main: March 2007 Archives

Vibraharpist, composer, teacher and entrepeneur Charlie Shoemake writes from Cambria, California:

Regarding a recent column of yours about the shrinking audience for jazz, I'm happy to report that our concert series here in Cambria is now in its sixteenth year and though we broke an attendance record last year, this year is even stronger with sold-out crowds for almost every event. (Still about thirty Sundays a year). Of course the first four years were in the red and I'm sure that there are no club owners who would have stuck with it for even close to that long. Since Sandi and I were the sole responsible party financially, that is no doubt the only reason the series was able to finally gain its footing. At any rate, I wish there hundreds more like it around the country. (We just need more jazz musicians to have a feel for Wall Street).

Mr. Shoemake's virtuosity extends beyond the keyboard. He also plays the market.

March 30, 2007 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

In the adjoining column, you will find five new Doug's Picks; three CDs, a DVD and a book. A long time ago, we eliminated the food category. No one noticed, and it's not coming back.

As for the promise of more reviews today, well, the Picks are reviews. First thing in the morning, I'm hopping with both feet into a deadline assignment. See you on the other side.

March 29, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

I'll be back tomorrow, probably, with more reviews. Something came up. In the meantime, please browse the Rifftides archive, conveniently linked in the right-hand column. The Doug's Picks recommendations have an archive all of their own. Simply click on the world "More" at the end of the current picks.

March 28, 2007 1:06 AM | | Comments (0)

ACCORDION, n. An instrument in harmony with the sentiments of an assassin.
--Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

A gentleman is one who knows how to play the accordion but refrains from doing so. --attributed to Mark Twain (and many others)

I am not a demon. I am a lizard, a shark, a heat-seeking panther. I want to be Bob Denver on acid playing the accordion. --Nicholas Cage

March 28, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

Delfeayo Marsalis and his quintet are kicking off a national tour this weekend with a concert at The Seasons. Realizing that I was going to hear Marsalis brother number three in person for the first time, I listened to his new CD, Minions Dominion, which has come in for considerable attention. From the relatively little I had heard of him, I was predisposed to the warmth and humor of his trombone playing, as I made plain in a 2003 Jazz Times review of a CD he made with his father Ellis and brothers Wynton, Branford and Jason.

Delfeayo, boisterous and exceedingly tromboney, is featured to great effect on Tyree Glenn's "Sultry Serenade," aka "How Could You Do a Thing Like That to Me?" He delights in finding humorous alternate notes to use in "running out of key," as the preboppers used to say.

Marsalis makes further wry uses of diminished scales in "Brer Rabbit," the jaunty blues that opens the new album. He applies them here and there throughout the CD. His seriousness as a player and a composer is also apparent, notably in a thoughtful ballad, "If You Only Knew," and in "Lost in the Crescent," a story-telling piece that pairs him with his brother Branford on soprano saxophone in a colloquy of stylistic and temperamental contrasts. Branford's tenor sax playing on three other tracks is among his best recent work on record.

Alto saxophonist Donald Harrison is on three pieces. With the late drummer Elvin Jones slashing and prodding behind him, he is notably adventurous on "Weaver of Dreams." Mulgrew Miller is the impressive pianist, Eric Revis, the bassist. Sergio Salvatore is on piano and Edwin Livingston on bass in "If You Only Knew." In all cases, the drummer is Jones, one of Delfeayo Marsalis's mentors, a towering presence in this satisfying album. Marsalis has had an effective career as a producer. At forty-one, stepping out from behind the scenes, he seems more than ready for the spotlight.

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

I told you more than a year ago about Hinesight, pianist Harold Danko's terrific trio tribute to Earl Hines. It's high time that I mentioned Danko's quite different quintet CD called Oatts and Perry. That is the title because of Danko's admiration for alto saxophonist Dick Oatts and tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, his colleagues since their days together in the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra.

