Jazz Buff News


MAY 2017

It has been said that the only true constant in life is change. One can see it every day. New things keep happening faster and faster, some of which weaken or destroy aspects of our lives which we have long taken for granted. One such example is the potential threat that faces our good neighbor, the FM radio station KCSM. Lately there have been various reports and rumors suggesting that this vital standby of the jazz scene is at risk of disappearing or changing significantly. Fortunately, Mike Claire, President of the College of San Mateo, the community college that owns this valuable life source for jazz, has issued a letter stating that KCSM will continue to exist and offer its unique programming 24/7. Mike is a musician and jazz fan himself, and his letter was a great relief to those of us who depend on KCSM for its round-the-clock jazz programs. It’s all very encouraging for the short run, anyway, but one still worries about the future.

All this just points up how we just assume that certain elements of our life will always be there. Consequently, it’s important that we let KCSM’s management and its dedicated staff know how much we appreciate what they do, how much they mean to PAJAns and to the world at large. Where else can you tune in at home, on your car radio, or your portable device or computer and hear jazz favorites, the oldies as well as the new and upcoming talent? We must all work toward seeing that KCSM survives and thrives.

PAJA has contributed financial support for many years to help keep this gold nugget operating. We believe that listening to jazz on this station provides a continuing educational and learning experience and is valued as much as live performances.

On another note, we are really sorry if you missed the Tamir Hendelman-Jackie Ryan concert we offered on April Fool’s Day. We had many reports from those attending that it was one of the finest and most satisfying events in PAJA’s history. See Michael Burman’s review of the concert starting on page 3 of this issue.

Our next public offering will be Saturday, September 23rd, at the Menlo-Atherton HS Center for the Performing Arts, and will feature the Peter and Will Anderson Trio from New York. Peter and Will are amazing young men who are woodwind virtuosos; they’ll be supported by guitarist Alex Wintz.  You may not have heard of them, but we urge you not to miss this gig—you will not regret it. It will be an exciting and entertaining evening. To hear a teaser, go to the website: www.peterandwillanderson.com and hear a sample of their work. We’re confident you’ll want to hear more, so mark your calendar and we hope to see you in September.

Have a wonderful summer attending events at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the San Jose Jazz Festival, Jazz on the Plazz in Los Gatos, Bach’s, local jazz clubs, and so on.

C. Stuart Brewster 
Chair, Palo Alto Jazz Alliance


Jazz On The Plazz. Popular summer series in Los Gatos. Wednesday evenings, 6:30-8:30. Free, but paid reserved seating. June 21-August 23.   Lineup includes Paula West on 6/28, Tony Lindsay on 7/5, Nicolas Bearde on 7/19, the Monterey Jazz Festival County HS All-Stars on 8/2, and Tiffany Austin on 8/16. www.jazzontheplazz.com

Jazz at Filoli. The Filoli estate on Canada Road in Redwood City hosts a classy summer jazz series, Sunday afternoons 1:30-4pm, June 18-September 10. The whole series costs $425 to non-members, $75 per gig non-members. Some of the shows: Mel Martin Big Band with Tiffany Austin, 6/18; Dmitri Matheny Group, 7/9; Tierney Sutton Band, 7/23; Akira Tana Secret Agent Band, 8/6; Monty Alexander, 8/20.


If you ever find yourself in the Poconos region of Pennsylvania, you might consider dropping by East Stroudsburg University, particularly the Kemp Library which houses the Al Cohn Memorial Collection, established in 1988 to honor the memory of the famed saxophonist who’d been a longtime resident of the area. The collection consists of donated jazz recordings, periodicals, books, oral histories, sheet music, photographs, and the like, all with a special emphasis on the preservation and documentation of Al Cohn’s music, and his long association with Zoot Sims. There are special collections within the ACMJC, such as the Eddie Safranski Collection (personal material from the great Kenton/Barnett bassist), the Coover Gadzar Collection and the Pocono Jazz Heritage Collection. Could be a profitable way to spend an afternoon Poc-ing around. The ACMJC publishes the periodical “The NOTE” and recent issues contain reminiscences of Al and Zoot, Phil Woods, Bill Goodwin, Dave Leibman, and others. Good reading. For more information visit the website: www.esu.edu/alcohncollection.


