• Happy 40th Birthday, Christian McBride!

    May 31, 2012. Posted by Thurston Briscoe.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    Christian McBride was a teenager when I first met him.  Back when folks were still listening to records, WBGO hosted Record Fairs every year at Newark's Gateway Plaza, and Christian and was performing with trumpeter Roy Hargrove, Antonio Hart on saxophone and Greg Hutchinson on drums. These guys were dressed to the nines when they arrived at the gig.

    Christian, Roy, Greg and Antonio put on a breathtaking performance, which made clear to me that a new generation in jazz was ready for the main stage. Today we would call them "emerging artists," but at the time they were called "young lions." It was a marketing label they rejected as hype - but it did capture the ferocity, focus and love they brought to jazz.

    Christian's warm, humorous personality and diverse musical tastes captured my attention, and have kept it ever since. He, Ray Brown and Ron Carter are my favorite "out-front" bassists: their sound, and their spirit, allow them to step out and become leaders.  Plus, I just like him.

    Christian still dresses to the nines, is warm and funny, and plays his heart out every performance.  And he works hard to pass his passion for jazz on to the next generation of "rising stars."

    Today is his birthday.  A milestone birthday.  So I decided to make this week Christian McBride Week at WBGO.

    Thanks, Christian, and Happy 40th!!

  • Join the WBGO Jazz Corps Street Team

    May 23, 2012. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    WBGO is launching the WBGO Jazz Corps Street Team at our partner events this summer. And we would love your help to reach out to new listeners. The Street Team is a direct line between WBGO’s programming and listeners (current and potential) who are attending the area’s great live concerts.


    If you enjoy WBGO, become a Street Team volunteer and engage people throughout our summer events, dispersing promotional materials and building awareness in conversations about WBGO programming such as:

    - Rhythm Revue with Felix Hernandez
    - The Blues Hour with Michael Bourne
    - WBGO’s second stream: The Jazz Stream
    - The Checkout

    All it takes to be part of the WBGO Jazz Corps Street Team is a few hours this summer. It’s a great way to explore the New York/New Jersey metro area. Team up with a friend, meet new people, hear great live music, and spread the word about a great public radio station. Contact our Volunteer Coordinator Sylvia Brewer, and get involved.

  • This Week In JazzSet History: CUBA!

    May 22, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    Back in 1998, JazzSet received special permission to document four days and three nights of jazz in Cuba. The crew consisted of Producer Becca Pulliam, Technical Director Duke Markos, and Alfredo Cruz (then he was with KLON in Long Beach, now he is CEO at KUVO Jazz 89 in Denver), and Field Producer Carolina Sanchez who lived in Havana. Much time has passed, but this trip remains one of the most special moments in JazzSet history. This will be one of the last posts in the This Week in JazzSet History series; the final will appear next week. I hope that you have had as much fun as I have, reliving and rediscovering great moments.

    Skyline of Havana from Becca Pulliam's hotel
    The Malecón from Becca Pulliam's hotel, the Habana Riviera .. Note from Becca: I thought of the Malecón as equivalent to Chicago's Lakeshore Drive without the traffic, but it's on along a lakeshore, it's on the sea between Cuba and Florida

    What better way to begin, than with a street performance! Here is Rumba Moreno, a seven-women percussion group, featuring Steve Turre on seashells. The session sparked up organically outside painter Salvador Gonzalez’s house, in the world-famous arty alley Callejón de Hamel.

    Rumba Morena
    Rumba Morena

    Next, we’ll hear an excerpt from a concert tribute to a composer who we all know was greatly influenced by Cuban music, Dizzy Gillespie. Bobby Carcassés scats a wild solo on “Salt Peanuts.” Carcassés helped to found the first International Jazz Festival in Havana in 1980, and Dizzy Gillespie was on the bill! As the solo builds listen closely for the incredible chekere (a gourd with beads) solo played by Pancho Terry.

    Now we’ll hear flautist Orlando Valle, aka “Maraca.” He is most popular for his role in the group Irakere, but here he is leading his own band Otra Vision. This was some of the hottest Afro-Cuban jazz captured during JazzSet’s entire visit! The name of this tune is “Tumbao pa’ Changuito,” for guest timbalero, Changuito (of Los Van Van). Note: Timbalero is the word for one who plays the timbales.