Quiet as it is bafflingly kept, Oatts and Perry are two of the most resourceful, inventive and stimulating soloists in jazz, and have been for more than two decades. Finally, Danko assembled them in a studio with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Jeff Hirshfield and produced one of the best jazz albums of 2006. The repertoire consists of classics by Romberg, Coltrane, Monk, Sam Jones, Thad Jones, Horace Silver, and Danko's own jazz standard, "Tidal Breeze." In an age of soundalikes, Oatts' and Perry's styles are contrasting, compatible and full of easily identifiable individuality. Their work in ensemble and in solo on Monk's "I Mean You" is some of the happiest playing I've heard in a long time. Indeed, the entire collection radiates enjoyment and satisfacton. Fortunately, although the emphasis in Oatts and Perry is on the saxophonists, Danko allots himself plenty of solo time. The Rifftides staff recommends this CD and, while we're at it, applauds Steeplechase for leaving ten seconds of silence between tracks, time for mental adjustment.

March 26, 2007 1:04 AM | | Comments (1)

In their seventeen years in the Dave Brubeck Quartet and when they occasionally got together in the decade before Paul Desmond's death, the pianist and the alto saxophonist loved to play "These Foolish Things." The song presented lyrical and harmonic possibilities that Brubeck and Desmond never tired of exploring. It was part of their standard fare in quartet concerts, and they included it in their superb but strangely little-noticed Duets album.

A "new" version of "These Foolish Things" more than eight minutes long has surfaced on video. The occasion was a concert in Rome in 1959. Desmond, Brubeck and bassist Eugene Wright all have excellent two-chorus solos. From the look on his face as he wraps up his solo, this was one of those times when Desmond approved of what he had just played. The camera angle during Wright's solo allows a sustained look at the hand-in-glove relationship between the bassist and drummer Joe Morello. To see and hear the performance, go here. Fans of harmonic surprises may enjoy the modulation from E-flat to E in the coda.

March 26, 2007 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

As far as I know, only one governor of a state was fathered by a professional jazz musician. Today's Boston Globe has a long story by Sally Jacobs about Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and his father Pat, the late saxophone and flute star of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Jacobs explores the effect on the young man of his father's abandonment of the family and of the eventual wary reconciliation between father and son. The on-line version of the article contains a built-in video clip and links to several recorded performances, including one by John Coltrane with Pat Patrick as a member of the ensemble, and Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames doing "Yeh Yeh," the elder Patrick's hit composition. To read the story and hear the music, click here.

March 25, 2007 1:37 PM | | Comments (0)

Moving right along, then, we discuss three more recent CDs.

Andy Martin-Jan Lundgren, How About You? (Fresh Sound). When virtuosos meet, they sometimes shed more competitive heat than creative light. Trombonist Andy Martin and pianist Jan Lundgren listen to one another, interact and produce thoughtful music even when, like their version of "Yesterdays," it is at a tempo few metronomes can track. The results were gratifying on their previous encounter, It's Fine...It's Andy!. They are even more rewarding in this venture in co-leadership. Lundgren, Martin, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe La Barbera are on equal virtuosic footing and the same musical wave length. Inspired by Frank Rosolino, the trombonist has range, finesse and power to match his hero's, but legato quality, full sound, phrasing and humor that are his own. Lundgren, who sometimes expends his energies in blander projects, is at the crest of his artistry here, quite simply one of the most complete jazz pianists at work today. Their repertoire, a dozen classic songs, could hardly be in greater contrast to the modal and other outside forms that dominate much of today's improvised music. Their succinct expressions of creativity within the song form are unlikely to be surpassed, no matter how many choruses may be devoted to the effort.

Soweto Kinch, A Life In The Day Of B 19: Tales Of The Tower Block (Dune). The music connects, disrupts or merges with--depending on your point of view--episodes of an ironic hip-hop drama about ambition and fame in the world of rap. The production is well done, as is the music, which has a supporting role. Young British alto saxophonist Kinch and trumpeter Abram Wilson are impressive in their playing and their acting. BBC newswoman Moira Stewart is a knockout as the narrator. When the final track, "The House That Love Built," ended, I was left wishing that there had been more of that piece's astringent instrumentalism. But Kinch's avowed goal is to take jazz to the hip-hop generation, an admirable plan. Jazz listeners may find something of interest in his cross-pollenization.