The 1987 Thelonious Monk International Piano competition was won by Marcus Roberts. In fourth place was Joey DeFrancesco. Joey: “I was happy to be there, but I really wanted to be playing organ instead of piano,” (From a May 2017 DownBeat article, “Joey DeFrancesco: Rejuvenated Master,” by Dan Ouellette.)

1987       Marcus Roberts, first; Joey DeFrancesco, fourth (Piano)
1988       Ted Rosenthal, first   (Piano)
1989       Bill Cunliffe, first  (Piano)
1991       Joshua Redman, first; Eric Alexander, second Chris Potter, third  (Saxophone)
1993       Jackie Terrason, first   (Piano)
1996       Jon Gordon, first; Jimmy Greene,  (Saxophone)
1998       Jane Monheit, second; Roberta Gambarini, third  (Vocals)
2004       Gretchen Parlato, first  (Vocals)
2006       Gerald Clayton, second  (Piano)
2007       Ambrose Akinmusire, first (Trumpet)
2010       Cecile McLorin Salvant, first;  Cyrille Amie, third  (Vocals)
2011       Emmett Cohen, third   (Piano)

For a complete list of Monk competition winners and placers see www.monkinstitute.org/competition/
and click on “Past Winners and Judges.”


What kind of name for a jazz pianist is Tamir Hendelman? Aren’t they supposed to have nicknames either suggestive (“Jelly Roll”) or inscrutable (“Pine Top”) or at the very least something regal like “King” or noble like “Duke” or “Count”? Lacking a nickname Tamir may be, but he more than makes up for it in piano skills developed over (can it be?) more than three decades.

Tamir is best known to most of us as an associate of Jeff Hamilton, as a member both of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and of Jeff’s Trio for some 15 years or so with bassist Christoph Luty. It’s in that latter role that he’s appeared several times here in the Bay Area, once memorably in 2011 in a concert for PAJA at the Palo Alto Elks Club (thanks, Bruce Powell!)

On the evening of April Fool’s Day about 150 PAJAns were not at all foolish. Instead, they went to the Community School of Music & Arts in Mountain View to see Tamir’s own trio. From my own perspective in age, Tamir looks young enough to be my son (in fact, he is—young enough, that is, not my son), so it’s all the more surprising that his bassist and drummer, Alex Frank and Dean Koba, are half a generation younger still. The lineage from trio masters Ray Brown and Jeff Hamilton to Tamir is inescapable.

Songwriters compose tunes, but bandleaders compose sets, and Tamir made up both of his with perform­ances of tunes which appear on one or other of his two recordings as a leader, “Playground” from 2008 with John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton, and “Destinations” from a couple of years later with Marco Panascia and Lewis Nash. Tamir began the first set, unaccomp­anied initially, on what, to me at least, was a heavily dis­guised version of Frederick Loewe’s “On the Street Where You Live” from 1956’s “My Fair Lady”. (I pride myself on usually being able to predict a tune from a rubato intro, but Tamir fooled me—and I know the recording, too—until the final eight bars or so before the head. Pride almost went before a fall that time.)

They followed with Richard Rodgers’s “It Never Entered My Mind,” and then Tommy Dorsey’s theme “I’m Getting Sent­imental Over You”. Alex Frank was featured a couple of times, more often than not playing arco, something largely unknown in jazz until the arrival of Paul Chambers in the mid-1950s. The trio half of the set closed with Horace Silver’s “Cape Verdean Blues”, on which I found Dean Koba’s drumming especially effective.

Tamir’s trio opened the second set with “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”, a quintessential Depression-era song from 1931. Tamir was exemplary as his own MC throughout, identifying almost every tune and giving some context: his story about how he came to write his own “Israeli Waltz” was both fascinating and perhaps a reminder that strangers are just friends we have yet to meet. Next was Charlie Parker’s “Anthropology” (the only tune Tamir did not identify), and the closer was Tamir’s own “Sycamore”.

As noted above, Tamir is best known for his work with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, or with Jeff Hamilton’s trio, and now with his own trio. But unless memory fails me, he first came to my attention as an accompanist for singers. Going back over a decade, he’s recorded with Roberta Gambarini, John Pizzarelli, Greta Matassa, Janis Mann, Angela Hagenbach, and Kathy Kosins, among others; and notable among those others are Natalie Cole and Barbra Streisand.


