ferguson - bass/vocal

RANDY SANDKE'S BIXOPHILES Randy Sandke - trumpet, Dan Levinson - clarinet, Scott Robinson - C-melody and bass sax, Mark Shane - piano, Marty Grosz - guitar, Nicki Parrott - bass, Rob Garcia - drums


Daryl Sherman:

Dr. Bob Litwak (a semi-pro drummer greatly supportive of the jazz community), chief of thoracic medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital for many years, got up and spoke about Dick's condition. There were some handouts along with the printed programs that also explained a bit about MSA. Most touching, though, were Litwak's words of encouragment to Dick...for instance that despite being sidelined on the horn, he's vital still with his writing ability. He mentioned Dick's working on the Red Nichols reissue package for Mosaic--that he's available for more writing gigs but should still keep his lip ready. And most moving, at least for me, was Litwak's eloquent way of lauding Sudhalter as one of the great thinkers.

Jill McManus, the pianist and composer, was in the audience:

The concert was wonderful - such an affection for Dick from the 350 or so people there, educators, musicians, friends, most of them there until the end. Dick in a wheelchair, beautifully dressed, listening intently to all the various bands, from old style to swing, nodding. He got up front to say his own brief "thank you," then called on his friend Terry Teachout to read something Dick had written, very touching, literate as ever. Dan, of course, set the warm tone of the evening with his opening comments.

Dan Morgenstern:

Great and unsusal chance to hear Frishberg on piano in the kickoff group, Ed Polcer's Gang from 54th Street, doing "Sometimes I'm Happy."

Jill McManus:

Then Dave did his wryly moving solo thing on "Dear Bix."

Daryl Sherman:

My favorite group name, Lost Chord Seekers with Jeff Healey on guitar (he also had his own set and made a huge hit) and Brad Kay on piano, featured Molly Ryan singing "I Never Knew" (which included a lovely verse I never knew).

Dan Morgenstern:

Healy is a triple threat on guitar, trumpet and vocal. He's blind. Came by himself from Toronto, Canada.

Daryl Sherman:

It was perfect that I should follow that group since I am one of the original lost chord seekers. With a nod to Sudhalter's little known or heralded vocalizings, I did one of his staples (stolen from Bing Crosby), Hoagy Carmichael's "Moonburn." (Hoagy Jr was in the audience!) I also got a chance to play for Joe Wilder on "When I Fall In Love".

Jill McManus

Daryl and Joe played gorgeously together. Daryl reminisced briefly before her set - told a story of the night Dick's horn was stolen from him.

Bill Kirchner relays the story:

About twenty years ago, Dick was playing a gig at the Red Blazer Too on Third Avenue and 89th. There was a front/side room where musicians would keep their horn cases, and he foolishly left his cornet in the case in that room. After the gig, he went out there to get it. It was gone. As you can imagine, he was crestfallen. The next day, he had to go out of town on a tour. So, he got in a cab and went over to the office he used to have in midtown. He had a spare horn there and wanted to try it, see if it was playable and take it on the tour.

He does that, leaves his office, goes down and hails a cab. About five cabs pass by, but he finally gets one. He gets in the cab, looks over on the back seat. There is his horn, sitting there in the case. He says to the cabbie, "This is my horn." The cabbie immediately gets defensive: "No, no, no...." So, finally, Dick says, "Look, if I can describe the contents of this case, you can tell this is my horn." He did, and the guy 'fessed up that a couple of guys had hailed his cab up in the eighties and had this horn and sold it to him for fifty bucks. So, Dick says, "Okay, I'll give you fifty bucks. I want my horn back." Dick later went to somebody who was familiar with the art of odds-making. He determined that the odds of this happening were several trillion to one.

Jill McManus:

Dick Katz played intelligently and poignantly both in Carol Sudhalter's band (Carol took a masterly laid-back solo, and Keisha St. Joan sang well, "Come Rain or Come Shine") and with Loren Schoenberg's smoothly melodic band at the end.

Dan Morgenstern:

Steve Kuhn, Dick's oldest friend at the concert, played a ballad. They were high school classmates in Newton, Mass. (another was Roger Kellaway, who wasn't there).
Daryl Sherman:
Steve played "Old Folks," (which I'd never heard him do before.) Masterful and ruminative. It was clearly a nod to Dick, with his penchant for Willard Robison--and particularly that song. There's a collector's item photo Dick has of one of the many Newton jam sessions in his basement. Kuhn with brushcut sitting just as erect as he does now at the piano, Kellaway at the bass (also brushcut) and Sudhalter with those nerdy black glasses.