Dick Johnson, Star Dust & Beyond: A Tribute to Artie Shaw (Crazy Scot). In 1983 when Artie Shaw organized his first big band in three decades, he left his clarinet in retirement and hired Dick Johnson to be the front man. Johnson was not another Shaw--no one has equaled Shaw's brilliance--but he was an accomplished clarinetist, a thoroughgoing musician and a good leader. He headed the Shaw band for twenty-four years. In this CD, he is featured with seventeen top Boston-area sidemen and two sidewomen, splendid new arrangements by Robert Freedman and Jay Branford, and a vintage Sonny Burke chart, "Anniversary Song," from the 1940s Shaw book.

Freedman wrote ten of the fourteen arrangements, including a revision of the classic Shaw treatment of "Star Dust." It includes an orchestration of Shaw's clarinet chorus from the original, in all of recorded music one of the greatest solos on any instrument. The "& Beyond" of the album title is an indicator that this is not a ghost band rehash. Bill Evans's "Waltz For Debby" and Blue Mitchell's "Fungii Mama" are on the menu along with standard songs, and originals by Johnson. I should mention the high quality of soloing by all hands. The CD was produced as a labor of love by a small foundation, but in every respect--production, sound and packaging--it is a first-class project. It even departs from common album practice and identifies the musicians in the photographs.

March 23, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

We continue our doomed effort to catch up with even a small percentage of the CDs washing over the market in a volume that makes the Missoula floods seem puny.

Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts, Scenic Route (Palmetto). Despite, or because of, the side trips, the peripatetic drummer and his quartet cover a lot of territory...and time. The title tune might be a John Kirby or Raymond Scott transcription from 1939, "25 Years of Rootabagas" a gospel hymn and "Feel The Sway" a stop at a 1970s ashram. Along the way, there are memorials to Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman, Albert Ayler and John Lennon, pieces by Pat Metheny and Bobby Hutcherson, and a gorgeous version of "Tenderly" featuring trumpeter Terell Stafford. Pianist Gary Versace doubles on organ and accordian, bassist Dennis Irwin on clarinet. This is music that pulls off the neat trick of being both adventurous and accessible.

Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar). This is the Coleman CD I missed when it came out in 2006, the one that made most of the best-of lists at year's end. On alto saxophone, the 75-year-old iconoclast is as endearing as ever with his sweet tone, exclamatory cries and bluesy asides. In "Turnaround," one of his best-known pieces, he achieves the kind of drama he did throughout his 1965 At The Golden Circle albums. In a rare instance of his quoting a standard song, he incorporates a phrase from "If I Loved You," a nice touch. The other members of his quartet are his son Denardo on drums, and two bassists, one who plucks, one who bows. That instrumentation results in sonic mush at times, but it doesn't take the edge off Coleman's charming work on alto. His trumpet and violin playing are better than they used to be.

Zoot Sims, Zoot Suite (High Note). There was a time when I sat around hoping that sooner or later the postman would bring the next new Zoot Sims album. Sims has been gone since 1985, so that hope evaporated long ago but, mirabile dictu (that's Latin for "boy, am I surprised"), there is a new Zoot Sims album. Not a reissue. New. Never before released. Even better, it has one of Zoot's, and my, favorite rhythm sections; pianist Jimmy Rowles, bassist George Mraz and drummer Mousey Alexander. The only information High Note discloses about the time and place is that the live date was "from a Caribbean appearance in 1973." Zoot plays brilliantly on tenor and soprano saxophones. Indeed, all hands are in top form in a selection of tunes nearly half of which are by Duke Ellington. Two by Fats Waller include "Jitterbug Waltz," fast and irresistible. Rowles and Mraz outdo themselves in solo on "Honeysuckle Rose." The entire CD is a romp. The only problem is that the recording is, as they say in Brazil, desafinado. The humid Carribean air attacking the piano or the tape recorder may have been to blame. Tunes intended to be in the key of F, for instance, end up somewhere between F-sharp and G-flat. But the playing is so exhilirating that the listener willling to mentally adjust for the ill-tempered clavier will be lavishly rewarded.