In 2006, Tamir was the pianist on Jackie Ryan’s “You and the Night and the Music”, with the afore­mentioned Christoph Luty and Jeff Hamilton, as well as guitarist Larry Koonse and tenor sax great Red Holloway. (If you’re not familiar with that recording, then do yourself a favor and check it out: it’s a doozy. In fact, Jackie sings her own lyrics to Benny Carter’s “Doozy”, one of at least three tunes arranged by Tamir.) This evening in Mountain View, Tamir and Jackie took the opportunity to perform together again.

The second half of each set featured Jackie with Tamir’s trio. Now, I’m not a singer myself (something for which many who know me are most grateful), but I do know about waiting to “perform”, be it on the radio, or to follow a prior speaker at some conference: just hanging around, awaiting something you can’t control, but after which you’re supposed to be at your best can be nerve-wracking. But not if you’re Jackie Ryan. Here’s how I know.

A few years ago, I gave a pre-concert talk at the Stanford Jazz Festival: Jackie was the vocalist with Kristen Strom’s quartet, and the musical set-up was the same as in Mountain View on April 1: instru­mentals in the first half of the set, vocals in the second. After I’d introduced the band, I returned back­stage, and spent the entire time just sitting and chatting with Jackie until it was time for her to go on. Even though she was just killing time, as it were, there was not a trace of anxiety. She won’t remember this, I’m sure, but it was memorable for me.

One reason it was memorable is that I’ve long considered Jackie to have the finest voice in jazz since the young Sarah Vaughan. Comments are often made about the number of octaves in Jackie’s range, but I pay no attention: all I need to know is that she never attempts a note she can’t nail, even if the highest and the lowest are separated by an interval wider than two hands can span on a keyboard.

As the centenary approaches of the birth of Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie devoted both her half-sets to music recorded by Ella. Like Tamir, she was exemplary in identifying the songs, and also told us when Ella had recorded them. She opened with “The Best Is Yet to Come”, recorded by Ella relatively late in her career, in 1982 (one of many with arrangements by Nelson Riddle). Following was “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”. Ella recorded it in 1960 with Billy May for “The Harold Arlen Songbook”.

Next came a medley of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” and Billy Stray­horn’s “Lush Life”. Ella recorded “Sophisticated Lady” with Duke and his orchestra three times, but most memorably for me it was originally on “The Duke Ellington Songbook” from 1957 with Ben Webster. For that same recording, Ella did “Lush Life” accompanied only by Oscar Peterson. One of my own pet peeves is the number of vocalists who unwisely essay “Lush Life”: it’s a very tricky song, with subtle lyrics and unusual intervals; poor versions abound, good ones are rare. Jackie treated us to one of the great ones.

She closed the first set with another Arlen song, “That Old Black Magic”. Ella recorded that one several times, too, often live, and often in Europe, but for me the best is from 1961 with Billy May from the same “Harold Arlen Songbook”. Both the Arlen tunes of course have great lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

When Jackie rejoined Tamir’s trio for the second half of the second set, she opened with “Gypsy in My Soul” which dates to 1934. Another of my pet peeves (no room here for a complete list) is vocalists who toy with lyrics: Cole Porter is said to have sent Frank Sinatra a telegram asking “Why do you sing my songs if you don’t like the way they were written?” So kudos to Jackie for the correct “I’ve got to give vent to my emotions” rather than the usual, but wrong, “I’ve got to give in to my emotions”. The next line is “I’m only content having my way”: it rhymes, for heaven’s sake!

Following a timely version of Vernon Duke’s “April in Paris” (Ella did it in 1956 with Louis Armstrong and Oscar Peterson’s trio plus Buddy Rich) there came what was, for me and for many in the audience, the high spot of the evening, the Gershwins’ “I Loves You, Porgy” from 1935’s “Porgy and Bess”, far and away the best performance of this song I’ve ever heard. My notes include the words “articulation”, “sincerity”, “purity”, and “range”. I’ll leave it at that.

Following “Porgy”, it would have been understandable had the closer been an anti-climax, but it was not to be. Jackie and Tamir’s trio gave us a wonderfully rhythmic version of Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington’s “Caravan.” They say “give the drummer some”, and Dean Koba did indeed take some, sending us happily out into the night.

And at least one of the departing audience was planning to check out his copy of “You and the Night and the Music”.