WBGO Blog
  • Jazz on the Brain

    March 5, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Improvising Brain

    People who know me will tell you I always have jazz on the brain. Guilty as charged. Recently, scientists studied improvising musicians, hoping to unlock the underlying neurological functions of high and low level musical improvisation. A summation of the study is here.
    Turns out all you have to do is turn off your prefrontal cortex (can an Idiot's Guide to Turning Off Your Prefrontal Cortex be far behind?).
    This study reminds me of a conversation I had with the New Orleans writer, performer, and creator Kalamu Ya Salaam. One night on Rampart Street, at a club called The Funky Butt, I watched in awe as Kalamu performed an original poem in a style similar to the way that pianist Cecil Taylor played his music. Kalamu and I worked together at WWOZ in New Orleans. One night, during his Thursday evening Kitchen Sink show, I asked him how he could do such things.
    He said, "There's an invisible button located on your forehead. It controls the part of your brain that says you cannot do something. Turn it off."
    -Josh

  • 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:

     

  • "DIGGIN' THE CLASSICS": YUSEF LATEEF EDITION

    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)

    Tracklisting:
    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?"

  • "DIGGIN' THE CLASSICS": A.T.C.Q. EDITION

    February 11, 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: A Tribe Called Quest- The Low End Theory (1991)

    Tracklisting (Contains Explicit Lyrics):

    1. Excursions
    2. Buggin' Out
    3. Rap Promoter
    4. Butter
    5. Verses From the Abstract
    6. Show Business
    7. Vibes and Stuff
    8. The Infamous Date Rape
    9. Check the Rhime
    10. Everything is Fair
    11. Jazz (We've Got)
    12. Skypager
    13. What?
    14. Scenario

    This is one of my all-time favorite hip-hop albums. Arguably the best album by Tribe, this project contained a very "jazzy sound" (East Coast hip-hop was James Brown sample crazy before this). This was a very different vibe from the G-Funk gangsta music made popular by Death Row Records at the time.
    While I was going through the credits, I noticed that Ron Carter played the bass on track #5 "Verses from the Abstract". Being that I said this is one of my favorite hip hop albums of all time (and I know every lyric), I never noticed that Q-Tip shouts out Ron Carter at the end of the song...."Thanks a lot Ron Carter; on the bass is my man Ron Carter on the bass..". Hey, what can I say...I was caught up in the music.
    As far as "jazz rap" goes, The Low End Theory was the bench mark. Though the album contained mostly samples of jazz music, it was the presentation of the package. From the "abstract/poetic" lyrics of Q-Tip, to the more direct delivery of Phife (in his prime I'd might add), this album is as smooth as butter. At the time of it's release, The Low End Theory was named a "5 mic" classic by The Source Magazine.
    This release was also responsible for shining a light on the "not yet solo" talents of Busta Rhymes. The song goes down in history as one of hip hop's best "posse cuts."

    This album is made classic by it's pure production excellence and it's varied subject matter.
    Exhibit A, B, C,.....and so on:

    ranked #154 in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time
    ranked #32 in Spin Magazine's "90 Greatest Albums of the '90s"
    One of the Top 100 Best Rap Albums of All Time (The Source)
    One of the 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century (Vibe magazine)
    Here's the video for "We've Got the Jazz":

    A classic example of how Jazz & Hip-Hop can co-exist.
    Peace............
    Vegas

  • Notes From the House Geek

    February 4, 2008. Posted by Amy Niles.

    I wear the title proudly. I wear a lot of hats here at WBGO- but this is my favorite one. While I am overseeing a number of the activities here at WBGO, I am sitting in my cold dark office ( no, they don't keep me in the fruit cellar!) and pouring over stats. Man, I love this stuff. Trying to understand more about our listeners and what they like ( don't ever be shy about telling us). Finding stats for our dynamic underwriting duo to use with potential sponsors ( they are one of the components along with your membership that keeps this station on the air and on the web). Just loving the fact that this station has grown from a signal in the Newark Public Schools and has expanded to include YOU- where ever you are in the world!

    I thought that I would share my new fascination:

    WHERE ARE YOU?

    We have all kinds of tools that tell us and I am obsessed with this stuff!

    Don't worry, we don't know exactly where you are. We are not going to come and visit like the Publishers Clearinghouse guys ( sorry to disappoint you!). We can only tell kinda sorta where you are- the country, state and city. Nothing creepy. We could speak in just about any language and someone in our audience would understand the words that we were saying- but you ALL understand the music.

    Did you know that the majority of you who listen online are in our terrestrial listening area?

    4 of you were listening from Botswana yesterday. And 4 from the Virgin Islands.

    5.1% of our US online audience yesterday was from California. And 2.6% came from Florida.

    OK, so now guess. Number one place outside of the US where people were listening-

    Japan.

    Who are all of you? Are you expats? How did you find WBGO? Are you members ( ok, so shoot me, I had to ask!)? Share something with the rest of us about what turns you on about this music. I am going to Japan in March- where should I go to hear jazz in Tokyo?

    Bottom line, you are a part of a great community, a party that goes where ever you do, whenever you want us. Thanks for joining us! And if you ever find yourself in Newark, feel free to come and visit us- we love having you.

    Amy- The House Geek