WBGO Blog
  • Dr. Lewis Porter on John Coltrane: Impressions, Part Two

    February 17, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    This article, the second of three on saxophonist John Coltrane, is the latest in our regular series of blogs on jazz history, "You Don't Know Jazz! With Dr. Lewis Porter." To read previous installments, click on the links below.

    John-Coltrane-Impressions-541226

    Series Introduction

    Episode 1: A Blues Recording From the Congo -- In 1906!

    Episode 2: The Origins of the Word "Jazz"

    Episodes 3-5: Myths About Jazz -- Part One, Part Two, Part Three

    Episode Six: Putting Louis Armstrong in Context: Part One, Part Two

    Episode Seven: Myths About Early Jazz Drumming

    Episode Eight: Jazz On Film

    Episode Nine: Slap-Tonguing

    Episode Ten: The Legacy of Chick Webb

    Episode Eleven: Drummer Gene Krupa

    Episode Twelve: Bassist Walter Page

    Episode Thirteen: Pianist George Shearing

    Episode Fourteen: Coltrane's Impressions, Part One

    (PLEASE NOTE: If the reader uses any of the material from this series, no matter how brief, this article and its web address must be cited as the source. Thank you for respecting the intellectual property of Dr. Porter.)

    John Coltrane: Impressions, Part Two

    In our last blog, I explained how the direct source of saxophonist John Coltrane’s "Impressions" was composer Morton Gould’s "Pavanne," a well-known piece at the time Coltrane was coming into his own as a musician.

    But wait - there’s more to this story.

    In my 1998 book John Coltrane: His Life and Music, I devoted a chapter to showing where he found some of these themes. Since then, I have learned more about Coltrane's inspirations.

    What Coltrane did to create "Impressions" was take Gould's melody, the second theme of "Pavanne," and apply it to the AABA form of a composition he knew well - trumpeter Miles Davis’s "So What."

    Coltrane was a regular member of Davis’s groups in the late 1950s, and he recorded and performed "So What" several times with Davis in 1959 and 1960, most famously on the Columbia album Kind of Blue.

    kind-of-blue

    But why would Coltrane choose to combine "So What" with "Pavanne?"

    Davis frequently said, in interviews and again in his autobiography, that Chicago pianist Ahmad Jamal was an important influence on him in this period. While Coltrane in Davis's group, they regularly played staples from Jamal’s repertoire, such as “Just Squeeze Me,” and a few Jamal originals.

    jamalheadphones1

    In October of 1955 and again in January of 1960, the Ahmad Jamal Trio recorded Gould’s "Pavanne," playing both themes. This is very significant, for without a doubt, Coltrane was familiar with the Ahmad Jamal Trio’s versions of this piece.

    On the 1955 version, it’s guitarist Ray Crawford who plays "Pavanne’s" second theme:

    the-legendary-okeh-epic-recordings

    The 1960 version, in which Jamal plays the theme, brings us closer to what we hear Coltrane do with this material just months later:

    Happy_Moods

    Indeed, when Coltrane started to play Impressions in concert in 1960, "Pavanne" was part of the the Jamal Trio’s active repertoire.

    But when Coltrane first started to perform "Impressions," he didn’t know what to call it. Apparently at first he also called his version “So What,” and in November of 1961, when he played his famous, incredibly intense version at the Village Vanguard, which was later released as the title track of a 1963 album for Impulse! – he still did not have a name for it.

    In fact, even in June of 1962, when he recorded 2 short versions of this piece in the studio - these were never released on LP, but have since been released on CD - he was calling the piece “Excerpts.”

    This always makes my students laugh, because they say, "After all, his theme is an excerpt from Morton Gould!"

    john-coltrane

    Finally, you may be surprised to learn that Impressions was recorded on two albums by non-Coltrane bands, before Coltrane’s version was released in July of 1963.

    Both times, the tune was titled “Why Not?” and the composer was listed as the late drummer Pete “LaRoca” Sims!

    The first version is by saxophonist Rocky Boyd on his album Ease It, recorded with trumpeter Kenny Dorham and Sims on drums in February of 1961:

    boyd_rocky~_easeitint_102b

    A later release of the same album, under Dorham’s name as West 42nd Street, included a second take at a slightly slower tempo:

    West 42nd Street

    I asked LaRoca about this session, and he told me that of course he knew the piece, because he’d played it as a member of Coltrane’s quartet in the summer of 1960, before Elvin Jones took his place. LaRoca also said he also knew the theme wasn’t Coltrane’s, and it was by Gould.

