main: March 2011 Archives

The Rifftides staff discovered, by chance, that an essential element in a two-and-a-half-year-old entry about Dick Wellstood and two other pianists had suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous YouTube fortune. The video of Wellstood playing was removed by whoever posted it. We managed to find an even better one, so here is the reconstituted piece, including video. Call it a Rifftides encore or golden oldie. This first ran on August 8, 2008.

Dick Wellstood has been on my mind. Maybe it's because I heard Dave Frishberg play the piano the other night at The Seasons. Frishberg was in concert singing his inimitable songs and accompanying himself, but he opened up plenty of space for piano solos. Before he became famous for performing his songs, Frishberg worked with Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Ben Webster, Jack Sheldon and Carmen McRae, among other demanding leaders. He was, and is, a versatile and idiosyncratic pianist who wraps several jazz eras into a style of his own. A couple of times on Saturday night, he pulled off stride passages that Wellstood would have appreciated.

In the mid-1940s when Wellstood was a young man working toward a career as a pianist, he was under the spell of Joe Sullivan (pictured). Sullivan (1906-1971) came from Chicago and

Joe Sullivan.jpgbegan recording in 1927. By 1933, he was Bing Crosby's accompanist and established as one of the brightest of the young pianists influenced by Earl Hines, James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. He in turn influenced Wellstood, who had cards printed that read, "Perhaps you can help me to meet Joe Sullivan. My name is Dick Wellstood." He distributed the cards in musicians' hangouts. Finally, the cornetist Muggsy Spanier told Wellstood where Sullivan lived. According to clarinetist Kenny Davern's account of the meeting, quoted in Edward N. Meyer's Giant Strides: The Legacy of Dick Wellstood, the pianist knocked on Sullivan's apartment door well after midnight.

Soon this disheveled figure in slippers and a bathrobe comes shuffling through. Joe opens the door and says, "Yeah?" Dick says, "Hi, my name is Dick Wellstood and Muggsy Spanier said to say hello." And Joe Sullivan said, "Tell Muggsy Spanier to go f___ himself," and slammed the door right in Dick's face.

Nonetheless, Wellstood remained a steadfast admirer of Sullivan. Here is one reason, Sullivan's 1933 recording of "Gin Mill Blues."

There is little video of Wellstood performing, but this clip from a concert in Germany in 1982, five years before he died, catches him in full stride, concentration and swing.

That brought response from Dave Frishberg and another old pal of Wellstood and triggered further reminiscence about my friendship with Dick. To see that item, click here.

March 4, 2011 1:05 AM | | Comments (2)

I'm still tucking in the frayed ends of daily life after extended duty in the trenches of extracurricular writing. Soon, there will be a new batch of Doug's Picks as the blogging routine returns to normal, whatever that is.

I am told that the first rule of survival in the weblog game is to keep the blog fresh. So—to give you useful information and avoid turning this into a mere video disc jockey operation—here is a cross-generational performance of Bud Powell's "Webb City." The older generation is represented by Phil Woods, the man in the hat, the younger by Grace Kelly, the woman in the magenta dress, and her band: Jason Palmer, trumpet; Doug Johnson, piano; Evan Gregor, bass; and Jordan Perison, drums. "Webb City" became famous in bebop circles because of a brilliant 1946 recording by Fats Navarro. Powell named the tune not after the southwest Missouri town of 10,000 but for Freddie Webster, one of the heros of pre-bop trumpet. Thanks to Ira Gitler, the fount of all bebop knowledge, for that nugget. There——wasn't that useful?

This performance took place recently at Sculler's, a jazz emporium in Boston, Massachusetts, a large city on the east coast of the United States


"Webb City" is not on Ms. Kelly's new CD, Man With the Hat, but Mr. Woods is. Here's a sign of changing times in the record business and in earning prospects for musicians: the album sells on Amazon as a digital download for $6.93, as a CD for $24.72 plus shipping. There are still lots of diehard CD lovers, but remaining one is not getting easier.

March 2, 2011 2:15 PM | | Comments (2)

Today at the White House, President Obama will present the National Medal of Arts to ten creative Americans, including Sonny Rollins and Quincy Jones. From the announcement by the National Endowment for the Arts, here is the complete list of 2010 recipients:

Robert Brustein, theatrical critic, producer, playwright, educator; Van Cliburn, pianist, music educator; Mark di Suvero, sculptor; Donald Hall, poet; Quincy Jones, musician, music producer; Harper Lee, author; Sonny Rollins, jazz musician; Meryl Streep, actress; James Taylor, singer, songwriter; Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. (Lee and Streep are unable to attend the ceremony.)

"I'm very happy that jazz, the greatest American music, is being recognized through this honor, and I'm grateful to accept this award on behalf of the gods of our music," Rollins said of the award.

Here is Sonny, feeling frisky.

The Rollins band included Masuo and Bobby Broom, guitars; Lincoln Goines, bass; and Tommy Campbell, drums.

Now that the NEA has evidently decided to dump its Jazz Masters honors, it is good to see the Medal of Arts program include one of the major improvisers of our time.

March 2, 2011 1:05 AM | | Comments (1)

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This page is a archive of entries in the main category from March 2011.

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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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