Jaki Byard, Sunshine Of My Soul (High Note). Not to be confused with the 1967 Byard trio CD of the same name, this is a previously unissued 1978 solo piano peformance from San Francisco's Keystone Korner. One of the great jazz pianists of the second half of the twentieth century, Byard was an eclectic, a master of many styles melded into profound personal expression, a wry humorist of the keyboard. He displays astonishing range here, from rock-solid stride to whimsical takes on free jazz. He pours passion into a medley of Charles Mingus tunes, makes of "Spinning Wheel" a kaleidoscope, and imparts so many moods to an eight-and-a-half-minute "Besame Mucho" that the piece becomes a suite. The album includes six of Byard's intriguing compositions. Like the Sims CD, this comes as a welcome surprise. Who knew that we might be treated to a new Jaki Byard discovery. If you don't laugh at least once during "European Episodes," seek help.

March 22, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Rifftides reader Mel Narunsky wrote concerning the posting about the Paul Desmond-Jim Hall Irish album that didn't get made:

Here's one wonderful "holiday" record that did get made:

Good Friday Blues by the Modest Jazz Trio (Jim Hall, Red Mitchell and Red Kelly) back in 1960. If anyone finds a copy of this, pounce on it. I wish I still had mine.

Mr. Narunsky's message prompted a quest by the Rifftides research staff. They discovered, to their surprise and delight, that the classic album by two Reds and a Jim has been reissued, disguised under the title of another rare session. Drummer Chico Hamilton recorded Blues on the Rocks with Hall and bassist George Duvivier in 1956. Good Friday Blues and Blues on the Rocks are on one CD; engaging early work by the guitarist and four equally distinguished colleagues. Pounce, indeed. It's hard to know how long this gem will remain in print.

March 21, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Jazz record sales continue to limp along at the infamous three percent (+-) of the market, but the output of jazz CDs seems to accelerate day by day. That is a contradiction worthy of serious study. I hope that some brave scholar or resourceful reporter takes it on. Part of the explanation, of course, is the impact of technology. In the days of the LP, the costly business of making records was dominated by big companies. Each major label and independent company released, at most, a few jazz albums a month. For the critic or reviewer, keeping up with the releases was demanding but manageable.

Digital advances have made possible cheap CD production. Every musician can be his own record company, and CDs come out by the hundreds every quarter. Musicians use CDs the way actors use 8X10 glossies and lawyers use business cards, to get attention and, they hope, work. People who write about music or broadcast it receive copies of those CDs, more albums than they can possibly audition. I have discussed this dilemma with others who review music. The conscientious ones feel equally frustrated and don't know what to do about the deluge of CDs other than to let them pile up and hope to identify those that they should hear.

To the lay music fan, that may seem an embarassment of riches, but the experienced professional listener knows that a huge percentage of the accumulated discs aren't worth a second hearing. The problem is finding the time for a first hearing. Listening is a linear activity. Only so many seventy-minute albums will fit into the day. So, one tries to do justice to the outpouring of efforts by musicians who deserve to be heard, and hopes that he won't overlook the next Charlie Parker, Bill Evans or John Coltrane.

This week's Rifftides postings will catch up with a scant few of the scores of albums that have appeared in the past few weeks and some that have been around longer. We begin with one of each.

Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian (Nonesuch). Guitarist Frisell's world is so wide that his fans in some of its precincts will inevitably be disappointed that he plays here with economy and reserve. There is no looping (well, not much), no wah-wah, no feedback, no outrageous humor (only subtle humor), no hoedowns, no skronk. This is Frisell with bassist Carter and drummer Motian--masterly peers-- improvising on themes as varied as Carter's "Eighty-One" from the 1960s Miles Davis Quintet book, "You Are My Sunshine," Thelonious Monk's rarely played "Raise Four" and Hank Williams's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." There's a straight-ahead jazz performance in "On The Street Where You Live," with a tag ending in which Sonny Stitt would have felt at home, and another with great blues playing by all hands in Monk's "Misterioso." This is Frisell more or less back where he started, as a jazz musician, playing music for listening.

