• Louis Armstrong House Slides

    July 27, 2009. Posted by Grey Johnson.

    Take a look at what fun we had when 60 WBGO Members visited the Louis Armstrong House Museum last Saturday. We were welcomed both by Michael Cogswell the Director of the Museum and by 86 year old Selma Heraldo, Louis and Lucille's next door neighbor! We snacked in the Armstrong's Japanese Garden (Louis convalesced there at the end of his life), saw an amazing exhibit of Louis's collages on recording tape boxes, and learned about the humility of this world-renowned star who was very happy in his Queens neighborhood and didn't need a fancy mansion on Long Island. After a wonderful tour (if you haven't been you really should go) we went off to Pio Pio Peruvian Chicken Restaurant nearby to stuff ourselves. Thanks to everyone who came and all who made this such a terrific day. If you were there, or would like to have been, leave a comment and record of what you saw or would like to see, on this blog.

  • Great Live Moments - Michael White and The Original Liberty Jazz Band

    April 23, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Paul Barbarin

    Meet Paul Barbarin, one of the most important people in the history of New Orleans music, and the "how" we call jazz.
    The Barbarin family constitutes one of the original lines of Creole musicians who were present at the creation of a new music. Paul's father, Isidore, played the alto horn in The Onward Brass Band, one of the early traditional brass bands in the city.

    Before I moved to New York, I used to work at WWOZ in New Orleans. I started as a volunteer, operating the board for a woman named Betty Rankin. Every Saturday morning, while most people my age had hangovers from Friday night, I was in a tiny peach-colored building in Louis Armstrong Park, playing LPs, cassettes, and the occasional CD for a lady who wanted no business with those details. She spent her ninety minutes as "Big Mama," the host of "The Moldy Fig Jam." I was 22, and this was the most amazing radio I had ever heard in my life. She told stories about every jazz musician in the city who had ever picked up an instrument with the purpose of playing traditional New Orleans jazz.

    As it happened, Big Mama was an associate curator of the Hogan Jazz Archive. She handled the extensive oral history of New Orleans' music, and she knew both the collection as well as the musicians' whose lives she had helped to document. On any given Saturday, she talked about Paul Barbarin as if he were in the studio with us. It was the beginning of my post-college, real world education. On one such occasion, it was the first time I had ever heard his song, "Bourbon Street Parade." She told her audience about the street parades, how Barbarin kept that tradition alive. In the 1960s, he revived the Onward Brass Band, the name of the group that his father played a part. In fact, Paul Barbarin died in a parade, leading the band. [While I'm no fan of death, that's a great way to shuffle off this mortal coil.]

    Years later, on the cusp of 2002, I was the field producer for NPR's Toast of the Nation. We're at the Village Vanguard, with Michael White and The Original Liberty Jazz Band. Hear them play "Bourbon Street Parade" from that evening.
    When I hear this song, I remember how I got this far into jazz. Because I live with music.

    PS Watch the video of Paul Barbarin's funeral. The musicians are playing "Just a Closer Walk With Thee."


    Watching that is knowing why New Orleans matters. Onward.

  • Eddie Lockjaw Davis

    March 2, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    It's the birthday of tenor saxophone legend Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. He was a pretty powerful presence in bands led by Cootie Williams, Lucky Millinder, Andy Kirk, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie. He also led his own sessions, which included swing, bop, hard bop, Latin jazz, and soul jazz genres. Basically, Eddie Davis played a lot of music. Check out this video - Eddie plays Ray Noble's "Cherokee" with the Count Basie Orchestra.


  • Barrett Deems

    March 1, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Today is the birthday of drummer Barrett Deems, called "The World's Fastest Drummer" by his contemporaries Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. I can't say that I would call Barrett Deems a jazz giant, but I always found him entertaining. Have you ever seen High Society with Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong? If you answered yes, then you've seen Barrett Deems. He played drums for Louis Armstrong's All-Stars during the 1950s, and his hyperkinetic drumming was an excellent foil to the super-cool swing of Pops.
    Here's "The World's Fastest Drummer" playing the drums, the stage, and a chair.


  • Love is on the Air

    February 13, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    trane_hartman2.jpgThis Valentine's Day our announcers are celebrating by sharing their favorite love songs with you.
    Let us know if you share their sentiments, or tell us what your must-have CD is on the most romantic day of the year.

    Rhonda Hamilton's Picks

    "Cheek to Cheek" by Irving Berlin. This song has sentimental value for me. I lost my mother when I was 12 years old, but I remember when I was a very little girl she taught me to sing this song. It was one of her favorites and the first song I ever learned.

    "Loving You" by Stephen Sondheim. This song is from Sondheim's musical Passion. The melody is very pretty, but I chose the song for its words. The lyrics express a very passionate, all-consuming, life changing love.

    "Luiza" by Antonio Carlos Jobim. I chose this song for its melody. The lyrics are in Portuguese so I don't understand them, but the melody is so heartbreakingly beautiful, you can sense that it is a song of longing and a very deep and passionate love.

    There are countless versions of "Cheek to Cheek", but one classic is by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
    Nancy Wilson & Peabo Bryson sing "Loving" You on the CD Color and Light - Jazz Sketches on Sondheim
    Michel Camilo plays "Luiza" on his Solo CD.

    Brian Delp's Picks

    "Witchcraft" (Frank Sinatra) Love is truly a spell that ensnares us all...
    "If You Could See Me Now" Love lost sometimes teaches us more than love found...
    "Autumn Nocturne" The best season to find love (not spring!)