Jill McManus:

David Ostwald's Gully Low Jazz Band had a delicately swampy New Orleans-ish feel, with James Chirillo on banjo, and Joe Muranyi's haunting clarinet. Tom Artin subbed for Wycliffe Gordon on trombone.

Dan Morgenstern:

Chrillo was great on banjo with Ostwald. It's nice to hear modern changes on that instrument.

Daryl Sherman:

Kuhn played for Jackie Cain. One of the vivid memories of the Hoagy Carmichael concert Dick produced for JVC around 1979 or '80 was Jackie's opening the evening. She came out alone and sang the verse to "Stardust" acapella. Sunday, she referred to that night, telling the audience how nervous she'd been. She chose not to do "Stardust" here and instead beautifully sang a touching song, "Music Reached Places," by Fran Landesman and Simon Wallace (Fran's recent collaborator.)

Dan Morgenstern:

Steve comped beautifully for Jackie C. and played a lovely solo.

Daryl Sherman

Marian McPartland has been in Dick's corner for many years and she really came through for him last night. She's been in constant pain with arthritis and knee problems and it was a huge schlep for her to make this--but there she was looking and sounding splendid with Frank Tate on bass. Of course, she played Carmichael: "Heart And Soul" and "New Orleans," weaving her spell and beautiful colors as only she can do. It was a special moment for me to dig all the piano players standing around in the back reverentially digging her.
Dan Morgenstern:
The Biagi Band, led by drummer Giampolo Biagi and vocal by Francesca Biagi (no relation), had Andy Stein on fiddle; Sam Parkins, clarinet; Chuck Folds, piano; Bill Crow, bass, who brought his wife and was the most consistent listener of all the musicians present. You know how it is with hanging out backstage.

Jill McManus:

Sy Johnson played a blues tune I never got the name of and also sang "Skylark." His piano playing and harmonization on that one were particularly lovely.
The Bill Kirchner Trio with Armen Donelian on piano and Jim Ferguson singing and on bass gave a moment of such grace that the whole place fell silent and the musicians were at rapt attention.

Daryl Sherman:

Jim Ferguson played and sang Willard Robison's "Deep Summer Music" accompanied so sensitively by Armen Donelian and with an especially evocative soprano solo from Bill Kirchner. Sudhalter taught it to me years ago, and beneath the elegiac simplicity is a tricky melody and harmony that makes you walk on eggshells when you play and, particulalry, try to sing it. The song could not have been better served than with Jim's treatment - a real highlight for me. In fact of all the lovely vocals last night his was my favorite -although bassist Nicki Parrott did a great job singing as well as playing "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" with Randy Sanke's band. Gotta hand it to these bass players particularly since Jay Leonhart's song laments that it's impossible to sing while playing the bass.

Loren's band was so terrific. Wish they had a steady spot somewhere. Barbara Lea sang the title song from her new CD (wonderfully recorded with the band and Loren also on piano), Ellington's "Black Butterfly." Loren had the advantage of being able to use many of the 'veterans' like Randy Sandke, Scott Robinson, Dick Katz, Eddie Bert, but he's really done so well finding new younger musicians who really seem to take an interest in this music.

Bill Kirchner:

They did Mark Lopeman's lovely chart on Dick's tune "A Dream Deferred." It was written especially for this occasion.

Dan Morgenstern:

Scott Robinson was heard on bass sax with Jeff Healy's Happy Harmonists, on C melody sax with Randy Sandke's Bixophiles, on tenor and clarinet with the Loren Schoenberg Big Band--great as usual on all his horns, but what a job to carry all that stuff! The big band, celebrating their new CD, also did "When Lights Are Low" (featuring Jon Gordon's alto), Gerry Mulligan's fine early Krupa chart on "If You Were the only Girl (announced as 'Goy') in the World", with a splendid trumpet solo by the underrated John Eckert. Also heard from was amazing trombonist Eddie Bert, looking great now that he's let his hair be its natural white. The band finished the night with a rousing "South Rampart Street Parade" (Scott R. on clarinet). Kevin Dorn did a nice job on drums--one of the youngest musicians on hand.