    “I might have been in on the thought process, underlying naming and all the rest of that,” he told me, but he also acknowledged that he shouldn’t have been listed as composer and suggested that might have been Boyd’s idea.

    My friend, jazz photographer John Rogers, has also reminded me that the quartet of the terrific vibraphonist Dave Pike also recorded this theme, with Bill Evans on piano, in February 1962. LaRoca is not the drummer on this date, yet the piece is still credited to him.

    pikespeak3

    Why? I emailed Pike recently at his current residence in California, and it turns out that LaRoca was, once again, his source for this tune.
    Pike writes that he was performing with LaRoca at that time, “and he played it for me. I thought that either he wrote it, or it was just what we used to call a ‘riff’ behind somebody's solo.”

    In fact, on Pike’s version, Bill Evans solos on piano while the band plays the theme behind him.

    By the way, in “Why Not?” the bridge is the A theme played a half-step higher, as Coltrane himself sometimes performed it.

  • Love Letters from WBGO Listeners

    February 14, 2013. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    WBGO asked listeners to send us love letters for Valentine's Day, and we received some wonderful notes, poems, song lyrics and well wishes. Take a look and add your love letter to the bottom of this post! Happy Valentine's Day from WBGO.

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥

    photo

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥

    My Grandfather and I listened to your station religiously.......He's passed but I continue our Sunday tradition. Thanks for the continuous years of great music

    Love Tammy

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥

    My wife and I are in love with BGO. We have been loyal members and listeners for 12 years. We would be hard pressed if the station went off the air and that's why we give our support year after year. So kudos for another great year.

    Sincerely,

    Michael W.

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥

    My Dearest WBGO,

    You are so nice to come home to – one of my favorite things.

    We can be alone together; and if I’m afro blue or in one of those sentimental moods,

    you can bring me some of that epistrophy boplicity jelly roll jitterbug black magic and get me to straighten up and fly right.

    Oh yes!  You’ve got what it takes to make my heart sing.

    It don’t me a thing if it ain’t got that swing. And hey, WBGO.  You’ve got it!

    You could  be my one and only love; or even my funny valentine.

    But  if you don’t know by now, you’ll always be the sunshine of my life.

    Love always….

    from Nina  never knew…..aka Nina H.

    PS….I listened to WRVR since I was seven years old,

    and to WBGO since I returned to NYC in the early eighties.

    KEEP THE MUSIC COMING!!!

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

    W hether you're happy, tired, jazzed, or just got the
    B lues, you know the one and only place to
    G o is right at your fingertips (radio or web),
    O n 24/7, just waiting on you.                                            Noreen S.

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥

    WBGO I love you and your amazing music! I really dig it! Y
    Thank you for your programs!

    Love,
    Laura H. Y

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥♥ ♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥♥ ♥♥

    A Valentine’s Poem to WBGO

    Roses are red,

    Violets are blue,

    This is so cliché,

    And so not you!

    Trumpets are winds,

    Saxophones are reeds,

    Jazz is an artistic expression openly share by WBGO,

    Thus I kindly thank thee!

    Over the years,

    And through the obstacles,

    Mr. Cephas Bowles,

    You have honored us.

    With your creative endeavors,

    And blessed plan and action,

    You and your team have aided WBGO and Newark in their successful expansion.

    I wish WBGO increased stardom,

    And to Mr. Bowles, your team and listeners,

    I wish you continued success, joy and wisdom.

    Poem by:      O. Xiomara Luna

  • Tony Bennett with Michael Bourne (Part II)

    January 29, 2013. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    Tony Bennett concludes his conversation with WBGO's Michael Bourne, his longtime friend.  If you missed it, click below.

    Tony Bennett

    Tony Bennett and Michael have been friends for a long time.  Tony is a much admired painter, and when Tony and Michael get together, they usually talk about art.   But once in a while, they get together at WBGO and talk about Tony’s life as a great singer.  Just before a performance last Sunday at NJPAC, Michael talked with Tony about his recent world travels, his new CD (Viva Duets), his new DVD (The Zen of Tony Bennett), his new philosophical memoir (Life Is a Gift), and his life’s work (73 CD’s and 3 DVD’s, The Complete Collection).   If you missed Part I of the interview, see below.