• Happy New Year! .. from Toast of the Nation

    January 2, 2012. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Photo by Frank Driggs, thanks to JALC
    Photos by Frank Stewart, Sr. Photographer, Jazz at Lincoln Center
    Rhonda opening the show on WBGO
    Rhonda opening the show on WBGO
  • Toast of the Nation Live at WBGO

    December 31, 2011. Posted by Tim Wilkins.


    WBGO rang in 2012 as we do every year with Toast of the Nation, our eight-hour extravaganza which celebrates the best in live jazz from coast to coast. Broadcast by more than 200 NPR stations across the nation and by NPR Berlin and Armed Forces Radio overseas, you only heard it streaming live right here.

    Miss something, or want to hear it again? Our friends over at NPR Music have archived all of the sets for your listening enjoyment:

    Toast of the Nation 2012 Archive

    Happy New Year from all your friends at WBGO!

    Thanks to listeners who joined in our live chat throughout the evening, which you can still read below, and to our East Coast and West Coast blog teams, and partners in Boston, New York, Washington, Denver, Detroit, and Los Angeles.

    Julian Lage Trio Live from Berklee in Boston

    The Julian Lage Trio, featuring Larry Grenadier and Eric Harland, with special guest Dan Blake, at the Berklee Performance Center.
    The Julian Lage Trio. Photo by Paul Marotta.

    Guitarist Julian Lage has been performing in public since he was six. Trained in both classical music and jazz, his childhood talents were the subject of an Academy Award-nominated documentary, Jules at Eight. Lage graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 2008, and returns to Boston tonight to perform at his alma mater with drummer Eric Harland and bassist Larry Grenadier.


    Berklee actively supports its young graduates, and has partnered with WBGO and NPR to create a series of live broadcasts which showcase their talents. The concerts grew out of WBGO’s weekly showcase of emerging jazz talent, The Checkout.

    “Since we debuted The Checkout on WBGO in 2009, we’ve produced shows featuring dozens of Berklee alumni; in a city of great musicians, you simply can’t help it,” says Josh Jackson, the show's host and producer.

    Our inaugural broadcast from Berklee’s Café 939 in November featured trumpeter Christian Scott, followed by saxophonist Seamus Blake in December. We will host three more live broadcasts from Berklee this spring.

    Highlights from Newport Jazz 2011

    In August, WBGO  joined forces with NPR Music and WGBH to broadcast both days of the Newport Jazz Festival. We captured more than twenty sets of music, and have chosen some highlights for you, which include Regina Carter, Miguel Zenón and Trombone Shorty.

    Trombone Shorty, photo by Jared Herwick of WGBH
    Trombone Shorty, photo by Jared Herwick of WGBH

    Shorty, also known as Troy Andrews, grew up in New Orleans' Tremé neighborhood, and leads Orleans Avenue, an ensemble of funky futurists who like himself are deeply rooted in the Crescent City's musical traditions. Shorty plays trumpet as well as trombone, sings, and ignites a crowd like few others.

    Kennedy Center Tribute to Dr. Billy Taylor

    Dr. Billy Taylor lives on in our hearts and minds at WBGO.  As the originator of jazz broadcasting at NPR, he was our tireless advocate and mentored many of us over the years. The pianist, educator and broadcaster played a unique role in the life of the station from our first broadcast in 1979 until his death late last year.

    "His knowledge and gentle presentation set the tone in how jazz performance was presented," said Thurston Briscoe, WBGO's vice president of programming. "He was one of the most supportive people I ever met."

    Billy Taylor Trio - Photo by Jimmy Katz

    In November, pianist Geri Allen gathered some of Dr. T's many musical friends at the Eisenhower Theater of the Kennedy Center in Washington to play in his memory. These include Toshiko Akiyoshi, Cyrus Chestnut, Danilo Perez and Christian Sands, - just a handful of the hundreds of oustanding jazz musicians Taylor mentored over the years.

    Wynton Marsalis Plays Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver

    Simon Rentner, the producer of WBGO's live broadcast from Jazz at Lincoln Center this evening, contributed this appreciation of Wynton Marsalis's choice of music, which will swing us in to the New Year on the East Coast:

    "To become more serious than I already am," is what Wynton Marsalis says his goal is for 2012.  "To become more of a man."


