• This Week in JazzSet History: (Four of Many) Women in JazzSet History

    March 12, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    JazzSet20LogoIt's the tenth week of the twentieth anniversary year of JazzSet, and the fourth installment of an archeological dig, as Alexander Gelles Ariff of the Jazz History Department at Rutgers University Newark trowels through a score of seasons of JazzSet.

    This week in JazzSet history, we honor Women’s History Month by tipping the cap to a few (of the many) women who have graced JazzSet’s airwaves. Toshiko Akiyoshi conducts while her husband and sideman Lew Tabackin wails. We'll also check out two traditionally classical instruments that are now regulars in the jazz world: flute and violin. Holly Hofmann is on flute, breathing new fire and soul into the groovy “Tom Thumb” by Wayne Shorter, and Regina Carter pays a special tribute to Stéphane Grappelli.

    Toshiko from WBGO's Jazzmatazz Magazine
    Toshiko from WBGO's Jazzmatazz Magazine for Children

    First, let’s honor one of the modern greats of vocal jazz, Dianne Reeves. This is an excerpt of her improvisation at the end of “A Child Is Born” by Thad Jones. Reeves has an ability to enunciate lyrics casually and convey her own story within timeless music. In this case, her story is freedom. Listen to how she riffs off the first melody and uses counterpoint within her massive range to build the excitement. The band is Peter Martin, piano; Reuben Rogers, bass; and Greg Hutchinson, drums, and they’re performing at the 49th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival in 2006.

    The Kennedy Center in Washington honors jazz women each year for the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. On May 23, 1998, they honored violinist Regina Carter and flautist Holly Hofmann. Regina Carter has been featured numerous times on JazzSet, but back in ’98 she was riding on the wake of her second release as a leader. Present day: Carter is sitting on a MacArthur Genius Fellowship and seven albums as a leader and this week, she will be on JazzSet from the 2011 Newport Jazz Festival with her group Reverse Thread. Hear how she plays “Lady Be Good” in honor of her mentor, the great Grappelli. Her quintet at this festival featured Rodney Jones, guitar; Werner Gierig,  piano; Darryl Hall, bass, and Alvester Garnett, drums.

    Photo courtesy of Zack Karabashliev
    Photo courtesy of Zack Karabashliev

    And now, a big tip of the hat to Ms. Holly Hofmann. Phil Woods called her, along with Hubert Laws, “the best jazz flute player today.” Here she is performing “Tom Thumb” by Wayne Shorter at the same Women in Jazz Festival with her Four Women Only group: Cecilia Coleman, piano; Nicki Parrott, bass; Sylvia Cuenca, drums; Hofmann, flute.

    Toshiko Akiyoshi has also been honored at past Women in Jazz Festivals. Akiyoshi was born 19 years after May Lou Williams, so it might be easy to say that they don’t have much in common. However, like Mary Lou, Akiyoshi is part of a small circle of successful female jazz musicians of her generation who led a band, composed, arranged and played piano.


    Pianist Oscar Peterson discovered her and later insisted that producer Norman Granz record her beautiful piano playing … jumpstarting her career. She married tenor saxophonist Lew Tabackin  in 1969. The couple formed a big band that would go on to perform from 1973-2004. The band often featured Tabackin’s  tenor sax and flute features. In his excerpt, we hear his husky tone reminiscent of swing-era tenors Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. The relationship between soloist and arranger, both musical and romantic, bleeds onto the page. Listen as Akiyoshi paints delicate textures underneath the bold sound of Lew Tabackin’s  horn on the tune "Broken Dreams."

    IMG_5711-1Alexander Gelles Ariff has a B.A. in Jazz Studies from Florida State University. He is the recipient of the Morroe Berger - Benny Carter Jazz Research Fund Award from the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark. Alex is writing his Master's thesis on the connection between jazz and five American poets -- Kenneth Patchen, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth, and Langston Hughes.

  • Remembering Congressman Donald Payne

    March 7, 2012. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    It is with much sadness that I share the unfortunate news about Newark Congressman Donald Payne. He passed away the morning of March 6 after battling colon cancer for the past several months. The Congressman was an advocate for many things but especially African Affairs, the arts and humanities, education, young people, and Newark. Though there was a difference in our ages, Congressman Payne and I both graduated from Newark’s Barringer High School (the third oldest public high school in the United States) and played sports there. He played football and was inducted five or so years ago into the Newark Athletic Hall of Fame.

    He was a staunch advocate for public broadcasting and a genuine listener to WBGO. During my time on the NPR Board of Directors, I visited his office often and found him, and his staff, receptive and supportive. He was a kind man who will be missed.

    -Cephas Bowles, WBGO President & CEO

  • Robert Johnson at 100

    March 6, 2012. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    Producer Steve Berkowitz, actor Joe Morton and musician Steve Jordan present “Robert Johnson at 100,” a concert tonight at the Apollo Theater featuring Elvis Costello, Taj Mahal, Savion Glover, Jeffrey Wright and many others, including the Rev. Steven Johnson, Robert Johnson’s grandson.

    Robert JohnsonWBGO's Michael Bourne talked to the producers about Johnson’s life, music and influence.  Legend has it that Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for becoming one of the greatest guitarists and singers who ever lived. Probably born in 1911 in Mississippi, Johnson, who died mysteriously at 27, was an itinerant musician who was recorded only twice, selling only a few thousand records in his lifetime. But he has since come to be regarded as a founding father of the blues and, by extension, American and British popular music.  Listen to the complete interview below.

  • Have you seen WBGO on TV?

    March 6, 2012. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    The above Public Service Announcement for WBGO Jazz 88.3FM can be seen running on WNET and NJTV. If you haven't seen it, take a look.

    Thanks to Mary-Paula Allegaert and Prudential for all their hard work producing this beautiful PSA!

    Do you recognize those voices? The first person to post on this blog all four WBGO announcers featured in the spot above will win a WBGO cap! Start your listening!

  • Attitude For Gratitude: Matt Wilson with WBGO's Michael Bourne

    March 2, 2012. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    Matt Wilson displays his whimsy on his latest CD Attitude for Gratitude with his Arts and Crafts band featuring Terell Stafford, Gary Versace, and Martin Wind.  The drummer joined Michael Bourne on Afternoon Jazz to discuss the album and says how Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry influenced his sense of humor.  Listen to the full interview!  Also, go to Dizzy's Club Coca Cola this week to see his band perform.

    Matt Wilson
    Matt Wilson