Mal Waldron, Mal/4 (New Jazz OJC). Waldron is not a household name these days. Nor was he in 1958 when he recorded this trio album with bassist Addison Farmer and drummer Kenny Dennis. Nonetheless, his compositions and his piano work with Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and his own trio earned him a substantial following and the respect of the jazz community. Waldron died in 2002 at the age of 76.

Initially inspired by Thelonious Monk, Waldron was also a deep student of Bud Powell. His Powell component is obvious in a spirited version of "Get Happy," but Waldron's unique use of his left hand sets him apart from other Powell disciples. The highlight of this CD is a joyous eleven-and-a-half-minute "Too Close For Comfort," which he injects with Monk spirit and all but transforms into a blues. The album does not include Waldron's most famous composition, "Soul Eyes," but he plays "J.M.'s Dream Doll," a musicians' favorite among his songs. He treats "Like Someone in Love" not as the rapid exercise into which it has evolved in jazz circles, but as the deliberate, reflective ballad Burke and Van Heusen intended it to be. This CD is not a recent reissue, just one I thought you should know about.

March 20, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (3)

The post-it note stuck to the jewel box of the young tenor saxophonist's CD read, "Here's a guy you should hear." There must be a young tenor saxophonist factory somewhere, turning them out at an astonishing rate; cloning them. Otherwise, why would there be so many of them, sounding alike, replicating John Coltrane and Michael Brecker? I was a little tired of the clones, tired of cutting edge clichés. But the note was from Marc Edelman, the proprietor of Sharp Nine Records. He's never steered me wrong, so I listened to Grant Stewart.

The first track was the CD's title tune, "In The Still of the Night," at a metronome setting--somewhere just short of 400--that would have raised Cole Porter's eyebrows, and maybe his hair. At that intimidating tempo, the young tenor saxophonist was at ease and making sense, a mid-fifties Sonny Rollins kind of sense. There wasn't a patented Coltrane or Brecker lick to be heard. Stewart was not merely holding his own with the seasoned rhythm section of pianist Tardo Hammer, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth; he was in charge of it. It was clear that he had absorbed plenty from the period that many listeners consider Rollins' greatest, but he wasn't a Rollins clone. Nor was he a Johnny Griffin or Stanley Turrentine clone, although he must have paid attention to them as he developed. He had a personal tone, fresh ideas, his own brand of wry humor and the ability to engage and keep my attention. About halfway through the CD, during Stewart's loping solo on "Autumn in New York," something clicked. I went to the shelves and, sure enough, I had heard him before, on a couple of Ryan Kisor albums, one recorded as recently as 2005. Stewart didn't jump out at me then. He has jumped out at me now, and I'm happy to pass along Edelman's suggestion: Here's a guy you should hear.

As this week rolls along, the Rifftides staff will be posting brief observations on other CDs, some recent, some not.

March 19, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (2)

The Louis Armstrong recordings from 1928 that get the most attention are "West End Blues," "Muggles," "Weather Bird," "Squeeze Me" and "Tight Like This," but there is a gem of an Armstrong solo, and another by Earl Hines, on the piece called "Knee Drops," which is less often played or discussed. Click here to hear the piece in its entirety, not in the greatest possible fidelity, but perfectly listenable. In better sound, it is also on this CD, part of Columbia's invaluable Armstrong series. Fred Robinson is the trombone soloist, Jimmy Strong the tenor saxophonist. Zutty Singleton, restricted by the engineering limitations of the day to cowbells and cymbals, nonetheless manages a charming, if strange, "drum" solo.

