WBGO Blog
  • Ronnie Mathews 1935 - 2008

    June 30, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    r_mathews1.jpg

    Last month, we learned that pianist and composer Ronnie Mathews was terminally ill. Though you always know and understand that the inevitable is upon us, it never makes it any easier to swallow, once it comes to pass. Ronnie Mathews passed away this past Saturday, succumbing to pancreatic cancer. He was 72 years old. An outstanding and solid pianist, Mathews played with jazz legends like Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Max Roach and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers to name a few. He also had long associations with saxophonist Johnny Griffin, drummer T. S. Monk and trumpeter Roy Hargrove, whom Mathews recorded with on several occasions, including Hargrove's latest CD, Nothing Serious.

    As a leader, Mathews recorded several albums over the course of five decades. These albums include his Doin' the Thang, his first outing for Prestige Records, and his Shades of Monk, which pays homage to one of his greatest inflluences, Thelonious Monk. Mathews also wrote "Easy Piano of Thelonious Monk", through Hal Leonard Books. It is a compilation of Mathews' arrangements of Thelonious Monk tunes, made easy for piano students.

    Last week, jazz musicians from all over produced the Ronnie Mathews Benefit at Sweet Rhythm Jazz Club in NYC. Jimmy Heath, Cedar Walton, fellow Brooklynite Randy Weston, George Coleman and many more performed to raise money for his family and medical expenses, while celebrating the life of Mathews, who is arguably among the many unsung jazz heros of our time.

    I knew Mr. Mathews, and will miss him very much. Let's make sure we honor and support our jazz heros while they are here, and let them know just how much they mean to us.

  • Cuban pianists bookend Sunday night at Montreal

    June 30, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    Roberto Fonseca
    At 6pm, Roberto Fonseca (b 1975 in Havana) and his band played at Theatre Jean Duceppe (full at about 1000 people, going crazy for him). Fonseca was born in 1975 in Cuba, and used to open for Buena Vista Social Club on their world tours. He is dynamite, passionate, sometimes leans into his vocal mic and sings with the soprano sax, and conducts entrances and cut-offs in such a cool way that you can't take your eyes off him. He even leaned back and seemed to dance with the piano. On a new bolero that he is soon to record, JUST before the final resolving note, the audience burst in with cheering applause. So Fonseca it ended there, and indicated that he might keep the ending that way from now on. We're not just fans, we're arrangers now!

    At 10:30, Hilario Duran and his trio were at the Salle de Gesu. Duran (born in Cuba, now living in Canada, with Arturo Sandoval throughout the 1980s) has technique and power, and it's not only his melodies that sing but the harmonies underneath them are melodies in themselves. Every finger is saying something. Hilario told us that, for him, this night at this Festival was "a dream come true," and poured music into his 90 minutes. I didn't scribble notes, choosing to feel the emotions instead. Cuban piano seems so rare in the US today. Tomorrow is Canada Day.

    Becca

  • Festival Day Three- For all of the Senses

    June 29, 2008. Posted by Amy Niles.

    Add new comment | Filed under: FIJM, Jazz Alive

    “Bonjour/ Hello”

    That’s what people say when you first meet them here in Montreal. They don’t assume that you understand them, they welcome you in. And in the rare case that someone does not speak English, they are apologetic for it. As if the onus to communicate is on them, not on you.

    Mounds of Mushrooms
    Yesterday was filled with fresh smells and beautiful images at the Jean Talon Market. A place that is off most tourist’s radar screen, but a must see if you are trying to get the flavor of this city. The famous Quebec strawberries ( a clown walking around even offered us a sample!), we met the woman who owns the cows that make the milk for the cheese that she was hoping that we would sample. The person who grilled the sausages wanted to tell us about the process that was used to make them. Go with an appetite- every stall had not only a beautiful display of produce and wares, but also samples to taste- berries, and plums and nectarines. Even little cups of jams and juices. And each offering is a work of art- maybe a flower placed in the center of a basket of berries, or a  sprig of parsley brightening up a mound of mushrooms. You taste with all of your senses at the Jean Talon Market. I came back with figs and berries for the most wonderful midnight snack as I prepared for another much anticipated night of music.
    Coral Egan is a very popular local singer. Her two sold out nights are a testament to the love that this town has for its home grown talent. One of the interesting things that I have noticed about the Montreal artists is that they aren’t pigeonholed into one genre or instrument. Coral sings the blues, and standards, and rock. I could picture her singing in a smoky Canadian club, or an outdoor beach jam in Malibu. She plays her set barefoot, with her toned body swaying on the piano bench or enveloping her guitar. Her backup singer did her turn on all of the instruments too. And of course she slipped in and out of English and French. You may not like it all, but the sum of her parts made for one captivating evening.
    It was an honor to be present watching Brad Mehldau and Hank Jones perform together. The sheer genious of the producers of this event to create such a magical evening has to be commended- and the audience owes them a debt of gratitude for the opporuntity to witness these artists together. Who led? Who’s style won out? I can’t say. It was pure harmony. I will let Becca and Michael talk about the jazz aspects, but for me- the fortunate listener, it was an evening that will stay with me for a long time.
    This is why I come to Montreal. Gee- I have said that about so many things this trip!