Jill McManus:

Afterwards, in the "parlor," I was talking with Dick, he being quiet but gracious, and I mentioned that I was getting tired standing, yet I hurt from sitting through this magnificent concert. He got up out of the wheelchair and offered me his seat! Never missed a beat! I loved that. (I'm not ready for a wheelchair myself just yet!!) He said that he never felt that people had admired him, that he had a very small audience. Perhaps, I said, but what an audience of jazz history-knowers! In his writing, how arduously careful he had to be with the facts, and he was the most meticulous of almost anyone.

Daryl Sherman:

I was surprised to witness the huge turnout from both musicians and civilians. There was an outpouring of respect and admiration for Dick. After hearing from him for so long that he feels invisible and doesn't even know himself anymore, believe me, this was the best medicine.He's really overwhelmed by all this now and I sure hope it helps him to fight harder, cause he's gonna need it.

Furthermore, it is a wonderful testament to the devotion to this music. Through acknowledging Sudhalter's contribution as fervent champion in print as well as on horn, it unifies the collectors, musicians, writers, fans and believers all over the world who have dedicated their lives to this aesthetic. And interestingly enough, they all seem to know each other, if not personally, then by reputation. From Dave Frishberg to guitatist/collector Jeff Healey in Toronto to Enrico Borsetti, an ardent fan from Italy who helped initiate this benefit for Dick, it really seems like a special brotherhood (with a few sisters,too.) It may be a pinhead of the population at large, but the passion never dies.

Dan Morgenstern:

What made it special, I think, is that everybody who was there wanted to be there for Dick, not just to hear some music.

The concert is over, but Dick's need is not. Contributions to the Sudhalter medical fund are being accepted at

Richard M. Sudhalter
Post Office Box 757
Southold, NY 11971

September 12, 2006 12:10 AM | | Comments (4)

I had lost track of the trumpeter Tim Hagans, whose searching, edgy, extraharmonic improvisational style I admire. I did an internet search and ended up on his modishly designed and constructed website, whose style reflects his adventuresome, but centered, music. Roaming through the site, I found surprises equivalent to those a listener encounters in Hagans' playing. Click on "Bio" and up comes a menu under the heading "Hagans Portrait." Click on Chapter 7 and you will find a declaration of independence entitlted, "The Artist's Role in Society." Here is a section.

Artists are scary. They celebrate individualism. They portray the nuances and emotions of life in abstract terms. Music is the most abstract art form and improvised music creates the intangible in the moment. An artist's mission is not to entertain although entertainment can be a desired by-product. Their mission is to give the receiver of the artistic statement emotions and impressions to reflect upon. Whether the receiver likes or dislikes the statement is secondary.

Visitors to the Hagans site get biographical, discographical and events information, cleverly produced, plus a generous audio helping of complete performances. They also get a six-part movie called Boogaloo Road. It contains many of those surprises I mentioned, not the least of which is footage of the trumpeter practicing while driving. To find the film, move your cursor down the audio player at the bottom right of the screen. The Tim Hagans website is here.

September 11, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (2)

Thanks to Terry Teachout for alerting me to the existence on YouTube of video performances by the great early 1960s Sonny Rollins Quartet with Jim Hall. As I lamented in the previous exhibit, that band is absent from Rollins's own web site. The clips are from Ralph Gleason's Jazz Casual series on Public Broadcasting. You will see four of them, totalling more than twenty minutes of the group playing "God Bless The Child," "The Bridge," and "If Ever I Should Leave You," the latter in two installments.

In his About Last Nigtht blog, Terry has built a list of links to videos of music in a variety of genres, a fine public service. Scroll down his right-hand column until you come to the Videos heading. Bravo, TT.

September 8, 2006 3:44 PM | | Comments (0)

Yesterday was Sonny Rollins's 76th birthday. He celebrated it, in part, by installing on his website nine video clips of performances over forty-nine years, beginning in 1957. They comprise a fascinating tour of his career. They will be accessible for six more days. Among the sidemen are Henry Grimes, Joe Harris, Don Cherry, Billy Higgins, Niels Henning Orsted-Pedersen, Al Foster, Kenny Drew, George Duke, Stanley Clarke and Jack DeJohnette. Unfortunately, there is nothing of his early 1960s quartet with Jim Hall, but it would be churlish to complain in the face of such riches. You will see and hear a "Moritat" (aka "Mack The Knife") from Tokyo in 1981 that swings about as hard as anything can swing. To witness the performances, go to the Sonny Rollins website.

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

Let's wrap up the survey of a few of the recent CDs from High Note.

