main: January 2007 Archives

The Rifftides staff is awash in deadline assignments that yield even more than this blog pays, so we're bound to keep at them. When the waters subside, my plan is to begin surveying some of the CDs that have come in on the tide recently (is this aquarian metaphor getting out hand?). For now, please roam the archives (see the right-hand column) for items of interest that you may have missed.

Oh, yes; the headline up there is "Kenny Barron." He is on my mind because I'm going to introduce him this weekend in his solo concert on the nine-foot Steinway at The Seasons. For an idea why I am anticipating the prospect of hearing Kenny live after too long a dry spell, check out this video clip of his solo on "I Can't Get Started." The band is the Stan Getz quartet with Barron, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Victor Lewis in Vienna, probably in 1989. Getz smiles (!) and prompts Barron to take two bows. No wonder. The video quality is blurry. The sound is not. You'll be glad.

January 31, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Mark Stryker, the jazz columnist of the Detroit Free Press, read the Clifford Brown posting and wrote:

Given Soupy's Detroit connections, I once wrote a story about Soupy and the Clifford tape not long after it first surfaced in 1996. There's no link but I've copied some details below, as well as some of Soupy's other memories.
Comedian Soupy Sales, a television pioneer, began rooting around his Beverly Hills garage in 1994 at the request of a documentary producer at the A&E network. Eventually, he exhumed a film canister containing a handful of episodes of "Soupy's On," his five-day-a-week, late-night variety show, which aired live from 1953 through '59 on WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) in Detroit.There, nestled among the pie-in-the-face comedian's collection of goofy characters like Wyatt Burp and Ernest Hemingbone and Charles Vichysoisse, was five minutes of priceless jazz history -- the only surviving film of Clifford Brown, one of the greatest trumpeters in jazz.
The film features Brown -- or "Brownie" as he was known to friends and fans -- roaring through the Eubie Blake ballad "Memories of You" and George Gershwin's "Lady Be Good" in early 1956, just months before he was killed in an auto accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the age of 25. Brown segues between the two tunes without a break, and the segment concludes with a brief interview with Sales. "When we'd come into Detroit, we'd play the Rouge Lounge at that time, but we'd always do maybe five minutes or so to promote the gig on Soupy's show," says drummer Max Roach, who, with Brown, led an influential quintet from 1954-56 and also played on Charlie Parker's seminal bebop records in the '40s."In this particular instance, Clifford just ran down and did it with the rhythm section that was on Soupy's show. But it's an unusual tape in that all you see is Clifford from different angles. You can see the way Clifford's chops and embouchure are and the way he used his right hand; it's a fabulous study in the way Clifford dealt with the the trumpet. It's just unbelievable."
As word of Sales' Indiana Jones-like discovery spreads through the jazz community -- and videotape copies of the Brown film are traded like talismans -- speculation has become rampant among musicians and fans: What other treasures lie buried in Soupy's archives? The answer, tragically, is almost nothing, even though Soupy's On featured the most remarkable collection of jazz talent in television before or since.A short list of the jazz giants who performed on the program includes: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Chet Baker, Coleman Hawkins, Gerry Mulligan, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, Illinois Jacquet, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Earl Hines and Thelonious Monk. Miles Davis, who lived in Detroit for five months in 1953-54, was a regular, as were Detroit-bred stars such as Pepper Adams, Tommy Flanagan and Yusef Lateef. But these were the days before videotape, and unless a program was shot on film or saved via a kinescope -- a film of the TV screen -- it simply vanished. That was the fate of "Soupy's On," except for a few episodes that Sales had a friend film in order to document his comedy characters. It's serendipity that Brown happened to be on a program that survived. "Don't forget, you're talking about 1955, and nobody ever thought about taping stuff like that in those days," says Sales, 70, speaking from a hotel in Huntington, W.Va., where he was performing.
Other than Brown, the only jazz musicians captured on Sales' private films are pianists Eddie Heywood Jr. and Erroll Garner; Heywood is a minor figure, and film of Garner is plentiful. Even the shows near the end that were actually videotaped were all erased in the '60s by the station in order to recycle tape.
Sales was the biggest TV star in Detroit in the '50s, making a reported $100,000 a year by 1958. His noontime show for kids, "12 O'Clock Comics," was so highly rated that he replaced "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" on the ABC network for eight weeks during the summer of 1955."Soupy's On" ran from 11 to 11:15 p.m. in the early days, growing eventually to a full 30 minutes. Each show featured sketch comedy, talk and a healthy dose of jazz. The show's theme song was Charlie Parker's bebop anthem "Yardbird Suite."Detroit's thriving club scene ensured a steady stream of top jazz performers, who Sales says were paid scale -- $25 -- to appear on the show. There was never any rehearsal. A soloist would choose a standard and a key that everyone was comfortable with and just play, says Jack Brokensha, who played drums and vibes with the Australian Jazz Quintet in the mid-' 50s and left the road to become a staff musician at WXYZ during the final year of "Soupy's On.""It was live TV, and you only got two or three minutes per tune. And I remember one night Thelonious Monk played 'Round Midnight' and you couldn't stop him, and we had to roll the credits over him," says Brokensha of Bloomfield Hills.
Though not a musician, Sales was an aficionado who hung out in clubs and knew jazz like an insider. The show's original producer and director, Peter Strand, remembers that Sales' knowledge of the music led to the kind of incisive interviews you never see today."It was not idle chat. Soupy knew why they wrote what they wrote, so they opened up and could be themselves," says Strand, now of Glenview, Ill.Sales says he knew at the time that the nightly parade of jazz stars was special. "That always occurs to people who star in their own shows . . . and it's only afterwards that everybody else says, 'We should've saved that.'
Soupy Sales remembers a few of the jazz greats who appeared on "Soupy's On.
"Ella Fitzgerald, vocalist: "Ella was wonderful. She was just the sweetest lady who ever lived. She was like sugarcoated; you just wanted to hug and kiss her. Anything you wanted she did. "Duke Ellington, bandleader: "With Duke, you were in the presence of greatness, you know. He sat down and played "Satin Doll" and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore."
Chet Baker, trumpet: "There you're looking at a potential big movie star. He was like another James Dean had he kept himself straight. He had such a beautiful face, and he was really a nice guy, a great personality, and he could sing. It was a shame to watch a man destroy himself in front of your very eyes."
Billie Holiday, vocalist: "Some people had a concern when we had her on. They said, 'You gonna let that junkie on?' And I said: 'Listen, I have her on 'cause she's a great singer. I don't care what she does in her private life.' She came on and sung her ass off. . . . She sang 'Fine and Mellow' and 'Lover Man.' I'll never forget that."