    Next, here is a performance by the six-man a cappella group Vocal Sampling. They are singing “Todo el Mundo Cantando Coro,” which translates to " the whole world sings in a chorus." JazzSet recorded Vocal Sampling during a rehearsal at the home of Raúl Castro (yes, brother of Fidel). (Although we did not know this in advance, says Becca. And Duke recalls that the group's engineer was the politician's son.)  Duke Markos used individual microphones to capture each vocalist's clear sound. Believe your ears! No instruments here, folks!

    Vocal Sampling rehearsing inside of Fidel Castro's brother, Raul's house.

    The moment the JazzSet team stepped into EGREM studios, it was like stepping into a the time capsule of Cuban music. La Empresa de Grabaciones y Ediciones Musicales de Cuba (EGREM), is to Cuban music what Rudy Van Gelder's spot in New Jersey is to jazz. EGREM was founded in 1964 and remains Cuba’s oldest record label. Its most notable recording is the music from the Buena Vista Social Club. I recovered these photos taken inside the legendary studio.

    The sign outside of EGREM studios
    The sign outside of EGREM studios
    A vinyl tracking console
    A tape-to-vinyl console inside EGREM
    Duke Markos and Yurik, EGREM's cheif engineer
    Duke Markos and Yurik, EGREM's chief engineer

    Inside the legendary tracking room. A long standing tradition is to sprinkle rum on the floor of this room before tracking. This is the musicians way of honoring those who have come before them. Pictured (L to R) is Margarita Nuñez, archivist; Becca Pulliam; Yurik, and Alfredo Cruz.

    Mastering Engineer José Pérez Leroy with Alfredo Cruz
    Mastering Engineer José Pérez Leroy with Alfredo Cruz

    We’ll end this recap of JazzSet's trip with an intimate recording with international piano legend, Frank Emilio Flynn. Flynn played in a small club that had the feeling of a cozy home, and another Cuban jazz great, Chucho Valdez, showed up to join him. The two pianists span the last 60 years of jazz in Cuba. In this gorgeous clip, Flynn allows you to forget about how beat-up the piano is, propelling your imagination into romantic nostalgia. The audience sat comfortably in puffy chairs and sofas. Some chitchatted, while others puffed gently on cigars. The style of this piece is a filin—a genre that brought the blues to  bolero, Cuba's romantic dance music . Here is a “La Gloria Eres Tu” – “The Glory Is You,” by Jose Antonio Mendez.

    Frank Emilio Flynn performing in an intimate, smoky setting.
    Frank Emilio Flynn performing in an intimate, smoky setting. Note Blue Note's Bruce Lundvall, listening on the couch.

    Alexander G. Ariff is a Master's Degree student at Rutgers University-Newark, completing his thesis on jazz/poetry collaborations of the late 1950s.

  • Jazz: Brooklyn’s Beat with WBGO in the Heart of Brooklyn

    May 21, 2012. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    This June, Heart of Brooklyn and WBGO 88.3 FM will bring an eclectic mix of free and low-cost jazz performances to six of Brooklyn’s favorite cultural institutions with the annual series Jazz: Brooklyn's Beat. From samba dancing with the Prospect Park Zoo’s sea lions to boogying under the arch at Grand Army Plaza, this month-long celebration gives Brooklynites of all ages a chance to enjoy world-class jazz music at some of the borough’s favorite cultural destinations.

    Jazz: Brooklyn’s Beat is a unique collaboration between Heart of Brooklyn and WBGO in partnership with six cultural institutions — Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park Alliance and Prospect Park Zoo — working together since 2007 to bring jazz musicians, singers and artists from around the globe to Brooklyn. The series showcases the borough’s diversity and the musical form of jazz through concerts, dances, lessons and more.

    In 2012, audiences will be treated to diverse events including: Samba with the Sea Lions at Prospect Park Zoo, where sea lions BeeBe and Stella will “dance” along as Samba New York! teaches the crowd Brazil’s most famous dance; a free Felix Hernandez Rhythm Revue under Prospect Park’s Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch at Grand Army Plaza; the Chuck Braman Quartet featuring vibraphonist Behn Gillece at BBG's free Amble celebration; a Father's Day weekend performance by renowned jazz harpist Brandee Younger at The Brooklyn Children Museum; jazz bassist and vocalist Katie Thiroux playing Brooklyn Public Library’s outdoor plaza; and a concert by trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and his Quintet  as part of Brooklyn Museum’s BrooklyNites series.

