May 6, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
This weekend marks 100 years since the birth in Atlanta of Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981), one of the greatest musicians and first women in jazz. Creative, profound, productive from her teens in Kansas City through her teaching at Duke University, her life inspired Duke Ellington to write “Mary Lou Williams is perpetually contemporary. Her music retains a standard of quality that is timeless. She is like Soul on Soul.”
The Institute of Jazz Studies website is your quickest way to learn about her, just a click away. The online exhibit is thorough and beautifully done. Plan to spend at least 15 minutes with this multimedia biography. It comes from material in the Mary Lou Williams Collection (she was a saver and left everything to the IJS).
This Sunday at 6pm, JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater features MLW in performances from more than 30 years ago, as she rocked the houses at the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin. She tells and plays the history of jazz from spirituals through ragtime, blues, the “swingin left hand” a/k/a stride, and modern sounds. Only MLW could say "This music doesn't have anything to do with New Orleans or Africa. It's American music." And then she chuckles. Ronnie Boykins (1935-1980, veteran of the Sun Ra Arkestra) is on bass, Charli Persip on drums. (At Jazz Standard Tues night, when Mulgrew Miller played “Ev'ry Day I Have the Blues,” he paralleled MLW's Basie-like treatment of “Bag’s Groove” that closes the JazzSet.) Rebroadcast Wednesday at 6:30 or on demand any time.
© 2010 WBGO
May 4, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
Allan Harris sang and hosts from the Umbria Festival -- July 9-18 in Perugia, Italy -- announced the schedule at a press party in NY on Monday evening. Harris, Sonny Rollins, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Manhattan Transfer, Melody Gardot, Enrico Rava, Stefano Bollani and many other artists are on the Umbria line-up. To savor dates and details, click here and check out the the JazzSet Festival Calendar.
© 2010 WBGO
April 9, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
It's Randy Weston's 84th birthday, and the celebration is at the Jazz Standard. Last night, I enjoyed the first set. For the opening minutes (at least five minutes), Weston's hands didn't venture above the middle of the keyboard. That powerful low piano goes straight to your center. The vibration is strong enough to make you a resonator! As Randy Weston says, "In the African tradition, we are all musicians. Your heart is your drum and your voice is your sound."
As the set unfolded from the processional "Blues to Africa" through "Saucer Eyes," "African Sunrise" for Dizzy Gillespie and Machito, "Hi Fly" and "Berkshire Blues," I felt as if I'd died and gone to heaven (or Sunside, a Paris club which for some reason came to mind). Love yourself. Go see Randy Weston.
Here's a clip of "African Sunrise" from the same quintet, as heard on JazzSet in 2004.
© 2010 WBGO