WBGO Blog
  • Song Long Shimmy

    September 4, 2012. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    Shrimrit Shoshan

    Her friends called her "Shimmy."  Shimrit Shoshan had many of them -- including me -- admirers, fans, and peers who appreciated her talents often at places like Smalls, The Fat Cat, and The Bar Next Door in Greenwich Village.  She was a journeywoman, first as a curious and seeking pianist and composer, but also as musician from Tel Aviv, Israel, dedicated to becoming a great artist in New York City.  Everyone respected her and believed she would become a name in jazz.  It was only a matter of time.  But for this 29 year old, time wasn't in her favor.  The WBGO Journal mourns the loss of this remarkable pianist and person.

  • Jazz from Caramoor.. Rhonda Hamilton hosts highlights on Labor Day at 1pm

    August 31, 2012. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Here's the special in six segments. Click to listen.

    Kenny Barron, piano - Love Walked In (Gershwins)
    The Cookers (personnel named under photo, below) - Capra Black (Billy Harper)

    Gretchen Parlato, voice Taylor Eigsti, piano; Earl Burniss Travis II, bass; Kendrick Scott, drums Alô, Alô (Da Viola, arr. Parlato) Circling (Parlato) Better Than (Parlato)

    The Cookers - The Peacemaker (McBee) Kenny Barron – Lotus Blossom, A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing, Star-Crossed Lovers (Strayhorn, Ellington)

    Kenny Barron - Shuffle Boil (Thelonious Monk)
    Dee Dee Bridgewater, voice Craig Handy, saxophones; Edsel Gomez, piano; Michael Bowie, bass; Kenny Phelps, drums
    Lady Sing the Blues (Billie Holiday)

    Two more from Bridgewater's group
    A Foggy Day (Cole Porter)
    Fine and Mellow (Holiday)

    Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band with Jaleel Shaw, alto sax; Martin Bejerano, piano; David Wong, bass
    James (Pat Metheny) All Blues (Miles Davis)

    Here's the story:

    It's all play and no work this Labor Day from 1-3pm on WBGO 88.3 and wbgo.org and the Caramoor Jazz Festival Network*, with music from the 19th annual Caramoor Jazz Festival near Katonah, NY, in Surround Sound.

    Here are all five groups  in one 30-second spot. Click and listen.

    First up, The Cookers are the hard bop champions, led by trumpeter David Weiss with music by band members Billy Harper on tenor and Cecil McBee on bass.

    Left to right: Orrin Evans, Billy Harper, David Weiss, Cecil McBee, Eddie Henderson, Craig Handy, drummer Billy Hart
    Left to right: Orrin Evans, Billy Harper, David Weiss, Cecil McBee, Eddie Henderson, Craig Handy, drummer Billy Hart.. photos by Gabe Palacio for Caramoor

    Multi-award winning, always working, young Gretchen Parlato’s instrument is her quiet, rhythmic voice. On “Alô, Alô,” she sings in Portuguese and adds hand percussion. Her refrain from “Better Than” seems like a personal statement and I love it: “There’s a sky full of stars so just be who you are…”

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    Pianist Kenny Barron performs alone. Gershwin, Porter, Strayhorn, Monk – Barron delivers each on-the-spot with ideas, clarity and swing. Nothing is wasted. I spotted pianists from the other bands at the festival in the wings, watching and listening to Kenny Barron.

    The album Eleanora Fagan: To Billie with Love from Dee Dee won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal. Onstage at Caramoor, Bridgewater celebrates Billie Holiday with three songs, arrangements by Musical Director Edsel Gomez.  “Lady Sings the Blues”  is upbeat, and he puts a new hook on “A Foggy Day.” Craig Handy shines on sax on Billie and Dee Dee’s “Fine and Mellow.”

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    The Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band is one for all and all for one. Haynes’ feet dance at the drums, his cymbals shimmer, he snaps and crackles on the snare. He speaks the language of six and a half decades of jazz drums, and the flow is pure Roy Haynes. He closes the festival with “All Blues” by Miles Davis, a request from the audience.

    Producer Jim Luce has programmed nineteen consecutive summer weekends of jazz at the Caramoor Center of Music and The Arts. We thank Jim (former WBGO morning man!), Managing Director Paul Rosenblum and everyone for supporting Jazz from Caramoor . Information about year-round programming is available at caramoor.org.

    *Traveling on Labor Day? Check out  Jazz from Caramoor on the  Caramoor Jazz Festival Network, including WICN Worcester, MA; WNCU Raleigh-Durham; WCLK, Atlanta; WUSF Tampa; WDNA Miami; WCBE Columbus OH; KCCK Cedar Rapids IA; KBEM Minneapolis; KTSU Houston; and KMHD Portland. Broadcast times vary.