Stan Getz, tenor sax: "He was so whacked out. He said, 'Just let me know when you want me to go up there.' And he'd play, and we could not get his attention 'cause he played with his eyes closed. He got through and said, 'How was it?' And I said, 'We went off the air five minutes ago.' "

Milt Jackson, vibes: "He once was doing the show, and he pulled out a glasses case, and a joint fell on the floor, and I stepped on it. Afterwards, I said, 'You look underneath my shoe, you'll see something you dropped.' He said, 'Oh, thank you so very much.'
Thanks for keeping the blog -- it's become part of my everyday routine.
Mark Stryker
January 30, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (2)

For years, I have heard reports that when the great trumpeter Clfford Brown appeared on a Detroit television program hosted by the comedian Soupy Sales, his performance was recorded. A kinescope has surfaced to confirm the reports. The guest shot with Sales produced what seems to be the only film or videotape of Brown playing. A couple of untypical fluffs at the beginning of "Oh, Lady Be Good" indicate that he had no time to warm up, but once Brownie got underway, his technique, imagination, power and spacious tone were in full operation. Minimal information accompanying the YouTube clip dates the appearance as early 1956, putting it within six months of Brown's death in a June, 1956 auto crash. What an astonishing musician he was.

A brief conversation with Sales gives us an inkling of Brown's gentleness and warmth. Sales and his set designer must have been two of the few people in the world to refer to Brown as "Cliff."

A fair number of performances by Bud Powell exists on video, filmed in French and Scandinavian clubs in 1959, '62 and '63. The DVD called Bud Powell in Europe contains most, if not all of them. During this period, the seminal bebop pianist was enjoying relatively good health and stability following years of mental disequilibrium. As I wrote in the essay that accompanied a Powell CD,

...through the 1940s and much of the early '50s, he performed at a level of energy and inspiration no other pianist could match. Occasionally through the years until his death in 1966, the old incandescence flashed briefly. Even when the uncanny rush of his creative ideas was interrupted and the flame of his almost superhuman energy had lowered, Powell's sound...the way he touched the piano, the way he voiced chords..was intact.

Inevitably, several pieces lifted from the Powell DVD have popped up on YouTube in various states of video and audio quality, from barely adequate to okay. Powell was in good shape, if not at his peak of genius. You will hear in "Anthropology" and, particularly, in "Get Happy," the harmonic voicings that inspired pianists in the forties and inform chord theory in jazz to this day. And you will hear the nearly uninterrupted flow of creativity that characterized his melodic lines. He is accompanied by Kenny Clarke, the father of bebop drumming, and bassist Pierre Michelot. On "Anthropology," tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson joins them. It may not be Bud in his prime, but here's the line that ended that liner note essay:

It is always instructive to study even the lesser works of the masters.
January 29, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Barry Finnerty, a guitarist who worked with Michael Brecker in the Brecker Brothers band of the late 1970s, has posted a lengthy reminiscence about his friend. It includes this paragraph:

He used to take his humility to extremes sometimes... he would complain to me that he hated his own playing, was tired of all his licks, that he felt he was doing nothing but endlessly repeating himself on every solo he took. I couldn't sympathize with him too much on that one. I'd tell him, "I should be able to repeat myself like that!" Besides, I would console him, he was the only one that could tell! There was one lick he used to play a lot that actually became kind of a private joke between us. It was a lightning-fast pentatonic scale riff in groups of 6, going up chromatically... I figured it out and started to play it in my solos, giving him a wink out of the corner of my eye, and then he would do the same to me when it was his turn. Once he came into a club where I was playing, and I spotted him in the back...and when it came time for my solo, I cranked up the distortion and looked him right in the eye as I blasted out the lick for the first thing I played! It cracked him up.

To read all of Finnerty's essay, which includes the little-known story of Brecker's redemption from drugs, go to his web page.

January 27, 2007 11:37 AM | | Comments (0)
They're asking for ludicrous, ridiculous kinds of tunes. It could be "Johnson Rag," or "Don't you have any Russ Morgan pieces?" or they're always getting your tunes mixed up with someone else's, so you get requests for "Green Eyes" or "Frenesi" or "In The Mood." And they get some very terse replies like "No," or "He quit the business," or "I'll play that when I get to the big band in the sky." It becomes a kind of standup routine. Certainly anyone has a right to ask for anything, but I can't for the life of me think why I have to do those tunes.

--Woody Herman, 1976, from Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of its Makers.
January 26, 2007 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)

Please adjourn to the exhibit in the right-hand column under the sign reading Doug's Picks for the Rifftides staff's latest recommendations. The Louis Armstrong book is a holdover because no one on the staff has had time to read a new book. Hey, it was the holidays.

January 26, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Bill Crow writes from New York:

So sorry to hear of Floyd's passing. When I returned to the Seattle area after 3 years in the Army, I met Floyd and Quincy and Gerald Brashear and Buddy Catlett and Kenny Kimball and Ray Charles. We played a lot together in the music annex of the University of Washington. I was a valve trombonist and Buddy Catlett was a good alto player. Neither of us had any idea of playing the bass at that time.

I loved Floyd's playing and his sweet nature. He could have made a national name for himself. Certainly Quincy would have seen to that. But he preferred Seattle and his life there. RIP sweet Floyd.

Jim Wilke of Jazz After Hours also produces and hosts Jazz Northwest on KPLU, a Seattle-Tacoma radio station. Next Sunday, December 28, at 1 pm Pacific time, 4 pm Eastern, he will devote Jazz Northwest to memories of Floyd Standifer and to Floyd's music. KPLU is at 88.5 on the FM dial. Or go here for streaming internet audio. The hour will include comments from musicians who worked closely with Standifer, among them Jay Thomas, Clarence Acox, Bill Anschell, Butch Nordall and Michael Brockman. The program will be available as a podcast at following the broadcast.

January 25, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

From Seattle comes news that Floyd Standifer died Monday night. The trumpeter, saxophonist and vocalist went into the hospital in late December for treatment of a shoulder problem. Doctors discovered that his shoulder pain came from cancer that had spread to his lungs and liver, and that his circulation was defective. Two weeks following a leg amputation, his heart gave out. He was seventy-eight.

