WBGO Blog
  • Happy Birthday Moseka! WBGO Honors Abbey Lincoln

    August 6, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    It's Abbey Lincoln's birthday. A truly great singer and fearless jazz spirit, WBGO had the good fortune to share many moments with her over the years, and we honored her as a Champion of Jazz in 2006. We would like to share some of these with you as we honor her again today.

    Some knew her as Aminata Moseka, names she was given in Africa, or Anna Maria Woolridge, the name she was given at birth.

    Most jazz lovers know her as Abbey. Just as Ella was simply Ella, and Sarah was Sarah, Abbey needs no introduction or explanation: she's Abbey.

    Here are highlights from a 2002 interview at her home with WBGO's Josh Jackson:

    11 01 13_AbbeyLincolnFsm_ScottSternberg
    Photo by Scott Sternberg, courtesy of Enja

    Here is an unedited version of that 45-minute interview:

    On this recent edition of Jackson's weekly new-music program The Checkout, Lincoln's longtime pianist Marc Cary speaks about her influence and plays music from his recent solo record on Motema, For the Love of Abbey. Pyeng Threadgill is the singer.

    Cary reflects more on his time with Lincoln here, which includes this 1996 at New York's "Iridium" club, along with Michael Bowie on bass and Aaron Walker on drums, when she sang her composition "Bird Alone":

    Here is a video of Lincoln performing her composition "Down Here Below" with Cary:

    Abbey was featured several times on our nationally syndicated program JazzSet: Click here to hear a recording we made of Abbey in 1984 at the Peppermint Lounge in Orange, New Jersey with pianist James Weidman, and brothers Billy and Mark Johnson on bass and drums, respectively. Weidman also shares recollections of Abbey in this edition of JazzSet, which aired in 2011, three years after her death.

    Also in 2011, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson explored the Abbey Lincoln Songbook in this tribute to Abbey at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

    Bridgewater, Musical Director Terri Lyne Carrington, Wilson and Reeves
    Bridgewater, Musical Director Terri Lyne Carrington, Wilson and Reeves

    Also for JazzSet, Abbey performed at the Detroit International Jazz Festival in 2000, with Brandon McCune on piano, John Ormond on bass and Jaz Sawyer on drums.

    In 2010, WBGO's Michael Bourne hosted a special two-hour tribute and retrospective of Abbey's greatest recordings on our show Singers Unlimited.

    First hour:

    Second hour:

    Finally, Monifa Brown, the host of WBGO's Saturday Afternoon Jazz, contributes this poem to the singer.

    Happy birthday and thank you, Abbey, from all your friends at WBGO!

    ABBEY LINCOLN

    By Monifa Brown

    © 2013

    Abbey Lincoln sings the songs of me and you

    Oh yeah, She could write it for a song

    Molding time and space into the here and now

    Unearthing encrypted tales risen from the dusty embers of Mother Earth

    AMINATA MOSEKA, AMINATA MOSEKA, AMINATA MOSEKA

    Crocheting Indigo and Fuchsia singed lines with golden stroked wishes

    Weaving yesterdays with tomorrows into a patchwork of Turtle Dreams

    Shifting the continental plates with pure invention and intention…

    making our world seem wondrously small

    connecting you and I to he and she and him and her and them and us….

    ‘I Got Some People In Me.’  ‘I Got Some People In Me.’

    Abbey Lincoln sings the songs of me and you

    Oh yeah, She could write it for a song

    Cascading vowels that gather like kaleidoscopic images in the darkness of light

    Abbey was like the rainbow out the window amidst the fallen rain when the storm had cleared -

    A Bird Alone.

    When The World Is Falling Down – hold tight to her words

    Keep your hands wide open, let the sun shine through, you can never lose something if it belongs to you.”

    “Throw it Away! Throw It Away!”

    AMINATA MOSEKA, AMINATA MOSEKA, AMINATA MOSEKA

    She IS the Nomo, the power of the spoken word

    A goddess whose muse is the magic of the secret world

    Freeing stunted spirits Who Used To Dance

    Abbey Lincoln sings the songs of me and you

    Oh yeah, She could write it for a song.

    Abbey Lincoln

  • Happy Birthday Tony! Bourne's Ageless Bennett Songs

    August 5, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Saturday August 3rd was the birthday of Tony Bennett. 87 and ageless. He's always been one of my favorite singers, one of everyone's favorite singers.

    Here are my favorite songs that he's recorded, or I've heard him sing, through the years: I'll celebrate Tony's birthday belatedly and spotlight these songs on my next edition of Singers Unlimited on Sunday, August 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Happy birthday, Tony!

    Bennett.2090.C2.17.DH
    Tony in the recording studio, 1960: photo by Don Hunstein

    "Being Alive" on The Art of Romance

    Great song from the Sondheim musical Company. Phil Woods solos, Tony's great friend Candido plays congas, and it feels so good that his singing is nonetheless so "alive"-ly.