Billy Hart, Quartet (High Note). Hart is a 65-year-old drummer prized by Stan Getz, Wes Montgomery, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Dena DeRose, Pharaoh Sanders, Frank Morgan and virtually anyone else who has ever played with or heard him. Here, he leads an eclectic group with pianist Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus; the quiet, strong, tenor saxophonist Mark Turner; and Ben Street, a bassist who operates in the present with the past and the future in mind. Hart's compositions are as hip as his playing. I see no reason why his ballads "Charvez" (with allusions to Rachmaninoff) and "Lullaby For Imke" should not become jazz standards. Taken together, his four tunes, those by Iverson, Turner, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker, and resourceful playing by all hands, add up to one of the freshest albums I've heard this year. How does a band play the melody of "Confirmation" four times in a row at the beginning of the piece without seeming repetitious? It has to do with the drumming. They compensate by not playing the melody at all at the end. Clever.

Cedar Walton, One Flight Down (High Note). Walton, among the finest jazz pianists for more than forty years, grows at once more expressive and more economical. Not that he has lost power or facility. Rather, he is increasingly judicious in his choices and placements of notes. Space is often an important ingredient in his solos, but he still marshals all ten fingers to build harmonic sequences of majestic density. Walton connects "Lush Life," "Daydream" and "Raincheck" in a medley of Billy Strayhorn compositions, keeping the tempo bright even on "Lush Life," so often played at the pace of a slow crawl. He does the same for another ballad, "Time After Time," infecting it with a cordial, loping quality and a Red Garland tag ending. Walton's longtime bassist David Williams, solid as ever, has an engagingly witty solo on Sam Jones's "Seven Minds. Twice in "Raincheck," drummer Joe Farnsworth plays two chorus-long solos using brushes. In both, he demonstrates that "melodic drum solo" is not an oxymoron. High Note's ubiquitous Vincent Herring plays tenor saxophone rather than his customary alto on two Walton pieces, "One Flight Down" and "The Rubber Man." If Cannonball Adderley is his model on alto, Herring's primary inspiration on tenor seems to be middle-period John Coltrane, with a substantial Hank Mobley component. Of Walton's scores of albums, this seems to me one of his best.

Briefly noted:

Ernie Andrews, How About Me (High Note). At seventy-nine, Andrews rolls on, as moving when he sings the blues as he is with superior standards. In addition to well-known popular songs ("The More I See You," "This is Always") and plenty of blues-inflected material, he includes rarities: Berlin's "How About Me," Ellington's "It Shouldn't Happen to a Dream" and Sammy Fain's "The Wildest Gal in Town." Tenor saxophonist Houston Person and a good rhythm section assist.

Frank Morgan, Reflections (High Note). The story of Morgan's kicking his bad habit and rehabilitating his career is two decades old. The important news is that, approaching his mid-seventies, he is playing the alto saxophone with great beauty. Morgan's work here is centered in calmness and consideration that justify the album title. Alec Wilder frequently railed against musicians who failed to observe his melodies at least on the first chorus. He would love Morgan's first chorus on "I'll Be Around." I have a feeling that Wilder would like the improvisation, too. Thelonious Monk might even smile a little at what Morgan and pianist Ronnie Mathews do with "Monk's Mood." Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes, during the course of which I listened to the album repeatedly and became captivated by it.

Coming soon: reviews of CDs from a variety of labels, including the intriguing and intriguingly-named Cryptogramophone.

September 8, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

If you are in the New York City area or can get to it by Sunday evening, please consider attending the concert to benefit Richard Sudhalter. If you don't know about Dick's medical predicament and the staggering bills he faces, you will find details here. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the quality and range of musicians who have volunteered to play for Sudhalter constitute a testimonial to the respect and affection he has earned.

Tickets are $40.00. Contributions above that amount are needed and encouraged.

St. Peter's Lutheran Church
Lexington Avenue & 54th Street
New York, New York
Sunday, September 10, 2006

Some of the performers:

Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Eddie Bert, Bill Crow, Jim Ferguson, Dave Frishberg, Wycliffe Gordon, Marty Grosz, Becky Kilgore, Bill Kirchner, Steve Kuhn, Dan Levinson, Marian McPartland, Joe Muranyi, David Ostwald, Nicki Parrott, Bucky Pizzarelli, Scott Robinson, Randy Sandke, Daryl Sherman, and the Loren Schoenberg Big Band.

September 8, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Coincidental with the Rifftides review of a new Louis Hayes CD, Mark Stryker of The Detroit Free Press devoted his column to a festival that featured Hayes and others who began their careers in the Motor City.