March 19, 2007 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

St. Patrick's Day never arrives without reminding me of a record that did not get made. In the 1960s Paul Desmond and guitarist Jim Hall, frequent collaborators in those days, came up with an idea for an album of Irish music. In their planning session, they decided on some of the tunes they would record, "The Tralee Song," "Lovely Hoolihan" and "Fitzhugh or No One" among them. That, unfortunately, is as far as the project went.

Happy St. Patrick's day.

March 17, 2007 12:29 PM | | Comments (3)

I have been roundly corrected by alert Rifftides readers who point out that the German broadcasting entity NDR has always been in Hamburg. For their interesting comments, additional information and a bit of speculation about the Phil Woods video discussed in the previous posting, go here. Thanks to all for their help.

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

Thanks to Rifftides reader Tyler Newcomb for sending a link to this Phil Woods video from 1968. YouTube gives almost no information about it. I gather from the ID bug in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that this was made in the studios of Norddeutscher Rundfunk in what was then East Germany. If so, given the cold war chill at the time, there must be a story about what the American musicians were doing there. The rotary valve flugelhorn player is Jimmy Owens. The trombonist appears to be Slide Hampton. The non-playing alto saxophonist sitting next to Woods is Lee Konitz, who now and then gives a knowing half smile. I have no idea who the other musicians are. And how about that song title, "And When Were Young?" That can't be right.

YouTube's fact-checking process is nonexistent. It's wonderful to have the music YouTube brings us, but If the video donor, in this case Selmer 54, doesn't provide the information or gets it wrong, tough nuggets. If you can identify the mystery players or disclose the actual title, please send a comment (see the end of the posting) or an e-mail message (see the right-hand column).

March 15, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (7)

Your more or less faithful correspondent is working pretty much full tilt on an essay to accompany the reissue of an important Red Garland album. In the course of researching the piece, I ran across an article I wrote about the pianist for Texas Monthly in 1977. It included Garland's story about his first job with a name band. Not long out of the Army, in 1946 he was back in his hometown, Dallas, and sat in with the great trumpeter and singer Hot Lips Page. Page's band was short a pianist, but Garland didn't realize that he had just played an audition. He went home and went to bed.

About five the morning here comes a knock at the door--boom, boom, boom, boom--and my mother says, "What have you done, Little William, must be the police, you must have done something wrong." We opened the door and there were Hot Lips Page and Buster Smith. Lips said, "You the guy who sat in with me tonight? Well, I need you, man. Come on, throw somethin' in a bag and let's go." That was it. That was the beginning of life on the road.

The best-known episode of that life was Garland's central role in the career of Miles Davis. The Texas Monthly piece about Garland is in Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of its Makers.

March 14, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

Pianist Emil Viklický and his trio recently did a tour of the Czech Republic with the American trumpeter Marcus Printup. It began at the Prague Castle and took in other cities including Olomouc. Viklický reports that a CD will be released of music from the castle concert. In Olomouc, a fan captured video of Viklický, Printup, bassist Petr Dvorsky and drummer Laco Tropp in a modern old-timey b-flat blues. The Rifftides staff thought that you would enjoy it. The camera work is amateurish. The music is decidedly not. To see and hear the clip, click here.

March 13, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

We're in the most stupid business in the world.
-Artie Shaw, BBC interview

Are big bands coming back? Sure, every football

-Woody Herman

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

Clifford Jordan, one of the great (term used advisedly) tenor saxophonists of the second half of the twentieth century, in 1974 made a magnificent album called Glass Bead Games. Billy Higgins was the drummer on all twelve tracks. Cedar Walton and Stanley Cowell shared piano duties. Sam Jones and Bill Lee were the bassists in the two editions of Jordan's quartet represented on the album. Sonny Rollins, who rarely provides blurbs, called Glass Bead Games "Clifford Jordan at his best...with a great band!"