Floyd Standifer

Standifer spent most of his career in the Pacific Northwest, but musicians everywhere--particularly trumpet players--knew of him. His Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra colleague and former trumpet student Jay Thomas said today, "Floyd was always, as far back as I can remember, Seattle's pride and joy. As a lyrical trumpeter, on a good night he had few peers."

In a December Rifftides piece about a recent Standifer concert, I mentioned his tour of duty in the trumpet section of the great Quincy Jones band of the late 1950s and early '60s.

On the Quincy Jones DVD in the new Jazz Icons series, Standifer solos in the trumpet section with Clark Terry, Benny Bailey and Lennie Johnson. When Jones formed the band, he hired Floyd along with two more of Quincy's Seattle pals, bassist Buddy Catlett and pianist Patti Bown.

After the premature end of the Jones band, Standifer returned to his place as a mainstay of Seattle's music establishment, playing trumpet, flugelhorn and tenor saxophone, and singing. Thomas recalls the late saxophonist Freddie Greenwell--another Seattle musician respected in national jazz circles--saying that he considered Standifer one of the best singers in the country.

In that December piece, I alluded to the Northwest Jazz Workshop, a sort of musicians co-op to which Floyd and I belonged in the mid-1950s. I was eighteen, struggling to become a jazz player. In a rehearsal band that mixed professionals with strivers like me, I found myself seated in the trumpet section next to Floyd. My previous big band experience involved Sousa marches. Confronted with the third trumpet part in an arrangement of Shorty Rogers' "Elaine's Lullaby," I was terrified. It contained sixteen bars of chord symbols and otherwise empty space--a solo for the third trumpet. I looked at the old man next to me. He was twenty-four, ancient to someone my age. Floyd saw the look in my eyes, put his hand on my knee and said, "Don't think about it, just play." When it came time to cross that sixteen-bar Mojave Desert, I just played. At the end of the run-through, Floyd gave me a big smile. I have no idea what was in the solo, whether it was adequate or a disaster, but I will never forget that smile. And it is most unlikely that I will forget Floyd.

For a summary of Floyd Standifer's life and career, read this 2002 article by Jessica Davis in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

January 24, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (5)

A little research discloses that the man who did that brilliant dual-personality lip-synch performance to Charlie Parker's and Dizzy Gillespie's "Leap Frog" is named Jeremiah McDonald. He has other clips on YouTube, none of them based in jazz. Still, jazz listeners who dig Spike Jones (there are more of them than you might think) will get a nostalgic charge from McDonald's treatment of this classic by Doodles Weaver, the Jones band's all-purpose nut.

For more about Jeremiah McDonald, aka The Reverend Cornelius Blow, go here.

January 23, 2007 1:02 AM | | Comments (1)

After I left Texas and went to California, I had a hard time getting anyone to play anything that I was writing, so I had to end up playing them myself. And that's how I ended up just being a saxophone player. --Ornette Coleman

I am an improviser...I improvise music. Whatever you want to call it all, it is all improvised music. I may capture it and go back and write it down for others, but it was originally improvised. --Joe Zawinul

January 22, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

George Cables played a concert at The Seasons performance hall the other night. It was the kind of evening his listeners have come to expect, flowing with the inventiveness, technical skill and joy that Cables has demonstrated in a four-decade career with Art Pepper, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard and Art Blakey--a few names from the long list of his colleagues. Cables, bassist Chuck Deardorf and drummer Don Kinney gave two stimulating trio sets in the acoustically blessed former sanctuary of The Seasons.
Not long after intermission, Cables glided into Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" without accompaniment. Alternating between strict tempo and the rhythmic give-and-take of rubato, he began erecting a monument. Now bringing all of his formidable technique into play, now easing the dynamics, he never abandoned Monk's imperishable melody altogether. He surrounded it with lightning flashes, parted the clouds to flood the themes with sunlight, swooped and soared above, below and around the tune. Symphonic, operatic and funky, he brought in Monk dissonances, roistering Fats Waller cadences, supersonic Art Tatum runs and a touch or two of Cecil Taylor delirium. He went on building, gathering intensity for five minutes, six minutes, seven. It may have been longer; the distraction of looking at a watch was out of the question. Deardorf and Kinney were mesmerized along with the audience. When Cables eased out of his rapture into the earth-bound hominess of "Blue Monk" and nodded them in, it took a momentary effort of will for the sidemen to join him aboard the blues train.

Cables has recorded a similar approach to "'Round Midnight" in the CD called A Letter to Dexter. It is a fine version. It is not the equal of what he did last Saturday night at The Seasons, when he created that rarest of musical experiences, a concert performance that remains in the mind, whole and alive.

January 19, 2007 1:06 AM | | Comments (1)

If you follow the links at the ends of Rifftides items, you'll know that the distinguished Toronto broadcaster Ted O'Reilly commented on the recent Rod Levitt item. In his restrained way, O'Reilly wrote, in part:

Wow, yeah! Rod Levitt. In the '60s RCA Canada did not release those LPs in Canada, but John Norris was running the jazz department at the main Sam The Record Man store and astutely imported some US copies. I got them all for the radio station where I worked, and played the hell out of them all.

That prompted Mr. Jazzolog to respond with a comment of his own:

What a treat to run the names and sounds of both Rod Levitt and Ted O'Reilly through my head on the same page! One of the worst parts of moving from the Buffalo area down into the wilds of southeast Ohio a number of years ago was not hearing Ted's wonderful radio show out of Toronto anymore. He's the kind of DJ who segues from Jelly Roll Morton to the Art Ensemble of Chicago without batting an earplug. Great to see his comment! Now, how about someone reflecting on the work of Tom Talbert...whose last CDs I'm scrambling through the Net to find?

Someone did so a year-and-a-half ago, shortly after Talbert died. From the Rifftides archives:

An elegant, soft-spoken man, he was an early and drastically overlooked composer, arranger and band leader on the west coast before West Coast Jazz was a category...The recordings Talbert made shortly after World War Two sound fresh today. Art Pepper fell in love with Tom's treatment of "Over the Rainbow" and adopted the song as his signature tune.

To read the whole thing, complete with leads to some of Tom Talbert's recordings, go here.

January 19, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner offers a heartfelt, forthright evaluation of Michael Brecker, including this:

I saw him put his horn on at clinics and soundchecks and--cold, without warming up--instantly play the most f------- incredible sh--, stuff that most saxophonists simply cannot deal with.

Okay, I cleaned it a little up for a family audience. To read all of Turner's unexpurgated throughts about Brecker, go to The Bad Plus web log, Do The Math. Pianist Ethan Iverson writes most of the blog. It is worth frequent visits. I have added its link to Other Places in the right-hand column.