    Roy Haynes and Dee Dee Bridgewater.. Richard Conde Photography
    Roy Haynes and Dee Dee Bridgewater.. Richard Conde Photography

  • WBGO's Michael Bourne on Litchfield Jazz 2012

    August 23, 2012. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Rainy when it started. Sunny when it ended. Thirteen concerts over the weekend, August 10-12. Come rain or shine, the Litchfield Jazz Festival is always musically enjoyable, smartly programmed by Vita Muir, efficiently organized by Lindsey Turner, superbly stage-managed by Abram Sirignano, and seriously dedicated to jazz education.

    Young musicians came to the Litchfield Jazz Camp over the month before the jazzfest. Don Braden was the jazz dean, teaching with a jazz who's who, including this year's festival artist-in-residence, baritone saxist Gary Smulyan. Some of the camp's best and brightest played opening night at a gala party for the festival sponsors. After several years playing in a hockey rink of the school in Kent, Connecticut, the jazzfest returned this year to an enormous tent in a field in Goshen, Connecticut.

    Don Braden (left) with WBGO's Cephas Bowles and Ambrose Akinmusire

    The Four Freshmen sang the group's beautifully harmonized songbook for starters. I became a Freshmen fan as a kid in Saint Louis. I was a freshman myself in high school, and I grumbled when my folks took me to a Hawks basketball game. I assumed that the group playing a concert on the basketball court after the game, a group called The Four Freshmen, must be a rock and roll band. I never listened to rock back then. I was a freak for operas and musicals -- several years before I ever heard any of the Singers Unlimited.

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    I was delighted that instead, amazingly and amusingly, the Freshmen sang a variety of pop songs with the vocal arrangements anchored to the high voice of bassist and trombonist Bob Flanigan -- who was also funny. I eventually bought most of the Capitol records they recorded in the 50's and 60's, albums with titles like "Voices in Love," "Four Freshmen and Five Trumpets" or "Five Trombones" or "Five Guitars" and a live double-LP with the Stan Kenton big band.

    Through the years since the group first came together at Butler University in the latter 40's, there have been Twenty-Four Freshmen, and the four singing now have been singing in the group 12-20 years. What's deeply delightful for a Freshmen fan is that they sing the vocal arrangements -- full-throated, with subtle and surprising twists of a phrase or the meter of a song -- perfectly, and yet they're not doing an imitation or impression of the group. They embody the classic sound of the group, and the songs come alive. "Graduation Day." "Day By Day." "It's a Blue World." "Route 66." I miss the trombone and the whimsical presence of Bob Flanigan, but I can hear him in the heart of the sound. The Four Freshmen were, for me, laughing and singing along, worth the trip to Connecticut.

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    Plenty of highlights happened thereafter, including on opening night Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks revisiting 20's and 30's swing classics of Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. Vince Giordano told stories about the music and anchored the band's bottom on an aluminum string bass, bass saxophone, or a tuba.

    Saturday's marathon kicked off with the Helen Sung Trio. Avery Sharpe presented his Sojourner Truth Project, music inspired by the African-American woman who pioneered the anti-slavery movement in the 19th Century, including a powerful blues composed to one of her own poems, sung by Jeri Brown.

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    I first heard the quintet of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire live this summer at the Montreal festival, and again in Goshen I felt a rush of originality like I remember when I first heard Woody Shaw. Gary Smulyan gathered an octet, plus tenor saxist Eric Alexander, to "salute" the arrangements of George Coleman, climaxed by a full-tilt rocking (with a Matt Wilson back-beat) "Isn't She Lovely." Benny Green played flabbergastingly as always, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band blew the roof -- does a tent have a roof? -- off.

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    Sunday opened with, for me, the highlight of all the festival's highlights, the quartet of Gregoire Maret. His sound on the harmonica is the most original since Toots, and he pulls the audience into the sound as he breathes. Sometimes a lovely breeze. Sometimes a roiling riptide. He's energized all the more by the percussive dancing of Clarence Penn at the drums.

    Mark Giuliana is another drummer to be reckoned with, whipping up the quartet of ever-edgy tenor saxist Donny McCaslin. Hubert Laws played his golden flute magisterially, especially "My Ship" and one of his orchestral Afro-Classics: Tchaikovsky's love theme of "Romeo and Juliet."

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    Miguel Zenon played his "Alma Adentro" sounding of the Puerto Rican songbook. And for a finale, the "Kansas City Swing" of singer Kevin Mahogany and guitarist Dave Stryker again blew the roof off. Or blew the tent down? Anyway, this year's 17th annual Litchfield Jazz Festival ended with a great groove.

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    -- Michael Bourne