    To demonstrate his serious and enduring love of jazz, Marsalis will celebrate two very serious – yet often overlooked - jazz pioneers this evening:  Joe “King” Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton, in our live broacast from the intimate setting of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club.

    Most Christmases, Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra perform their annual festive show, Red Hot Holiday Stomp, which gives a New Orleans twist to holiday classics. But this year, there’s no egg nog or holly, just spitfire arrangements of early jazz which convey the power and energy of this music, which admirers of King Oliver’s band at the Lincoln Gardens in Chicago used to call “hotter than a forty-five!”

    Tonight, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will be “hotter than a forty-five,” as you can hear for yourself right here.

    Sing the Truth! in Detroit with Reeves, Wright and Kidjo

    Three women, three unique voices, and musical choices with superb musicians - that's what inspired WBGO and fifteen other NPR affiliates to broadcast Sing the Truth! live from the Detroit Jazz Festival this Labor Day.

    The show is a tribute by three of today's most powerful women in song - Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves, and Lizz Wright, to three of their heroes, Miriam Makeba, Odetta, and Abbey Lincoln,, all of whom recently passed away.


    The three singers are joined by Geri Allen, Romero Lubambo, James Genus, Munyungo Jackson, and musical director Terri Lyne Carrington. Sean's band is Brian Hogans, Orrin Evans, Luques Curtis, and Obed Calvaire.

    WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton, who is hosting Toast this evening, also presented that broadcast, and contributed this appreciation of Sing The Truth!:

    "Fireworks lit the sky and on the stage, the voices of Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo and Lizz Wright rang out into the night and captivated the opening night crowd at the Detroit Jazz Festival.

    With near record breaking heat and high humidity in the Motor City over the last few days, the word perspiration doesn’t fit the bill.  We have all been sweating but within the first few seconds of Sing The Truth!, I literally felt chills. These three incredibly gifted artists, each with her own distinctive style, put on a show that energized the audience and made us glad to be alive.

    Dianne Reeves sings with the clarity, confidence and passion of an artist who has earned diva status. In complete command of her instrument, she knows how to weave a spell, create drama and take the music higher.

    Dianne Reeves .. Photo by Jeff Forman
    Dianne Reeves .. Photo by Jeff Forman

    "Angelique Kidjo carries the spirit of Mother Africa within her soul. Her voice, her dance, her exuberance have the power to make you scream.

    Angelique Kidjo in motion .. Photo by Jeff Forman
    Angelique Kidjo in motion .. Photo by Jeff Forman

    "Lizz Wright embodies youth and beauty and grace.  Despite her young years she has the heart of a woman and the wisdom to match.  With a voice like warm honey she digs deep and brings up a well of emotion with each performance."

    Read more

  • Auld Lang Syne from Near Times Square

    December 28, 2011. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Soon you'll be hearing the WBGO Jazz 88 signal from our new transmitter, high atop a tall building in Times Square. Not long ago, WBGO broadcast live from Birdland near Times Square, ringing in 2006 with Arturo O'Farrill and the Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Michael Bourne presiding and Hilary Kole, vocalist. Listen.

    Photo by John Abbott
    Photo by John Abbott

    In 2008, Arturo and the Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra (above) won a GRAMMY for Best Latin Jazz Album for Song for Chico.

    In 2012, Arturo and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra are nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Large Ensemble Album for Forty Acres and A Mule. Announcements February 12! And BTW, Arturo's playing at Cornelia Street Cafe this New Year's Eve. What an intimate spot.

    And this Saturday night -- as every New Year's Eve -- we'll celebrate with jazz coast to coast on Toast of the Nation. Wynton Marsalis will be live at midnight from New York. Rhonda Hamilton is the anchor. And we're opening a chat room from 2-3:30am, as pianist Billy Childs plays live from Los Angeles at the very hip new Toast venue, the Blue Whale in Los Angeles. Happy New Year from WBGO and Toast of the Nation.