January 18, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

Sandke2.jpgTrumpeter Randy Sandke knew Michael Brecker for nearly forty years, since both were college freshmen. Thought by many to be the most influential saxophonist since John Coltrane, Brecker died on Saturday, January 13, of leukemia brought on by myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare cancer of the blood marrow. After saying his final goodbye to Brecker, Sandke wrote the following remembrance of his friend. We are honored that he chose Rifftides to publish it.

Michael Brecker as I Knew Him
By Randy Sandke

I've already been to too many memorial services for jazz musicians (and I know I'll be at many more), but of all of them, the one for Michael Brecker was the saddest and most emotional, at least for me. Maybe it was because he had two beautiful school-aged children: a daughter age seventeen named Jessica and a son, Sam, thirteen. Then there were the circumstances of his death--a grueling two-and-a-half year struggle with an ailment for which there is no cure, and for which the therapy (massive chemotherapy) was often as devastating as the disease. But lastly, there was Mike. Aside from his prodigious and unique talents, he was one of the sweetest, most gentle, and kindest souls I've ever met. His loss is incalculable in many ways.

I've know Mike since we were both eighteen, students at Indiana University. He entered as a Spanish major and took music courses only as electives. Even then he was a stupendous player. He idolized his older brother, Randy, who had graduated from Indiana two years before. Mike thought he could only catch up with Randy (who was and is a well-schooled but very natural trumpet player) by working as hard as he could. He was obsessed with practicing. He and Steve Grossman (whom I think Mike had met at Phil Woods' camp, Ramblerni) used to compete by seeing how fast they could transcribe the latest Coltrane recording. Mike once told me he wanted to be Coltrane, though he listened to many other tenor players, from Joe Henderson and Joe Farrell to Junior Walker and King Curtis. (We used to assemble at a campus pizza parlor and listen to "Memphis Soul Stew" on a nearly nightly basis).

But Mike had a musical Achilles' heel: he found reading music boring and at that time was barely able to do it at all. He auditioned for the IU jazz band but because of his reading difficulties only made the second band. I remember hearing a concert they performed in which Mike sat patiently in the section as they ran through their not too inspiring charts. Suddenly Mike stood up and blew the roof off the place. He then sat back down as if nothing unusual had happened and finished the concert. Even then he was hypercritical of his own playing.

We formed a jazz-rock band with the rather uncouth name of "Mrs. Seamon's Sound Band." Mrs. Seamon was the head dietician at Wilkie Quad where Mike and I lived, and she hated the longhaired and unkempt students who were invading her cafeteria. Mike himself was always something of a natty dresser but we were all letting our hair grow long; after all, this was 1967-8.

Our band played at the Notre Dame collegiate jazz festival that spring and our mélange of straight-ahead cum avant-garde cum fusion totally baffled the judges. Ray Brown refused to give us the first prize, so for the first time in the history of the festival they didn't award one. We all considered this a major victory; the hippie side of us looked askance at competitions anyway.
Young Michael Brecker

But out of this came an offer to take the band to Chicago (my hometown--Mike was from Philly) to be managed by the wife of a Chicago jazz writer. This whole episode was a disaster from the start as it turned out that she was more interested in maintaining a stable of young studs than taking care of business. When two of the band members quit, we were stuck in a semi-hopeless situation. She'd already put us up in an apartment and invested money and we felt obligated to her but couldn't work until we replaced the guys who left. We tried auditioning various musicians but none jelled with what we were doing.

After two months of this stalemate I couldn't take it anymore. I went home to my parents' place to enjoy a warm meal and clean sheets. I told everybody I'd be back in a day or two. That night all hell broke loose. Two sisters, friends of the keyboard player, were "crashing" with us. One was selling LSD and she handed it out that night. Everyone in the band had some experience with it (and I'm pretty sure some declined), but the younger sister, Bridget, had never taken it before. She was very attracted to our drummer, Eric, as was another woman who was staying with the band. Between the acid and this bizarre love triangle Bridget got so upset that she flung herself out of a third story window and killed herself.

An ambulance took Bridget away but the others were rounded up by the police as the apartment was searched. They found the LSD and everybody was carted off to Cook County Jail. Michael and I were the only two not arrested. Earlier that evening Mike had sensed that something might go terribly wrong and he went out for a walk. He returned to find the place surrounded by police cars and paddy wagons. I never found out where Mike stayed that night. He may have just paced around until dawn.

For the other band members, the nightmare only deepened. They were separated and put into cells with vicious criminals. Eric, who had witnessed Bridget's jump and also taken acid, was brutally gang raped in his cell. Meanwhile, the notoriously corrupt Chicago police sent a van to our apartment and proceeded to steal all the band's equipment and possessions. I lost my record collection, my trumpet and the flugelhorn I'd won at Notre Dame. Once again Mike was spared the worst because he had taken his tenor into a shop for repairs.

An ambitious DA wanted to press murder charges against the guys and the press was hungering for a sensational LSD story. Eventually the whole thing was thrown out on a technicality, but too much damage had already been done. Eric was never the same. Within a year he committed suicide by jumping off a landing in Los Angeles.

Mike and I were both devastated, but we dealt with this horrible experience in very different ways. I was having trouble with a rupture in my larynx that was exacerbated by playing without proper amplification in our band. After an operation I considered unsuccessful I decided to quite the trumpet and music altogether. I didn't even own a trumpet for another ten years. I sought treatment with a variety of psychiatrists, learned to live without being a musician, and gradually came to terms with all that had happened.

Mike moved to New York where his brother was already well on his way to establishing himself as a jazz and studio player. At nineteen Mike made his recording debut on his brother's record, "Score." From there they both proceeded to garner more and more success and fame.
The Brecker Brothers

Yet, I know that the events of the summer of '68 were still gnawing at Mike's soul. He was a very shy, introverted person. Like many musicians he was more comfortable in the privacy of his practice room than in the company of people, especially strangers. Suddenly, he was in the limelight, surrounded by crowds of admirers and offered vast quantities of every conceivable temptation known to man.

I think it was in an effort to retreat from our bad experiences in Chicago that Mike began a downward spiral into alcohol, cocaine and eventually heroin. Through the seventies Mike's fame grew by leaps and bounds as his private life deteriorated. This was also the period when he and Randy invested in their nightclub, Seventh Avenue South. It was a big success with audiences but an unscrupulous manager stole money and didn't report anything to the government. Mike was financially wiped out as his bank account was seized by the IRS three times.