A remarkable chunk of Detroit-bred jazz history reunited on Monday evening at the Detroit International Jazz Festival, and it was hard to listen to the Detroit Jazz All Stars - pianist Barry Harris, trombonist Curtis Fuller, alto saxophonist Charles McPherson, drummer Louis Hayes, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and bassist Rodney Whitaker - without shaking your head once again at this city's historic role as an incubator of jazz talent.

To read the whole thing, go here.

September 7, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (2)

I spent twenty-four years in television news, fourteen of them in front of the camera and reporting, then managing news operations, so I was compelled to watch the debut of The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric. If the dumbing-down cycle that began thirty years ago when WABC-TV hired Geraldo Rivera is not complete, let us shudder in anticipation.

We got exclusive pictures of Vanity Fair's exclusive pictures of the babyTom Cruise had with his latest woman, equating them with the importance of CBS's coverage decades ago of the birth of Prince Charles. This sort of tabloid item, nestled among commercials for products designed to bolster failing body parts of the aging, is evidently the approach CBS hopes will attract younger viewers.

There was a free speech segment featuring a movie director analyzing political civility, tagged with a promise from Couric that Rush Limbaugh would be in that slot on Thursday. Lara Logan did a solid report on the Taliban in Afghanistan, Anthony Mason a good one on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The producers embellished President Bush's speech comparing the war on terror with the runup to World War Two. They flew in rear screen photos of Hitler and Mussolini, Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist leaders, bolstering the President's points rather than simply running clips and letting him speak for himself. It was a blatant abandonment of objectivity for the sake of production "values." Of course, there was yet another story about the death of the Australian crocodile hunter. CBS News provided Tom Friedman of The New York Times a platform, in the guise of an interview by Couric, to give his thoughts on the administration's policy for the Middle East, with no tough questions and no counterbalancing view from another quarter. I don't know how much of the CBS News budget went to the eminent film composer James Horner for the ten-second opening theme, but I can't remember one note of it. I was amused to read in The Wall Street Journal that when he was approached by CBS about the project, Horner told them he didn't know who Katie Couric was and didn't watch much television.

There were three plugs to go to, tell them your opinions and suggest a closing line for Couric. For $15,00,000 a year you want a Marilyn Monroe impersonator AND a way to say goodnight? Of course, if she had a closer, there would be no reason to ask viewers yet again to go to the website and suggest one, and that would mean the loss of a marketing opportunity, the true purpose of a network news broadcast. I would have taken the gig for a million and used the other $14,000,000 to cover the news. Is it too late?

And how about Couric's authoritative opening line: "Hi, everyone."

The News Hour With Jim Lehrer on PBS had more news in the five-minute opening summary than CBS managed in the entire 22 minutes of news time in its half hour. Support PBS. Please.

Good night and good luck.

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

It was my intention to write mini-reviews of several more High Note CDs for this posting, but other matters intervened (see the previous item). One will have to suffice.

Vincent Herring, Ends And Means (High Note). We last encountered Herring ghosting Cannonball Adderley on a new Louis Hayes album. When he emerged in the 1980s, the young alto player was one of the few on his instrument to demonstrate a primary Adderley influence. That aspect of his playing has never diminished, but he has broadened his concept. I hadn't heard him in a few years when this and the Hayes album arrived and was taken with the freshness of Herring's playing within the Cannonball matrix. Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, Herring's front-line partner in the Hayes group, is with him on four of the tracks, including "The Song Is Ended" decked out with altered harmonies in the bridge and a suspended ending that converts the standard song into a semi-modal piece.

"Ends and Means," by the Slovenian pianist Renato Chicco, opens the album with an air of mystery resolving into thoughtful lyricism. On it, Herring roughens his tone, as Adderley often did, adding an edge to some of his more heartfelt passages. Benny Golson's "Stablemates" is an established modern classic (note to the producer; the title is one word, not "Stable Mates"). Mulgrew Miller's "Wingspan," evoking Charlie Parker, is fast becoming another jazz standard. Both are ideal vehicles for Herring. On "Wingspan," Pelt matches Herring's bebop intensity, as does Danny Grissett, a pianist in his mid-twenties new to the New York jazz milieu but already established enough to be joining trumpeter Tom Harrell on tour in Europe this month. That honor and his recording with Herring would seem to announce that Grissett has arrived. The veteran bassist Essiet Essiet and the Swiss drummer Joris Dudli round out the rhythm section.

