WBGO Blog
  • Mary Lou Williams Centennial Is May 8

    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.”

    10 05 06 MLW lioness27
    Photo courtesy Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers Newark

    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.

    KEEP READING FOR A LIST OF MLW CELEBRATIONS . . .

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  • Randy Weston's Birthday Celebration Weekend Is Now

    April 9, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Randy WestonIt'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.

  • Paquito D'Rivera: He's a Champion

    November 4, 2009. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Photo by Fran Kaufman
    Photo by Fran Kaufman

    Last night -- Tues, Nov 3 -- WBGO celebrated 30 years with a Benefit Concert honoring Paquito D'Rivera and Down Beat magazine (now age 75). The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Ernie Andrews, Freddie Cole, Stefon Harris, Nikki Yanofsky, three saxophonists from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orch (Walter Blanding Jr., Sherman Irby, Ted Nash), MC Lester Holt .. there will be pictures!!

    Paquito D'Rivera accepted the honor with more than music. He spoke these words:

    During the days of complete lack of information from the outside world in our self-isolated native island, for a Cuban musician of my generation, the best gifts from a foreign visitor were: an American Jazz LP, a Jamey Aebersold’s play-a-long set, and a copy of the latest Down Beat magazine. So when I finally came to New York for good in 1980, happily, WBGO was on the air, giving me a warm welcome to “The Jungle,” “The Big Apple,” the city of my dreams. Ever since, I religiously buy the Down Beat every month and tune in daily to WBGO to listen, before buying the new recordings on the market. What I never expected -- not even in my wildest dreams -- was that some day, I was going to have a whole page advertising of my own Jamey Aebersold volume 77 on an issue of my favorite Jazz magazine, and with my face on the cover too!. And on top of that, sharing this marvelous celebration with Down Beat, produced by the radio station that for 30 years has been giving us so much listening pleasure and has so generously provided so much support to our music.

    Tonight is for me a night of memories. Especially my father, who showed me the wonderful world of music, arts and literature. A classical tenor-man himself, although he never had the ability to improvise, he loved the sweet sounds of Lester Young and Stan Getz. He also enjoyed the Benny Goodman Swing Orchestra as much as he dug his rendition of the Mozart clarinet concerto in A.

    At age 5, my dad handed me a curved soprano saxophone and presented me in public the following year. Profesor Tito Rivera exposed me from a very tender age to the Ellingtonian philosophy that “There are only two kind of music: good, and the other stuff.” Thanks to this wise concept in music education, I have been lucky enough to be able to share the stage with the likes of Bebo and Chucho Valdés, Yo Yo Ma, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Dizzy Gillespie, The Chicago Chamber Music Society, Jon Faddis, David Amram, and the National Symphony Orchestra. I must tell you guys that I had so much fun while learning a great deal from these masterful artists.

    I want to finish by thanking Adina Williams from my publishers Boosey and Hawkes, the writers and editors of Down Beat, my beautiful wife Brenda, Irene and Eddie at my office, the fantastic musicians that have worked with me for the last 55 years, and particularly, the entire staff at WBGO for putting together such an overwhelming celebration.

    Paquito D’Rivera