Finally, he came around and sought treatment and was able to transform his life. He took himself out of circulation for at least six months. He told me he didn't care if ever made a penny again, he was going to do what he wanted to. He met the love of his life, Susan, and they settled down in a secluded home in Hastings-On- Hudson (before, Mike had lived in spacious but dingy lofts in the West 20's and on Grand Street near Chinatown). Mike became a family man who doted on his two kids. He said if he had it to do again he would have had more. The family pet, a seeing-eye dog who hadn't made the grade, rounded out the picture of suburban bliss.

I was really happy for him. After his hiatus Mike's career again resumed as if he'd never been gone. It just exploded all over again, as well it should have. If a jazz musician becomes a major success, the critics can cool off on you and take you for granted. But no one, at any time, ever played the tenor the way Mike did. In live performance, he was probably the most exciting musician (jazz or otherwise) I have ever heard.

I started playing again in late 1979. By '85 I felt ready to make my first solo album. I asked Mike to be on it. He was his usual gracious and encouraging self, and a model of professionalism in the studio. We did another album ten years later when I was with Concord.
I felt that Mike should not give me any special breaks and negotiated his fee with his manager and good friend, Daryl Pitt. I knew it was above Concord's budget so I made up the shortfall out of my own pocket and sent a check to Mike. He never cashed it.

The real tragedy of Mike's final illness is that everything was working so well for him- and he'd learned to appreciate it all. He also learned how to deal with his fame in a positive way and very seriously regarded his job as being a role model for saxophonists everywhere.

He also used his fame to raise awareness for his disease. Because of publicity he generated, 10,000 people from all over the world were tested as donors for bone marrow transplants. One of the few bright spots for Mike over the last few weeks was when he received a letter from a child whose life had been saved by a donor who had responded to the call to find a match for Mike. Michael himself never found a perfect match but did receive a transplant. The donor was his own daughter, Jessica. The doctors believe that her gift enabled Mike to live for an additional year.

One of the frustrating things about Mike was that it was impossible to compliment him without his complimenting you back. He wanted to see everybody as on his level, but the truth was, he existed on his own plane. Like all great artists, he gave us all a glimpse of how limitless and invigorating the possibilities of life are. Typical of his modesty was that (and I'm sure this was according to his wishes) the only music played at his memorial service was recordings of John Coltrane. The only live music was sung by a female cantor who did some ancient sounding Jewish modal piece that sounded eerily similar to something Coltrane would have played. Even in death, Mike was trying to teach us something about the universality of human experience.

Everybody who knew Mike loved him dearly and cherished every moment spent with him. He was extremely down to earth and totally unassuming. One of his favorite words was "amazing," which of course he never applied to himself. He was a great spirit and, I truly believe, one of the greatest musical figures of our era. I feel so blessed to have known him and been able to call him my friend.

January 17, 2007 12:05 AM | | Comments (23)

The lead story on the main page concerns jazz education's role in music and culture at large. Here's the AJ tease, quoted from

"How is it that jazz has become the vehicle for the resurgence of robust music programs in the schools while classical music, and its offspring (arguably US) still find it a challenge to be seen as relevant to arts education in the United States? Perhaps it is because jazz is an honest child of the arts in American culture and is taking back its true inheritance."

Good question, and it leads to a string of reaction. You can follow the argument by clicking here.

January 17, 2007 12:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Jazz gets relatively little attention on commercial television, but one of the newscasts on WBBM-TV, the CBS-TV affiliate in Chicago, made an exception recently. It profiled Bob Koester and his Delmark Records label. The story focuses more on Chicago blues than on Delmark's jazz artists, but reporter Vince Gerasole produced a fine little piece incorporating atmospheric historical footage of the city. Go here to see video of the report and read a transcript.

January 16, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

On Saturday, Michael Brecker succumbed to leukemia brought on by MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome), the bone marrow disorder that put him on the sidelines of music until recently. He was fifty-seven years old. The most admired of the legion of saxophonists that arose in the wake of John Coltrane, Brecker influenced a generation of tenor saxophonists who emulated him to the point of outright imitation. Few, if any, achieved his level of invention and individuality.
Jazz educators teach his harmonic approaches and stylistic innovations the way classical composition teachers use Hindemith or Bartok. For a time, doctors hoped that a bone marrow transplant would save Brecker, but they could not find a suitable donor of his blood type despite a widespread publicity campaign seeking one. An experimental blood stem cell transplant was not effective. Brecker's record company, Telarc, announced today that he completed a final album two weeks ago. It is to be released on the Heads Up label in the spring.

On Friday, Alice Coltrane died at the age of sixty-nine. The former Alice McLeod left her career as a bebop pianist in vibraharpist Terry Gibbs' band to marry Coltrane in 1963. She entered the tenor saxophonist's musical orbit and during the final phase of his life joined his band as he became increasingly experimental and adventuresome. After Coltrane died in 1967 at the age of forty, she raised their children while also pursuing a performing and recording career as a pianist, organist and occasional harpist.
She was noted for music with a spiritual component influenced by her Hindu religion. During 2004 she toured with her son Ravi, like his father a tenor saxophonist. Those were her final performances. A family spokesman said that Mrs. Coltrane died of respiratory failure.

January 15, 2007 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)

Rifftides reader Russell Chase writes:

Last night, my wife and I watched the 1933 movie 42nd Street on TV. I promised myself that I would listen to Rod Levitt's LP with the same title today. I wound up playing all of the four Levitt LPs that I have. They have always rated very highly among my favorite things. Such consistently interesting writing and fine playing over a span of four LPs is hard to match.

When your name popped out of the notes of the Insight album, you were immediately nominated as the person with whom I would share my elation at having a non-CD day, and the reason why.

Well, Mr. Chase, now you have shared your elation with all of us, and that's good; Levitt's music deserves recognition. Rod Levitt played trombone in the Dizzy Gillespie big band that that toured Latin America and the Middle East in 1956, and in Gil Evans' orchestra. For a time, he made a dependable living in the orchestra of the Radio City Music Hall. But he had a compulsion to write music, and in the early 1960s, he began turning out ingenious arrangements for an eight-piece rehearsal band. Levitt made use of audacious harmonies and spacious voicings, and many of his horn players doubled instruments, so that the octet often sounded twice its size. He adored Duke Ellington, and reflected Ellington's influence. Yet, without embracing free jazz, he also managed to impart a rambunctious feeling of abandon, and Down Beat included him in a survey article about nonconformist composers. All of the other subjects of the piece were card-carrying members of the avant garde. I remember Levitt's being amused, if surprised, by the company in which the magazine put him.