All hands execute an exercise in elation on Juan Tizol's "Caravan." The arrangement is built around a bass line in what a musicologist might identify as crippled cadence that works its way into exhilirating straight time. This album by a solid and satisfying alto man has a nice mix of familiar and new material.

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

The other day, Ashley Foot, the ebullient young host of the internet's Radio Allegro, invited me to be on his program. In the recorded interview, I told him, "There's an incredible outpouring of jazz CDs these days. You'd never know jazz was dying."

"It's dying!" he said in alarm, "What are you talking about?"

Having failed to transmit irony, I explained that someone or other is always saying that jazz is dead or dying or not very well, but that the stream of albums seems to be swelling, not shrinking. Now that any musician who can scrape up $1500 or so can be a recording artist, can even be his own record company, it's a question whether many of those CDs will ever be more than digital calling cards. Still, success stories like Maria Schneider's declaration of business independence with her artistShare venture prove that it is possible for musicians to control their own destinies if they have bases upon which to build.

Hundreds if not thousands of jazz CDs appear each year from individuals with vanity labels, from startup independents, from established companies. Facing this flood, all that a reviewer can do is be selective. Over the next few postings, I'll give you brief accounts of a few of the CDs that lately have caught my attention.

It could be nearly a full-time job just keeping up with the output of The Jazz Depot, the umbrella company that produces the High Note, Savant and Fedora labels. I have chosen a few recent CDs from this prolific outfit.

Houston Person with Bill Charlap: You Taught My Heart to Sing (High Note). As leader of his respected trio, Charlap is a Blue Note artist, but materializes as a sideman on other labels. That is good news for listeners, who get to hear the pianist in fresh contexts, and it is good news for Person. The veteran tenor saxophonist's duets with Charlap are triumphs of quiet authority and lyricism. Most of the pieces are slow ballads, but even when the tempo is that of a brisk walk, as in "S'Wonderful," the two are relaxed and assured in their swing. This is a pair of tonemeisters. Person's sound has both softness and strength. Charlap's touch--the pianist's equivalent of tone--allows him a combination of delicacy and firmness in a league with Hank Jones, Jimmy Rowles and Tommy Flanagan. It is a joy when he combines it with his exqusite harmonic sensibility in the accompaniment to Person's speech-inflected solo in "Don't Forget The Blues." Their "Sweet Lorraine" is a modern classic version of that infectious song.

Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Legacy Band: Maxiumum Firepower (Savant). Hayes was the drummer in one of Cannonball Adderley's most potent quintets with his cornetist brother Nat. Here, he recruits five of the brightest younger players to summon up the irrepressible spirit of that band. Vincent Herring, long established as the keenest inheritor of Adderley's style, is on alto sax. Jeremy Pelt is the trumpeter. Richie Goods is the bassist. Rick Germanson and Anthony Wonsey split piano duties. All of the pieces but Pelt's tribute "The Two of Them" are from Addlerley's repertoire, the hits ("This Here," "Sack O' Woe") and the favorites of musicians ("Unit 7," "Sweet Georgia Bright"). If the playing doesn't quite attain the volubility and fire of the Adderleys, it is nonetheless excellent and comes as close as any living musicians are likely to achieve.

Larry Willis: The Big Push (High Note). Willis is a far less well known pianist than his talent warrants. Jackie McLean, Stan Getz, Kai Winding, Cannonball Adderley, Branford Marsalis and Roy Hargrove are among the leaders who knew his value. This CD with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster has the potential to be the big push he needs to gain a wider audience. Willis is modeish in Wayne Shorter's title tune. He devises bracing chords for "Surrey With the Fringe on Top." In "Poppa Nat, " he finds new things to do with "I Got Rhythm" changes, and invests "Everything I Have is Yours" with rare poignancy, from its rarely heard verse to a filagreed ending shared with Foster's cymbals.

Reviews of more CDs in the next Rifftides posting.

September 5, 2006 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Gillespiana In The Berkshires

On vacation this week, in Connecticut to visit friends. Looking for musical diversion, I stumbled across the Tanglewood Jazz Festival at the summer home of the Boston Symphony in Lenox, MA.

