WBGO Blog
  • Farewell to NEA Jazz Master Gerald Wilson

    September 9, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    WBGO says goodbye to Gerald Wilson, who died Sept. 8 at his home in Los Angeles, four days after his 94th birthday.

    The trumpeter, bandleader and arranger played a key role in the development of West Coast and orchestral jazz over his 75 years as a professional musician. Fresh out of Detroit's Cass Technical High School in 1939, he joined Jimmie Lunceford's band and never looked back.

    Based in Los Angeles, Wilson arranged for Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, and dozens of others, as well as his own large and small ensembles. In 1990, he was named an NEA Jazz Master, the nation's highest honor for a jazz musician.

    Wilson visited WBGO many times over the years, and stopped by in 2003 for a heartfelt chat with Morning Jazz host Gary Walker, which we'd like to share with you again now.

    Thank you, Gerald, we will miss you!

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  • Relive the Montreal Jazz Fest 2014 With WBGO

    August 28, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Montreal lives, breathes, and loves jazz every July, when millions of fans and hundreds of acts take over the city - and so does WBGO, especially host Michael Bourne, who has attended FIJM every year for two decades.

    Bourne was in Montreal once again this year with producer Simon Rentner to deliver previews, day-by-day reports and behind-the-scenes interviews with music makers.

    Miss something? You can relive Montreal's best moments right here, by clicking on the links below. And just as we did this year, WBGO Travel will take us to Montreal next year, and we hope fans and listeners will join us then as well. So enjoy the very best of FIJM 2014 - and FIJM 2015 - with WBGO!

    Saxophonist Charles Lloyd with Michael Bourne and Simon Rentner
    Saxophonist Charles Lloyd with Michael Bourne and Simon Rentner

    Bourne's Montreal Journal

    Tarantino In Concert

    FIJM By The Numbers

    A New Jazz Day Dawns

    Cubans And Clarinets

    Who Is Woodkid?

    Ambrose And Tigran

    Pink Martini Dreams

    Diana Krall And Me

    Tony And Gaga

    Oliver Jones And Friends

    McBride's Canada Day

    Prizes Galore

    The Best Of The Rest

    Zappa, Meet Zappa

    Very Montreal

    Dueling Finales

    Photo by Ulisse Lemerise B.
    Photo by Ulisse Lemerise B.

    FIJM 2014 Interviews For WBGO's The Checkout

    Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade's "Panama 500"

    Drummer Jeff Ballard

    Pianist Vincent Rehel

    Pianist Baptiste Trotignon

    Toronto's BadBadNotGood

    Singer José James

    Pianist Monty Alexander

    Trumpeter Tom Harrell

    Pianist and radio host David Ryshpan

    Simon Rentner's "Eat That Chicken"

  • Bourne's Montreal: Dueling Finales

    August 28, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    When the first Montreal jazz festival played in the streets back in 1979, neighbors nearby complained about the noise. This year's 35th anniversary FIJM ended with a bang.  A really loud bang.

    Deltron 3030 is a trio of hip-hoppers, each doing something … hippy?  hoppy?

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Once upon a time, I avoided most pop music.  I'd listen to the groups on SNL or Letterman, usually no more than a minute.  I'd often DVR those shows, and, if I didn't hear an actual melody or amusing lyrics,  I'd quickly fast-forward.

    I'm still not a "fan" of the various neo-pop groups that sell millions of records — down-loads, I mean --  but since my revelation listening to Plaster, when Club Soda became my neo-pop road to Damascus, I'm now certainly game to listen.  Especially when Laurent Saulnier, FIJM's "VP of the Edge," tells me "you have to hear" whoever he circles on FIJM concert grid for me.

    And the festival's finale — L'Evenement Special de Cloture - out on the big (even bigger this year) TD Bank stage — is usually, as Woodkid was to begin the jazzfest, spectacular.

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    Kid Koala, a local DJ, is one of the three Deltron 3030 hip-hoppers, and with three turntables he "scratched" LP's.   He'd lick his fingers, play a record, maybe a voice, but he'd stop and pull the voice backwards, let the record play again, maybe only a quarter spin, create a groove from the shards of music and mechanical noises of a record player, all while licking and stop-starting LP's on the other turntables.

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    "This is my mother's favorite record," he said with a smile like a naughty child, and he played an easy-listening chorus singing "Moon River," all the while twisting weird counterpoints over and under the song on the other LP's.

    Kid Koala was having fun, and so was the multitude on the Place des Spectacles, and so was I.

    Photo by Frederique Menard-Aubin
    Photo by Frederique Menard-Aubin

    Then came the rapper,   Del the Funkee Homosapien.  (Do rappers, I wondered, have to trademark their often silly names?  Like circus clowns have to trademark their goofy wigs and noses?)

    Almost immediately, for me, the show was over.

    When I first really listened and appreciated neo-pop at the festival, I soon could hear when artists were being truly creative — and when wanna-be artists were running in place, repeating what were already cliches, selling the Emperor's New Nonsense.

    Photo by Frederique Menard-Aubin
    Photo by Frederique Menard-Aubin

    Del the Funkee Homosapien was not even (properly spelled) funky.   He rapped over annoyingly monotonous mechanical beats.   Loud -- all the more annoying — footpat-less beats.

    He blathered gibberish so quickly and so inarticulately that all I could comprehend was that the gibberish rhymed.  At best vaguely rhymed.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    And then the third Deltronic, Dan the Automator, dressed in tails, cranked up an entire orchestra, complete with a barrage of cellos — but playing only orchestral groans.

    Maybe, and only far-fetchedly maybe, I'd have enjoyed Kid Koala's scratching counterpoints or even amusing noises within Dan the Automator's groaning — but Del the Funkee Homosapien kept on jerking doggerel, and I split.Back to the Gesu I came for the last Jazz dans la nuit concert.  Christine Jensen's big band was playing for less than half of the house, but we few were very happy.

    Photo by Randy Cole
    Photo by Randy Cole

    Christine's band gathered some of the best players of the Montreal scene, including tenor saxist Andre Leroux and Christine's sister, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen.

    Playing barefoot, the better to toe pedals for electronic effects, Ingrid looped herself within her solos.  Hauntingly.  Quietly but palpable.

    Photo by Angela Jimenez
    Photo by Angela Jimenez

    "Like wind across the water and through the trees," I scribbled as the music transported me.  So many of Christine's pieces, including all the music from her album Habitat, were evocative, inspired by scenery and scenes.  Streets.  Vistas.  Journeys.

    Christine-JensenJazzOrchestra600

    One of her pieces traveled down through Canada, from northernmost Hudson's Bay down to the bustle of Ottowa.  Andre Leroux played several downright carnivorous solos, and Christine featured her own soprano sax from time to time, from scene to scene.

    Christine Jensen's big band played, for me, a perfect (and tres grande) finale of FIJM 2014.

    Je reviendrai a Montreal …