Over three or four years in the mid-sixties, he turned out the four albums Russ Chase mentions. They comprise a body of recordings that are fresh, evocative and enormously entertaining forty years later. The writing was daring, finely crafted and marinated in wit. Most of his players were top studio professionals who were superb improvisers. Among them were the trumpeters Rolf Ericson and Bill Berry, the pianist Sy Johnson and the saxophonists Buzz Renn and Gene Allen. Levitt's gutsy, often raucous trombone was at the center of many arrangements, but he also fashioned delicate woodwind ensembles. None of Levitt's three RCA Victor albums has been reissued on CD. Five tracks made it onto a 1988 RCA compilation CD with other works by Hal McKusick and John Carisi. The disc is difficult to track down. Amazon continues to list it, but as "currently unavailable." Trolling the web may now and then turn up vinyl copies of Insight and Solid Ground, but 42nd Street seems to have evaporated.

For the most part, the demand by a modest-sized core of listeners for reissue of Levitt's albums has fallen on deaf ears (also known as recording company accounting departments), but there is a happy exception. Before his company sold itself to Concord Records, Ralph Kaffel, the president of Fantasy, Inc., succumbed to years of entreaties from pesky critics and reissued Levitt's first album on Riverside as a CD in the OJC series. That was 1963's Dynamic Sound Patterns. In his 2003 National Public Radio review of the CD, Kevin Whitehead said, "He liked blaring harmonies and primary colors," and that's true, but Levitt also fashioned delicate woodwind ensembles. He knew how to use space. He was a master of balance among the sections and a creator of droll surprises. The enthusiastic cadre of admirers he accumulated with those LPs wasn't big enough to earn him a renewal with RCA. Now that the Victor catalogue has been absorbed into the massive Sony empire, chances of the Levitts being reissued seem small. By the early seventies, possibly discouraged but a cheerful realist, Levitt began making a living writing music for advertising and turned out some of the hippest background music ever to grace TV commercials in New York. He kept the octet going as a rehearsal group, playing occasional concerts and, sometimes, simply hiring musicians to play his charts for fun. He also played for a time in the 1970s in Chuck Israels' National Jazz Ensemble, a pioneer jazz repertory orchestra. For the NJE, he expanded the arrangement of "His Masters Voice," Levitt's evocative tribute to Duke Ellington. Happily, it is available in a splendid reissue CD on the Chiaroscuro label. For the past several years, Rod Levitt has been living in Vermont, largely inactive in music.

A sidebar to the story: When I was anchoring and reporting television news in Portland, Oregon, in the mid-sixties, I was addicted to Dynamic Sound Patterns. Levitt came to his hometown to visit his parents, I invited him to be a guest on a series I put together, a hybrid documentary and discussion program. It was called Insight. I told Levitt the broadcast needed theme music and asked, with trepidation, what it would cost to commission him to write it. He named what I thought was a reasonable figure. The program manager approved the deal. When Levitt got back to New York, he wrote the music, recorded it with his octet, notified me that it was ready and sent an invoice. The management reneged. They wouldn't pay the bill. I was angry and embarrassed. When I told Levitt, he said not to worry, he would make use of the music. It became the title tune of his next album. In the liner notes, he mentioned me and the station, kindly. That's class.

The piece stands alone, but it was also perfect for its intended use. In the unlikely event that I ever go back into television, I'll do a documentary series, call it Insight, use that music and see that Rod gets paid for it.

January 15, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (5)

That is the headline on a newspaper article about arts web logs. Rifftides is the focus of the piece by Kim Nowacki, arts editor of the Yakima Herald-Republic. She also interviews Brooke Cresswell, conductor of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra; Dan Peters, proprietor of the Blue Begonia poetry blog; and Doug McLennan, commander-in-chief of

"When I started ArtsJournal, the word blog had just been invented," says Douglas McLennan, the Seattle-based founder and editor of, a daily digest of arts, culture and ideas that launched in September 1999. The site, which receives about 600,000 visits per month, now also hosts blogs from some of the top arts and culture critics, including Ramsey.

I confess to a bit of a wince when I saw the adjective "venerable" attached to my name in the first sentence of the piece. Then I reflected on possible alternatives and felt better.

To read all of Kim's story, go here. She provides links to the other blogs and sites mentioned in the article. Don't miss the panoramic photograph at the top of the Herald-Republic page, a shot of the valley with the peaks of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams standing guard.

January 12, 2007 10:27 AM | | Comments (0)

More than a year ago, we reported on the alliance between Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic and the pianist Emil Viklický. Klaus established a series of jazz concerts at Prague Castle, the Czech equivalent of the White House, and chose Viklický to launch it. To read about that event, click here. Viklický is one of several veteran European jazz pianists, including the Italian Enrico Pieranunzi, the Austrian Fritz Pauer and the Frenchman Martial Solal, who are barely known in the United States despite their celebrity on the continent and in the British Isles. Viklický toured the US and Mexico in 1996 with the Ad Lib Moravia ensemble, but his appearances outside of Europe are rare. There has been talk of his touring North America with his Czech compatriot, the bassist George Mraz, on whose 2001 CD Moravá Viklický was featured.

In the meantime, Viklický continues to add to his considerable discography. His latest CD , Cookin' in Bonn, was recorded at a festival in Germany with his longtime trio mates, the jaw-dropping bassist František Uhlíř and drummer Laco Tropp, a specialist in quiet power. The All About Jazz web site has a new page featuring the album and providing a download of "Aspen Leaf," one of Viklický's compositions based on the music of his beloved Moravia. It is a way to sample a complete performance, not just one of the snippets usually available to web surfers. Full disclosure: I wrote liner notes for the CD, but stand to gain nothing from its sale. My fee was paid long ago, and liner note writers don't get royalties. Come to think of it, musicians rarely do. But that's a complicated subject for another time.

Try Viklický. He's worth hearing.

January 12, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

The interaction between or among jazz soloists has often been described as like a conversation. A brilliant young man about whom I am trying to learn more -- his name, for instance -- has taken that simile literally, given it substance and put it on YouTube. Watch this, and smile your way into the weekend.