Due to time constraints, I was able to attend only one concert - so I chose the Dizzy Gillespie All Star big band. For me, a great choice. Led by veteran trombonist Slide Hampton, the band was legitimately "all star"... a killer trumpet section: Roy Hargrove, Claudio Roditi, Lou Hunt (phenomenal chops, stratospheric high notes) and Frank Greene (ditto). Trombones: Steve Davis (several good solos), Jason Jackson, Jonathan Boltzock, Douglas Purviance (bass trb). Saxes: Gary Smulyan, Andres Boiarsky (new to me and very good), Mark Gross and Antonio Hart (altos) and Jimmy Heath (looking old and somewhat frail but playing well). Rhythm section: Cyrus Chestnut, piano; John Lee, bass; Dennis Mackrel, drums; and Duke Lee on congas.

Hargrove was heavily featured and worth it. He shone especially on Benny Golson's "I Remember Clifford" on fluegelhorn and on several other tunes. Roditi was lyrical and thoughtful, playing his rotary-valve horn.

Cyrus Chestnut was showcased on the Dennis Mackrel arrangement of Monk's "I Mean You" and was alternately Monkish and funkish to the delight of the sold-out audience of 1200 in Meiji Ozawa Hall. Other highlights: Jimmy Heath's tribute to Dizzy, "Without You, No Me"... "Con Alma"... "Manteca"... Quincy Jones' "Jessica's Day".

Roberta Gambarini came on for a couple of tunes in each half of the concert. She's good, especially effective in a dramatic reading of "Stardust". Her singing of "Samba de Orfeu", arranged by Slide Hampton, was an adventure in Portuguese and English, with changes in tempo and excellent vocal work. She scatted to advantage on "Blue-n-Boogie" which also included some Roy Hargrove scatting. He continues in the trumpeter/scat vocalist tradition of Louis Armstrong and Clark Terry. Electric bassist John Lee pleased the crowd with his work on "One Bass Hit". Mackrel is a fine big band drummer and his arrangements are fresh and interesting.

Hampton is a congenial leader, mixing humor, enthusiasm and information to engage the audience. The obvious pleasure the band got from the music and their colleagues' solos was infectious, further bringing the audience into the moment.

So - if you get a chance to hear/see the DG All Stars in your town, by all means do it. They're still carrying the big band bebop banner. Long may it wave.

Your traveling Washington correspondent,

John Birchard

September 5, 2006 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

We continue to get comments on the news that pianist Steve Kuhn will record for Blue Note. This one is from drummer Steve Grover in Farmingdale, Maine.

I enjoy Rifftides and I was pleased to see that some attention is being directed toward Steve Kuhn. I think he is one of the most intelligent jazz pianists of our time (or any time). Steve occasionally comes through New England, and I caught him a couple of times. One trio performance with George Mraz and Al Foster stands out. The club was about half full, but the subtle, witty and quote-laden interplay between the three musicians was sublime. I hesitate to bring up the quoting, which is a gratuitous practice in most hands, but Steve unfolds his improvisations with such wit, melody and musicality that quotes are a seemless part of the web. His time is impeccable and he is always engaged with the tendencies of his musicians. The term 'musical conversation' is a common phrase, but rarely have I heard such probing music that clearly defined that expression.

Yet I heard him with Kenny Washington a few years later at The Knickerbocker one night and he was playing deep in the pocket, swinging hard. This kind of sympatico is natural to Mr. Kuhn, and it is never obvious, yet apparent. I love his deep-in-the-keys sound; it is a beautiful, singing sound, and it permeates everything he plays.

Steve Kuhn is a major figure and I hope he gets more than a one-off with Blue Note, but I'll take that happily when it comes out.

September 5, 2006 1:03 AM | | Comments (1)

With video clips proliferating on the internet, you never know what you'll run across. Roaming around YouTube, I happened on one called Trumpet Summit '04. The lead-in box showed a still frame of Jon Faddis. Something clicked. When I punched up the clip, sure enough, it was part of the Vienne, France, twentieth anniversary festival that I covered, not in 2004, but in 2000. YouTube's accuracy of information is at the mercy of its contributors. The piece is "Honeysuckle Rose." To hear and see it, click here. Below is my account of the entire concert, as it ran in a long report in the February, 2001, issue of Gene Lees JazzLetter.