The album consisted entirely of Jordan compositions, a practice often adopted for the wrong reasons. Jordan followed it for the right ones; he was an accomplished and original composer, and he was inspired by Herman Hesse's novel The Glass Bead Game. His music captures something of the mystery and strange energy of that story. The playing by all hands--but particularly by Jordan--is exceptional. Issued as a double LP on the Strata East label, the album finds Jordan maintaining his commitment to mainstream values while edging into the freedom of new music pioneered by colleagues like Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. He achieved a balance that might have served as an example for some of the space cadets who took the new music so far out that it became inaccessible to most listeners.

Glass Bead Games has not been generally available in its entirety for years. I have heard of copies of the LP set going at auction for as much as $100.00. From time to time, CDs of the album have been available from Japan at high prices. Now that she has acquired the rights to it, Jordan's widow Sandra (he died in 1993) has made Glass Bead Games available at a reasonable price, apparently only from this source. Its reappearance is an important reissue event. I did an A/B comparison of the original LPs to the CD and was relieved to find that the sound quality has not been digitally distorted.

March 9, 2007 1:06 AM | | Comments (1)

The Rifftides discussion about the size of the jazz audience moves along as comments continue to come in. Most them are posted following the original item, which you will find here. We're adding the following communique from the pianist and composer Vijay Iyer, who goes beyond the effect of formal music education to questions of commerce and cultural health. Pandora's box is now officially open.

1) Why does something have to be commercially successful to be judged as meritorious? Jazz was rarely ever commercially successful except on a very small scale. Soundscan changed everything, because then music was assessed not by its merits but by its absolute sales figures. The slippage between monetary and cultural value is typically American and it lies at the heart of this issue.

2) The entire market for music (not just jazz) is crumbling because of new technologies and unprecedented levels of access to the entire recorded archive. Meanwhile, however, more and more musicians of all levels of accomplishment are able to create, record, and distribute their own music. There are difficult repercussions here, but let's not blind ourselves to what's undeniably positive about both of these new realities.

3) There is essentially no jazz radio of any kind here. Gone are the days when Miles, Stevie Wonder, Weather Report, and Sam Rivers were played on the same station. This is Clear Channel country; we have been divided and conquered.

Anyway, why should artists or audiences take any blame for any of this?

This is a music that requires nurturing and noncommercial support at all levels. There should be no stigma here; the same is true of classical music, even more so, and nobody doubts its merit or cultural value. In fact, individual patrons shell out big bucks to preserve classical and "new" music.

It takes vision to make this happen for jazz. Having toured all over the world, I must say that there's very little of it in this country. One of the few glowing examples in the US is Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque. Look at their web site, especially this page, and ask yourself: how many other jazz presenters in the US are willing to pursue such a combination of fundraising, partnerships with community organizations, local businesses, and academic institutions, strong curatorial vision, and audience development over such a long term? You can count them on one hand.

What if we had one or two such upstart venues in every state? The entire scene would be different.

March 9, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (4)

My Jazz Times review of the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival is published in full on the magazine's web site. It includes most of what I reported in Rifftides and some festival background added for JT.

March 9, 2007 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

When I listen to the two-track analog stereo tape recordings Roy DuNann made for the Contemporary label shortly after the perfection of stereo in the 1950s, I curse the boneheads who, because they could, introduced multi-track, multi-microphone recording. Digital capability then came along with 587-channel mixing boards and made post production a sci-fi adventure that compounded all of the engineering wizards' sins. Red Mitchell was right; simple isn't easy. That applies to everything in life, especially audio engineering. Rudy Van Gelder, nominated by acclamation as the god of jazz recording, was better in early stereo than after he got all the toys. For one thing, in the fifties his pianos sounded more like pianos.

Roy DuNann is most likely a genius. Listen to his recording of Double Play!< with Andre Previn and Russ Freeman at two pianos with Shelly Manne playing drums. DuNann recorded it in Contemporary's studio in Los Angeles in 1957. The little company's studio was the shipping room. If you want another example of what DuNann could do with minimal high-quality equipment in a tiny space, try Sonny Rollins' Way Out West. Rollins, Ray Brown and Manne played side by side, not in isolation booths, captured cleanly with just enough separation, plenty of depth and no cute tricks. There are dozens of other DuNann recordings in the OJC catalogue, still available. If it was recorded for Contemporary in the 1950s or '60s, chances are DuNann was the engineer.

