• Thumbs Up for Wes Montgomery

    March 6, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Happy birthday today to Wes Montgomery. Any guitarist worth his or her salt has at least ONE album from Wes Montgomery, the master non-plectrist. No, I didn't invent that word, plectrist. It's actually derived from plectrum, which is what guitar nerds and speakers of dead languages call a pick. [Incidentally, another great guitarist, Billy Bauer, made a record in the 1950s called Plectrist. But I'm getting even more off topic here.]
    Wes Montgomery, however, was a non-plectrist. He didn't use an external tool to pick the strings. He used his thumb. That's what makes Wes Montgomery's sound so identifiable - warm, casual, and about as 'natural' as an amplified electric instrument can sound without using algorithms or superhero powers.
    Check out this video of Wes playing Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight." About two minutes in, you'll see the closeup on his hand. Not plectacular, but spectacular. - Josh


    PS - Anyone have a favorite Wes Montgomery album, song, or solo?

  • WBGO Studio Session - Grand Pianoramax

    March 4, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Yesterday, we had Grand Pianoramax in our studio. Grand Pianoramax is the meta name for Leo Tardin, a Swiss-born pianist who won the Montreux International Piano Competition in 1999. Leo has discovered an intriguing combination of jazz, breakbeat, and poetry. Grand Pianoramax just finished a tour with the original JB horn, Maceo Parker,who also has a cool new record.
    Here's some video of the WBGO session. It's called "Showdown," from the new CD, The Biggest Piano in Town.
    This is actually the first take. The second take is the real keeper. You'll be able to hear that when we post the audio of the full session. All three tunes. In the meantime, enjoy this:



    February 20, 2008. Posted by Stevan Smith.

    What's going on all! Welcome to my blog series "DIGGIN' THE CLASSICS"! When new releases in the music world get slow, we all tend to dig into our collections for some vintage pleasure. Join me for my weekly (or whenever I feel like it) quest for soundtrack satisfaction. This is a blog for music lovers! "Walk With Me".

    This edition celebrates: Yusef Lateef- The Gentle Giant (1972)

    1. Nubian Lady
    2. Lowland Lullabye
    3. Hey Jude
    4. Jungle Plum
    5. The Poor Fishermen
    6. African Song
    7. Queen of the Night
    8. Below Yellow Bell

    Now I will admit, I am really picky when it comes to instrumental recordings. There has to be something powerful about a rhythm that speaks without words. Yusef Lateef is most definitely gifted in this area. Lateef defines his brand of music as "-insert here-", but don't call it jazz. "The Gentle Giant" is evidence of his unique talents. With Lateef playing various instruments (flute, tenor, and oboe) and a 9-minute cover of "Hey Jude" (?), there is enough variety on this album to prevent it from boring the "A.D.D." listener. One stand out track is, "Nubian Lady". The title say's it all. With it's melodic rhythms and ultra cool vibes, songs like these leave no room for words. That would just mess things up.
    "I'm smiling, but don't call it jazz fool!"

    Another track that stands out is "Queen of the Night" (must be something about the ladies). A funky track that has a bass line tailor made for hip-hop. It is this variety that makes this album one of his most interesting works. This Lp speaks to generations, and most likely opened the door for world music. Some refer to this album as being erratic compared to his prior works. I feel this is just a classic display of any artists' journey to evolve. This album is a honest contribution to the foundation of jaz......I mean "-insert here-". It dares to be different. ...And it is the "different" that makes it an instant classic.
    "What do you mean by different?"