The night's theme was Louis Armstrong. The Trumpet Summit Band had the formidable rhythm section of Cedar Walton on piano, Doug Weiss on bass and Idris Muhammad on drums supporting trumpeters Terrell Stafford, Randy Brecker, Lou Soloff, Roy Hargrove, Terence Blanchard and Jon Faddis. Backstage, as they milled around getting ready to go on, Brecker told me, "We don't know what the hell we're doing." They figured it out on the first number, "Indiana". The solos were brief, at the most a couple of choruses apiece, encouraging self-editing. Stafford began with a straightforward bebop solo. Brecker dug into the chords. Hargrove did a nice adaptation of Dizzy Gillespie and observed Clifford Brown's rule of contrasting phrases. Soloff quoted Armstrong's "West End Blues" introduction. Faddis and Stafford sidled up close on opposite sides and stared at him. Soloff ignored them. Blanchard played cleanly, high, and without the slurs and half-valve notes that so often dominate his improvising. Muted, Faddis combined traces of Gillespie and Sweets Edison and reduced the others to head shaking and laughter with his impossibly high and humorous playing. Walton played the first of his eight perfect solos in the set. Everyone avoided the temptation to quote "Donna Lee."

Faddis and Stafford shared "Blueberry Hill", Faddis muted and growling, Stafford using a plunger and making rich harmonic choices. On "Sunny Side of the Street," Soloff showed the mature wisdom of using pauses as notes. Brecker went deep inside the changes and found material to make a beautiful new melody.

Hargrove's tone, phrasing, sense of harmonic changes and control of time on "Sleepy Time Down South" combined in a solo that brought sustained applause from the audience and his colleagues. Later, he told me, "Man, that's a hell of a way to learn a tune." He said he had never before played it. Blanchard used his slurs and half-valve effects in Sleepy Time and worked them into a climax worthy of Roy Eldridge. Everyone played on Honeysuckle Rose. The big surprise was Stafford, with his aggressive and imaginative use of swing and bop elements. He has recorded with Tim Warfield, Stephen Scott, Bobby Watson, the Clayton Brothers, and others, but he was new to most of this audience and they let him know that they were impressed.

Soloff and Faddis played the "West End Blues" intro in unison, leading into a long, slow blues. Iraklì de Davrichewy materialized onstage for the first solo, unintimidated by this high powered company, and did well. So did they all, but Brecker is one of the few trumpeters alive who seems to have truly heard what Fats Navarro discovered about changes. His solo proved it. Faddis roamed around in the altissimosphere, then dropped down into the range of mere high Cs for some pure Louis. Walton incorporated "After Hours" without making it a corny trick.

The encore was "Get Happy," played fast. Not until near its end, in a series of four-bar, two-bar and one-bar exchanges did the ad hoc gathering deteriorate into the messy jam session it might have been in lesser hands.

I hope that more videos from the 2000 Vienne festival turn up. It was a remarkable festival.

September 3, 2006 1:41 PM | | Comments (0)

Last night I dropped into The Seasons to catch the last half of a concert by the Finisterra Trio, the hall's artists in residence. They are violinist Kwan Bin Park, cellist Keven Krentz and pianist Tanya Stambuck. In previous posts, I have mentioned this Seattle piano trio's finesse and enthusiasm. One of their other strong points is an eagerness to range through music in search of pieces outside of the usual repertoire. They played Edouard Lalo's trio in a-minor. In his role as introducer and staff musicologist, Krentz described Lalo as a "B composer," but in this piece--new to me and most of the audience--Lalo produced "A" material.

As Krentz explained, Lalo, a Frenchman of Spanish extraction, was a sort of precursor to the French impressionists, but he is often described as having the stolid characteristics of his late nineteenth century German contemporaries. Not in the a-minor trio. It has the passion of Lalo's Iberian forebears, highlighted by a highly charged second movement laced with fun, a slow third movement to make your heart ache and a finale to make it race. Park, Krentz and Stambuck poured energy and ardor into the piece. In return, they got applause after each movement, and a standing ovation at the end. They deserved warm appreciation, but the obligatory Standing O is becoming as common among classical audiences as is automatic applause for jazz solos, no matter how dumb or boring. If you'd like to review the Rifftides applause discussion of a few months ago, you can go here and trace it back through the links.

On their website, Finesterra has MP3 samples of the Lalo a-minor. Unfortunately, they have yet to record the entire work. Until they do, there are choices. Still high on the aftereffects of the Finesterra performance, this morning I sampled other options. I found the Gryphon Trio's approach a bit soggy. The Parnassus Trio edged out the Salomon for second place to what I heard last night. They both have fine versions, but they don't achieve quite the vigor of the Finisterrans. It's good to see chamber music alive and well in the hands, minds and hearts of a hip young group like the Finisterra Trio.

September 1, 2006 5:22 PM | | Comments (0)

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