It is worth the frustration of navigating the confusing Concord Records web site in search of DuNann gems by Previn, Manne, Art Pepper, Art Farmer, Hampton Hawes, Lennie Niehaus, Shorty Rogers, Benny Carter, Benny Golson, Duane Tatro and Red Mitchell, among others. Click on the pull-down menu titled Original Jazz Classics Artists. Be aware that Concord has the strange practice of listing artists alphabetically by first name.

Last I heard, Roy DuNann was still with us, living in Seattle. Won't someone bring him out of retirement?

March 8, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (2)

It's taken me all my life to learn what not to play.
-Dizzy Gillespie-

It's not the mistakes that count, it's what you do after them that counts.
-Thelonious Monk-

March 6, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (0)

I know, I know. I promised a survey of recent CDs. But a couple of writing assignments materialized, the kind that bring more than the psychic rewards associated with blogging, and I must meet the deadlines. In the meantime, here's a link to an informal performance of "Sweet Lorraine" by Zoot Sims, Red Mitchell and Rune Gustafsson. It's a good way to start your week: relaxed, swinging and happy. It will help you understand what Paul Desmond meant when he said that going to the Half Note and listening to Zoot was like getting your back scratched. Mitchell's eight-bar introduction is a gem.

March 5, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (2)

There has been interesting response to the Rifftides musing a few postings ago about jazz audiences decreasing at the same time that jazz education programs are burgeoning. Here is an excerpt from one comment:

A lot of talented high school and college band directors never program anything more adventurous than Thad Jones -- or worse, third-rate Thad Jones knock-offs. [This is not to knock Thad, of course -- I love Thad.] Many of them are completely unaware of any developments in jazz since, say, 1967, and aren't even aware of what's going on locally. They never take their students to jazz clubs or bring in local musicians to do workshops and sit in with the students.

For the original item and all of the readers' comments, go here.

March 4, 2007 1:05 AM |

Reports from New York are that the benefit for pianist Larry Willis last week at St. Peter's Church raised more than $5,000. That won't build Willis a new house, but it will help him replace some of what he lost in a January fire. More than two dozen pianists, including some of the most prominent in jazz, played for Willis. One of them, Deanna Witkowski, sent her impression of the event:

I thought that the evening was beautiful, and there really was a lot of love in the room! The concert lasted for about three and a half hours.

Another of the pianists, Lenore Raphael, wrote:

It was warm and thrilling to be part of such a benefit and tribute. We played on a 9 foot Fazioli dream of a piano and everyone got as much out of it as one could get from such a great instrument. I wish you could have been there.

Willis himself played at the benefit, a duet with trumpeter Jimmy Owens. Total attendance through the evening was about 250. For a recommended CD by Larry Willis, see Doug's Picks in the right-hand column.

March 4, 2007 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)

Please note that in the right-hand column under Doug's Picks are five new recommendations. At the end of the Picks selections, you have the option of going to the Picks archive for previous CDs, DVDs and books.

Have a good weekend.

March 3, 2007 1:00 AM | | Comments (0)

The classic Dave Brubeck Quartet (Brubeck, Desmond, Morello and Wright) frequently opened their concerts with Billy Strayhorn's "Take The 'A' Train." At a 1966 concert, German television caught back-to-back performances of "'A' Train" and Brubeck's "Forty Days." They have surfaced on the Daily Motion web site. Audio quality is good, black and white video quality acceptable. Camera work and direction are excellent. The lengthy clip--nearly sixteen minutes--provides a reminder of the Brubeck rhythm section's finely attuned empathy, of Paul Desmond's melodic ingenuity and of his imperative to make each solo a fresh statement. To see and hear the video, go here.

March 2, 2007 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

About this Archive

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

main: February 2007 is the previous archive.

main: April 2007 is the next archive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off

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