May 5, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Ronnie Mathews, a pianist who has contributed so much to jazz, is terminally ill. He is battling pancreatic cancer at First Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, Brooklyn. WBGO's Sheila Anderson visited yesterday, as did Mathews' friend, the pianist Barry Harris. Harris brought a keyboard, and played some music for the ailing Mathews.
If you would like to leave a message for Ronnie Mathews, you may do so. His home number is 718.783.4073. Messages will be delivered to him in the hospital.
WBGO and the jazz community send Ronnie Mathews wishes for strength and peace during this difficult time.
© 2008 WBGO
April 17, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
Fred Hersch has been a friend of WBGO for at least twenty years. He was in Jane Ira Bloom's group when we recorded her at Citicorp Center for a series called Jazz at the Market (host was the Rev. John Garcia Gensel of St. Peter's Church). I remember that Fred and Jane had brought a piano tuner, but the Center didn't want their tuner to touch the piano. I was disappointed, and learning on the job. Fred was .. well, if not incensed, he was at least insulted.
Fred was part of a concert at Town Hall with MC Steve Allen (the TV personality, dating all the way back to the first Tonight Show). As Steve Allen was telling stories and getting into it, he turned to Fred and asked for "a little something underneath this;" on demand, Fred played the perfect "patter" music.
But Fred wasn't born for that role. From his earliest time in New York, he belonged in top groups. He was a sideman for leaders a generation or more his senior, such as Joe Henderson - from Ohio, like Fred.
At the Iowa City Jazz Festival in the 1990s, I remember Fred getting onstage and talking about funding cuts coming to the National Endowment for the Arts. He wanted me to do that with him, and I didn't. His political passion took me by surprise.
Fred studied with Sophia Rosoff (as did Barry Harris, a revered teacher in New York, who shows pianists how to produce sound through the keys by relaxing. Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus was one of Fred's many many students.
The 1986 group must have been one of his first. Dick Oatts was on sax, Randy Brecker on trumpet, although they stepped aside for the ballad "Con Alma."
© 2008 WBGO
April 10, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
April is Jazz Appreciation Month. One of the many cool things about the Smithsonian's monthlong celebration has been online. The creators of the LEGENDS OF JAZZ PBS series put together a one-hour web special, hosted by 2007 NEA Jazz Master Ramsey Lewis, that features conversations with and music by NEA jazz royalty - pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi, trombonist Curtis Fuller, singer Jimmy Scott, Basie-veteran Frank Wess, and saxophonist Phil Woods. Nancy Wilson, herself an NEA Jazz Master, talks with Ramsey Lewis about his own half-century career. Find it here.
© 2008 WBGO