    Dates, Times and Fees:

    Saturday, June 2 – 12:00 & 2:30pm

    The Chuck Braman Quartet featuring Behn Gillece at Brooklyn Botanic Garden (part of Amble: BBG’s June Jubilee)


    Saturday, June 9 – 12:00pm

    Samba with the Sea Lions, Prospect Park Zoo

    Free with Admission ($8 adults, $6 seniors 65+, $5 for children ages 3–12)

    Saturday, June 16 – 1:30pm

    Brandee Younger, Brooklyn Children’s Museum

    Free with Admission ($7.50)

    Wednesday, June 20 – 7:00pm (swing dance lessons at 6:30pm)

    Katie Thiroux at Brooklyn Public Library’s Plaza


    Saturday, June 23 – 4:00-7:00pm

    Felix Hernandez Rhythm Revue Dance Party at Prospect Park’s Grand Army Plaza


    Thursday, June 28 – 7:00pm

    Jeremy Pelt Quintet at Brooklyn Museum as part of the BrooklyNites series

    Free with Admission ($12 adults, $8 students and senior citizens, suggested)

    All Jazz: Brooklyn's Beat events are free with admission and free to venue members and WBGO members.

    For more information, visit www.heartofbrooklyn.org/jazz or www.wbgo.org/brooklyn, or follow @heartofbrooklyn and @wbgo on Twitter (hashtag: #JazzBklynsBeat).

    Support for Jazz: Brooklyn’s Beat provided by TD Bank, Berkeley College and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. The series is made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

  • This Week in JazzSet History: Jack DeJohnette and Ron Carter

    May 10, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    JazzSetAnniversaryNoTag_200x200_FinalThis week in JazzSet History we'll hear clips from two legends:  bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jack DeJohnette.  Carter and DeJohnette have known each other for years, and continue to perform side by side. This past January, DeJohnette was inducted as as 2012 NEA Jazz Master. The two shared the stage at the awards ceremony to perform "When Will The Blues Leave" by Ornette Coleman. All of the clips in this post come from JazzSet's extensive Festival Internatiaonal de Jazz de Montréal archive.

    Ron Carter turned 75 last week (born May 4, 1937), so I thought it fitting to feature him first. Standing 6'4'', Carter is nearly the height of his bass. He has influenced nearly every bassist of the past 50 years. Rob Hurst is one. In an interview with JazzSet host Branford Marsalis, Hurst recommended Picello as one of Carter's best albums as a leader, and Miles Smiles and ESP as his favorite albums featuring Carter as a bassist. I personally love his playing with Miles Davis' second quintet and on Wayne Shorter's Speek No Evil. The following clip certainly justifies his stature. Feel free to leave your favorite Ron Carter musical moment at the bottom.

    Carter performed in one of the small theater, living room concerts at the 1994 Festival Internatiaonal de Jazz de Montréal. Here is Carter's bass solo on “My Funny Valentine.” Listen closely at 2:06 for the "Bohemia After Dark" quote!

    Ron Carter (c) Jack Vartoogian from the 1995 NYT "Honoring Ron Carter in His Prime" by Peter Waltrous

    Let's fast forward to the 2003 Festival Internatiaonal de Jazz de Montréal. Artistic director, André Ménard selected Jack DeJohnette as the festivals artist in residence. DeJohnette created a series of concerts with a different band: one show, every night, for four nights! The first clip we'll hear is a dangerous trio: DeJohnette, drums; Herbie Hancock, piano and Dave Holland on bass. I was honored to witness this band back in 2010 at Herbie Hancock's "Seven Decades: A Birthday Celebration." Here is DeJohnette's solo on "One Fingers Snap."

    Finally, here is a duet between DeJohnette and vocalist Bobby McFerrin. The two freely improvise for a few minutes, then DeJohnette begins to play a funky back-beat. This is the moment when McFerrin enters, scatting a mumble-jumble of words, syllables and jargon.

    I will be back in two weeks to present a special recap on JazzSet's trip to Cuba in 1998. JazzSet presented three consecutive weeks of Cuban jazz in 1999, so look forward to a large amount of professional and field recordings! 

    Alexander Ariff is a Master's  student in Jazz History & Research at Rutgers University. In celebration of 20 years, he digs up and shares special gems from the JazzSet archive.