    Monifa Brown's Picks

    1. Shirley Horn "Too Late Now"
    To me Shirley Horn is synonymous with the ballad - she is the Queen of the ballad! With the whisper of a single phrase she has the ability to send tingles down your spine. She had the ultimate control of her voice, not to mention she was as sensitive as a piano player. Her phrasing was impeccable and the timbre of her voice was so sweet. I loved the way she could take a line from a song and stretch it out like taffy, bending and twisting new meaning into each word.
    The lyrics to this Burton Lane song really convey what it feels like to be in love:

    Too late now to forget your smile
    The way we cling when we danced awhile
    Too late now to forget and go on to someone new
    Too late now to forget your voice
    The way one word makes my heart rejoice
    Too late now to imagine myself away from you

    It is one of my ultimate favorite love songs and Shirley Horn for me sings the definitive version.

    2. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman - "My One and Only Love"

    This is without a doubt one of the most sophisticated and romantic love songs I know. The balance of John Coltrane's robust yet lyrical, eloquent and tender playing alongside Johnny Hartman's cool, unruffled and warm baritone - is nothing short of sublime.

    It is hard to believe that until this recording, Johnny Hartman was relatively unknown despite his prowess as a singer. And even more shocking is the fact that it was not until three decades later --when his singing was featured in the heart-wrenching "Bridges of Madison County" with Clinton Eastwood and Meryl Streep (love this movie!)-- that he was introduced to an entire new generation of audiences.

    The lyrics to "My One and Only Love" are also beautiful:

    The very thought of you makes
    My heart sing,
    Like an April breeze
    On the wings of spring
    And you come to me all your splendor,
    My one and only love

    The shadow's fall and spread their
    Mystique charms in the hush of night,
    While you're in my arms.
    I feel your lips, so warm and tender,
    My one and only love

    If this is not romance - I don't know what is!

    3. Abbey Lincoln - "Strong Man"

    I love Abbey Lincoln and I love Oscar Brown Jr., who penned the song for Abbey. As the story has been told, Abbey told Oscar that she was tired of singing songs about ‘no good men' and that she wanted to sing a song about a man she could be proud of.

    Abbey recorded "Strong Man' on a 1957 session called "That's Him," alongside an all-star cast that included Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Kenny Dorham, Paul Chambers and Wynton Kelly. I grew up listening to this album...my dad loved it. The song brings back great memories of listening to music with my dad as a kid and now as an adult who is blessed with my own ‘strong man,' the song has taken on an even deeper meaning.

    Abbey Lincoln is a remarkable storyteller and really knows how to get to the heart of a song and enrapture her listeners in anything she sings. Her gifts make her truly unique and there is no one around who sings quite like Abbey (who happens to be a brilliant composer in her own right). Abbey Lincoln is also an incredibly emotive singer who has an unparalleled ability to manipulate time, melody, phrasing and subtle nuances of the music, which allow her to completely own any song she sings.

    Gary Walker's Picks

    Dianne Reeves, "Just A Little Lovin'" from "That Day" on Blue Note Records:

    " Just a little lovin' early in the mornin'
    Beats a cup of coffee for starting out the day
    Just a little lovin' when the world is yawning
    Makes you wake up thinking
    Good things are coming your way"

    Put me down for that day starter kit!

    Sarah Vaughan, "The Island" from "Crazy & Mixed Up" on Pablo Records

    " Make believe we've landed on a desert island
    Bathe me in the waters, warm me in the moonlight
    Taste me with your kisses, find the secret places...."

    By now, that box of chocolates is a melted mess. Replace with wine. Stir. Return.

    Kurt Elling, "Not While I'm Around" from "Flirting With Twilight" on Blue Note Records

    "Nothin's gonna harm you, not while I'm around
    No one's gonna hurt you, no sir, not while I'm around
    Demons are prowling everywhere, nowadays
    I'll send them howling
    I've got ways...."

    One definition of the comfort found in a special relationship. Sound too corny? Consider: one night the two of you are coming out of a great hang at your favorite late night joint. Suddenly you're surrounded by would be evil doers. One of you is a third degree black belt, singing Kurt's song and whuppin' some butt.

    Now that's luv, L....U....V

    Rob Crocker's Picks

    1) Joe Cuba "To Be With You"
    Joe's single swept over Brooklyn. All of us in school thought this was exactly what we were trying to say to our girlfriends.

    2) King Pleasure "This is Always"
    "This isn't Sometime. This is Always". Simple but endearing lyrics about love. From High School till adulthood they've touched me.

    3) Sarah Vaughan "That's All"
    I first heard this as a kid on WCBS-AM, my mother's favorite radio station. "I can only give you love that last forever" or "I can only give you country walks in springtime..." These were some of the lyrics that caught my young mind.

    Michael Bourne's Picks

    I have a personal connection to three love songs. I've actually "performed" all three during the free-wheeling "parlor games" that I host on the last Monday morning of the January jazzfest at Mohonk Mountain House. "Old Devil Moon" because, while I've played the American Popular Songbook for decades on the radio, it's the only standard that I've (more or less) "sung" in public ever. "As Time Goes By" because the fundamental things about love always indeed apply. "I'll Remember April" because my Other Half walked in the door on an April 13th and, after not seeing each other more than 25 years, lovingly walked right into my very cells.

    John Cooper's Picks

    Marcus Roberts "Single Petal Of A Rose".
    Taken from his recording The Truth Is Spoken Here. One of the prettiest versions of this I've ever heard.

    John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman - "Dedicated To You"
    This recording features the classic My One & Only Love, but over the years I've found this song to be my favorite. The power of love to move an artist to create music, paint or write a book is a powerful force indeed.

    Rachel Z - "Iyakutanda"
    Taken from her recording Trust The Universe. The song title is Zulu for I LOVE YOU. Rachel plays this in duet with Gumbi Ortiz. The melody is beautiful while being easy and complex at the same time. Just like love.