January 12, 2007 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

You may remember the tenor saxophonist Jim Pepper for "Witchi-Tai-To," an American Indian peyote chant he learned from his Kaw grandfather. Pepper set it to music and it became a crossover hit. The song persists as a staple in the repertoires of pop and so-called world music groups on several continents. It has a place in efforts to raise Native American pride and awareness, for which Pepper, with his Kaw and Creek heritage, has become a symbol.
When I knew Pepper in Portland, Oregon, in the early 1960s, he had a big sound with rough edges and was primed to jam at a moment's notice. He could be combative on the stand and off. The muscle and heft of rhythm and blues ran through his playing. He took chances with harmony, which is to say that he often refused to let conventional chord guidelines interfere with his conception. Looking back a few years later, it was easy to see that Pepper was primed for the rock-jazz fusion milieu he jumped into in New York in the middle of the sixties. Free Spirits, the band with Pepper, guitarist Larry Coryell, drummer Bob Moses, singer Columbus Baker and electric bassist Chris Hills, had an impact on rockers including Jimi Hendrix and The Velvet Underground. The 1967 Free Spirits album Out of Sight and Sound disappeared for years but recently resurfaced as a CD. Pepper worked later with such adventurers on the jazz frontier as Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, Dewey Redman and Bill Frisell. Here's part of a 1968 Don Heckman interview with Pepper:

Don: Let me ask you the standard question. Where do you think jazz is going to go?

Jim: It seems like it's just about ready to just roll over for the third time and die. But that's hard to say. The rock music may help it out some, but the musicians themselves in their performance will really have to help. Maybe the younger musicians; if the older musicians move over, then something else will happen. I don't think that people like to go to clubs and see Brooks Brothers suits anymore. Those days are gone, I think.

Discouraged by what he felt as low esteem for jazz in the United States, Pepper moved to Europe in his last years. He became popular there, particularly in Austria. He died back home in Portland in February, 1992, at the age of fifty. I have not seen Sandra Osawa's highly praised documentary, Pepper's Pow Wow,which seems impossible to find on DVD. If you're interested in the VHS edition, go to this web page and scroll down. Few music outlets stock the albums Pepper made under his own name. One is 1987's Dakota Song, in which he included sensitive performances of standard songs that demonstrated he wasn't all swagger and boistrousness. Another is Comin' and Goin', recorded with John Scofield, Don Cherry, Nana Vasconcelos and Colin Wolcott in 1984. It includes a version of "Witchi Tai To" and just reappeared on CD at a confiscatory import price.

There may not be much of Pepper's music available, but the folks at Harvard University's radio station evidently have a substantial collection of it. They are billing what they call a Jim Pepper Orgy this Friday, January 12, from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm EST. It will be hosted by a woman with the intriguing name of Jesse Morgan Righthand. If you are in the Boston area, you can hear WHRB at 95.3-FM. If you are elsewhere, go to the station's web site and click on "Tune In."

Jim Pepper is often strong medicine. Strong medicine can make you well. If you're hearing Pepper for the first time, let us know your impressions.

January 10, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (5)

In The New York Times, Ben Ratliff reports on Sunday night's memorial service for tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, at which a number of Redman's colleagues performed.

The pianist Ethan Iverson and the bassist Reid Anderson, both of the trio the Bad Plus, with (Matt) Wilson on drums, got off a version of (Ornette) Coleman's "Broken Shadows" that demonstrated the slippery harmonic mobility Mr. Redman played so easily. And Joshua Redman, Dewey Redman's son, played a startling piece on tenor saxophone, unaccompanied, and very unlike the rest of his music: it was slow and minor and wary, using the horn's full range, putting space between short phrases.

To read all of Ratliff's story, go here. For a rare recording of the Redmans together, seek out Dewey's 1992 CD African Venus, and hear the contrast between the styles of father and son.

January 9, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

In her blog, DevraDoWrite picks up the Erroll Garner thread, posting reminiscences of her husband, the ageless 94-year-old John Levy, who played bass on a Garner recording date in 1945.

There were no parts to read on this session because Erroll, like many of the great musicians, didn't read or write music. He picked standard tunes and we figured out little interludes, intros and endings, talked down the solo choruses and then recorded. We did all four sides in a single three-hour session in those days; none of this elaborate re-recording and punching in individual notes or mixing in a different solo.

To read the entire story of the session, including how John got his bass up thirty flights of stairs, go here. The Savoy tracks that Levy made with Garner are still around, on this CD set. They demonstrate that there was no essential difference between the way the pianist played at the start of his career and at the end. The whole amazing apparatus was in place and fully operational from the beginning.

January 8, 2007 11:47 AM | | Comments (0)

The Erroll Garner item on Rifftides the other day touched something in the readership. Comments are still rolling in. You'll find them by clicking on "Comments," at the end of the original post. This one from Hans C. Doerrscheidt in Germany included links:

Thanks for the YouTube link of the great E.G! I remember finding the Concert By the Sea CD in the grab-box near the cashier in a supermarket (in a German small town!) in the early 90s. I've loved it ever since.

There's a great DVD available of Erroll's gig at the British Jazz 625 TV show from the mid-60s.

A lot of times I've read the anecdotes about Erroll using a phone book to add height to the stool, and only when watching the DVD I finally understood that it was actually to achieve his fairly unusual playing position - arms almost straight, hips on or above keyboard level - rather than because of his fairly small stature. (For a contrast on the other end of the "unusual playing position" scale, compare this Glenn Gould clip.

Gould: another force of nature. And if you are a student of piano keyboard positions, you know about Bill Evans. Here's a refresher course.

January 8, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

This is short notice, but Rifftides just received notification that there will be a memorial service this evening for the late tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman. Readers in or near New York City may wish to know. The service will be at 7:30 p.m. at Saint Peter's Church, Lexington Avenue and 54th Street.
Among those expected to perform in Redman's memory are his son Joshua, Cameron Brown, Charles Eubanks, Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, Frank Kimbrough, Geri Allen, Jack DeJohnette, Joe Lovano, Reid Anderson, John Betsch, John Menegon, Judy Silvano, Leroy Jenkins, Mark Helias,Matt Wilson, Teri Roiger, Ethan Iverson, Pheeroan AkLaff and Sheila Jordan. That's
quite a lineup in tribute to a soloist who carried the rugged Texas tenor sax tradition into the avant garde and never lost its traces.

Redman died on September 2 in Brooklyn.

January 7, 2007 12:44 PM | | Comments (0)

Erroll Garner died thirty years ago, almost to the day. I don't know whether the National Public Radio station I listen to was aware of that, but the past few days during morning news programming, the producers cued up a few seconds of Garner's piano as transitions between local and national segments. The news was mostly grim, but Garner was full of cheer and optimism, as he was in life. Even in fifteen-second bursts, he got the day off to a good start. I cannot think of another jazz pianist after Fats Waller who made serious music with so much happiness.