    "But Beautiful" from his album with Bill Evans

    Tony told me that Bill played variation after variation of the songs they were about to record, listening for the right feeling for the songs. Tony asked the engineer if he'd been recording Bill playing, and the engineer said no. Tony said it was some of the most beautiful music he's ever heard, said that Bill's variations alone would've been one of the greatest albums (n)ever recorded.

    "If I Could Go Back" from Tell Her It's Snowing on MGM

    Bacharach and David song from the infamous flop movie musical of "Lost Horizon," meant to be sung by Peter Finch as he wonders whether to return to Shangri-la -- only, Peter Finch couldn't sing and the song was cut from the soundtrack. Tony's recording is downright operatic and powerful, one of his most dramatic vocals.

    Twist is: the song is not among the thousand or so songs of Tony's "Complete Collection" omni-box of CDs, and I don't know why not.

    "Reflections" from Life Is Beautiful on Tony's own label Improv

    Duke Ellington song. I'd heard it played as an instrumental, "Reflections in D" by Duke, but I'd never heard the lyric. When John Dankworth and Cleo Laine told me they were recording an Ellington album, I said it was a song that Cleo, more than anyone other than Tony, could sing wonderfully. I sent Tony's recording to them, she sings it (wonderfully indeed) on Cleo's album "Solitude."

    "Speak Low" by Kurt Weill

    Weill is a composer that he's always felt an affinity for. Tony recorded a long medley of Weill songs at his famous Carnegie concert.

    I'll never forget another Carnegie performance when Tony came to the great Ogden Nash lyric "Time is so long and love so brief. Love is pure gold and time a THIEF!" Tony shouted the word "thief" with so much ... anger, really. I was awestruck.

    I've heard him sing it many times, on record and in concerts. It's the only song I've ever requested from him, and he sang it for me at the jazzfest in Umbria. It's always a highlight for me at every concert -- but I've never again heard him shout the word "thief" like that concert at Carnegie.

    "Stranger In Paradise"

    Tony recorded the hit song from one of my favorite musicals, Kismet, before the show opened on Broadway, and the show opened with a hit already on the radio.

    "Maybe September"

    Tony's own favorite of the more or less 100 albums he's recorded is The Movie Song Album, and he especially likes "The Shadow of Your Smile" as arranged by the composer, Johnny Mandel.

    I like this one, which is the theme song from the only movie he's acted in, "The Oscar" -- not a good movie, but Tony is intense.

    "Here's That Rainy Day"

    Song by composer Jimmy Van Heusen and lyricist Johnny Burke on Tony's Perfectly Frank album, his tribute to his friend and idol Frank Sinatra. Tony sings an exquisite wordless vocal prelude to what I've often said is the greatest of all standards.

    "Alright, Okay, You Win" on Playing with My Friends

    "The Best Is Yet To Come" on Duets: An American Classic

    Both songs are duets with Diana Krall. Really, my favorite is neither of these.

    When Diana was becoming a star at the Montreal Jazz Festival, she played a lovely concert in the Maisonneuve hall, second-biggest of Place des Arts. Tony was singing right after at the Wilfrid-Pelletier hall, first-biggest.

    In the middle of his concert, Tony called out Diana, said how much he enjoyed her singing, sat her down at the piano, stood by the piano with a mic in his hand, and said "Sing something."

    I remember the moment more than what song -- pretty sure it was "They Can't Take That Away From Me." What was truly memorable was the feeling of Diana being anointed as a singer of standards by one of the greatest singers of standards.

    "How Do You Keep The Music Playing?"

    Before another concert at the jazzfest in Montreal, Tony was honored with the festival's Ella Fitzgerald Award. He was obviously that much happier than he always is when singing in Montreal.

    I expected only to hear maybe the first 20 minutes and then go to another gig, but Tony sounded better than I'd ever heard him, and I stayed. I've heard him for years climaxing a concert with "How Do You Keep The Music Playing?"

    This night, he was singing so full-throttle that for the first time I heard a little tiredness in his voice. Would he have chops enough or even breath enough for the high notes at the dramatic finale of the song -- when he sings that "the music NEVER, NEVER ends!" I was literally at the edge of my seat, and he nailed it!

  • Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra at Newport: Listen Now

    August 4, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Click to hear Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra live at the Newport Jazz Festival with Herman Olivera and Joseph Gonzalez, vocals, John Walsh and Jonathan Powell on trumpets, Conrad Herwig and Jimmy Bosch on trombones, Louis Fouche, alto sax, Jose Claussell, timbales, Luques Curtis, bass, Vicente Rivero, congas, Orlando Vega, bongos, and Nelson Gonzalez, tres. Enjoy!

    Photo by Adam Kissick for NPR
    Photo by Adam Kissick for NPR