Garner is not often mentioned these days in discussions of major pianists but, unquestionably, he was one. As when he was alive, the tendency among critics--but not among pianists--is to dismiss him as a naïf, an instinctual primitive who never learned to read music, as if reading music is more important than making it. He didn't read because he didn't have to. He didn't learn the names of chords because the chords presented themselves to him before he knew they had names. In harmony, melody and rhythm, Garner was complete, and he was one of the few pianists who could improvise convincing variations based on melody lines alone. I don't buy the argument that if he had learned to read it would have diluted his originality. Nothing could have done that. What would reading have done for him, brought him studio session work? He didn't need it. He was a star before he was thirty, a huge popular success by the end of the 1950s, the only jazz musician the impresario Sol Hurok ever booked.

As a recording artist, Garner was remarkably consistent. I cannot recall one of his albums that was substandard, but it is easy to recommend one in which he has no moment that is less than inspired. It is his most famous, Concert by the Sea. The recorded sound is less than perfect, in fact notably less than perfect. The piano had not been visited by a tuner. It doesn't matter. That night in 1955, Garner was a force of nature. Close second: Campus Concert, taped at Purdue University in 1964, also with his faithful sidekicks bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Kelly Martin. This one has a priceless back-to-back double-header "Lulu's Back in Town" followed by "Almost Like Being in Love;" as much swing and joy as it is legal to pack into eight-and-a-half minutes.

To see Garner at work, visit this video clip from 1962, when he was at the height of his fame. Yes, that's a telephone book he's sitting on. He took the Manhattan directory on the road with him. It gave him just the right height. Watch Calhoun concentrating on Garner's hands as he tries to anticipate what the boss is leading up to in his Rachmaninoffian introduction.

Have a good weekend.

January 6, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (14)

Trumpeter Marvin Stamm has put up a video page on his web site. It has clips from a concert by his quartet with pianist Bill Mays, bassist Rufus Reid (see the current DVD in Doug's Picks in the right column) and drummer Ed Soph. Guitarist John Abercrombie is guest soloist on one of the seven pieces and in the ensemble on others. Except for a couple of fades to black, the videos are complete performances by a solid group that deserves wider exposure.

The Stamm quartet rarely plays in New York. It has two appearances there this month, January 10 at the Kitano Hotel at Park Avenue and 38th Street and January 12 at the Sheraton Hotel during the annual conference of the International Association of Jazz Educators. If I could be at the IAJE this year, these would be musts.

January 3, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)
There were good days with Charles, but there were some stormy days. His temper is well known. I used to make him cry simply by telling him how nasty he was. It's amazing how he could change, storming one minute like he was going to kill someone and blubbering with remorse the next. But he had beauty, a little child's beauty, about him.

--John Handy in Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of its Makers

January 3, 2007 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

This is some of what I wrote in a lengthy Jazz Times review more than three years ago when The Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration was released as a CD.

Together, the elder brothers are astonishing in their trumpet-soprano counterpoint flurries on "Nostaligic Impressions." Following Wynton's wry spoken comment about brotherhood, they have a spirited instrumental conversation in Branford's "Cain and Abel." The conversation grows in intensity and becomes an argument before it is resolved more satisfactorily than Cain's with Abel.

"Struttin' With Some Barbecue" is no mere indulgent tip of the hat to the tradition, but a reminder that this stuff is in the Marsalises' New Orleans bones. In his salad days, Ellis worked his share of traditional gigs. He shows that he retained the lessons and knows how to make them work in his modern style. Wynton's two choruses are full of Louis Armstrong's spirit, Delfeayo's simply full of spirit, with one of those piquant runs out of key. I keep zapping the CD player back to Branford's soprano choruses on "Barbecue." With his logical construction, audacious ideas and broad, unrestricted tone so unlike the squeezed soprano sound of many post-Coltrane players, this classic solo transcends stylistic categories.

Reservations about aspects of Wynton's and Branford's recent work slip into the shadows when I listen to this family gathering.

To read all of the review, go here.

I finally got around to watching the DVD of the concert, which marked establishment in 2001 of a chair in father Ellis's name at the University of New Orleans. The video version adds a two-Steinway romp through "Caravan" by Ellis and his former student Harry Connick, Jr., a home boy and honorary Marsalis. In an interview, Branford identifies Jason, the drummer, as the "accident baby" who came along twelve years after the third son, trombonist Delfeayo. Marsalis pal Roland Guerin is on bass throughout. Lucien Barbarin sits in on trombone for "Saint James Infirmary."

With interviews interspersed, the DVD takes a semi-documentary approach. The talk is brief, often witty, and to the point of the music and the natures of the family members. The video I watched was the Public Television version running a bit less than an hour. The commercially released edition is sixteen minutes longer and has additional music including "Caravan," "Limehouse Blues" and "The Party's Over." The production values are solid and unpretentious, the lighting, sound and camera work admirable, with fine directing by Phillip Byrd.

The Marsalis brothers were raised by Ellis and his wife Delores to be staunch individualists. Each is in his own musical world. Branford tells the interviewer that he and Wynton have different approaches to music, that he did not want to do this concert, because he thought it wouldn't work.

It worked. No one set out to blaze trails in this get-together, just to play well and enjoy one another. Watching an admirable family make good music together was a fine way to start the new year.

January 2, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

At the end of her slightly dyspeptic little essay on the exhorbitant cost of eating out, DevraDoWrite adds this reminder, which I heartily endorse. I should have posted it myself.

...if you are a jazz lover in New York with $5 and a free lunch hour on Wednesday, January 3rd - 1-2 PM, make your way over to Saint Peter's Church (E. 54th St. & Lexington Ave.) for the MIDTOWN JAZZ AT MIDDAY concert featuring soprano saxophonist BILL KIRCHNER and pianist JUNIOR MANCE. I can't think of a better way -- or more affordable -- to spend a lunch hour at the start of the year!
January 2, 2007 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Godoggone writes:

Not sure "Zog" was the best possible caveman name for this particular topic. Google that and see what you get...

That name I made up had a naggingly familiar ring to it. My apologies to King Zog's descendants and to Albanians everywhere. Strictly unintentional.

January 2, 2007 1:03 AM | | Comments (0)

From the Rifftides staff to all: Best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year (that is a link).

January 1, 2007 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the main category from January 2007.

main: December 2006 is the previous archive.

main: February 2007 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads

AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

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
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.