WBGO Blog
  • Two PBS programs focus on Blues and the Jazz Age

    September 29, 2011. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    PBS has two programs in the coming week that focus on New Orleans Blues and the Jazz Age.  This Friday, September 30 at 9pm (Eastern), British actor Hugh Laurie showcases his musical side in a Great Performances episode filmed in New Orleans.  October 2-4, 8-10pm nightly, brings Ken Burns' and Lynn Novick's Prohibition, about the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution and its effect on (or creation of) the Jazz Age.

    Laurie says he finds his greatest satisfaction and inspiration from the mixture of blues and jazz that grew out of New Orleans at the beginning of the last century. This Great Performances, "Let Them Talk," includes documentary and interview segments during Laurie's travels around the city.  The program features his performances with blues legends Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas, as well as a fellow countryman Sir Tom Jones. With concert sequences filmed at the historic Latrobe’s building in the French Quarter, the musical selections include New Orleans blues standards along with some forgotten and neglected gems.

    Versatile British actor Hugh Laurie, an American favorite for his role in the hit TV series “House,” showcases his musical side in an atmospheric special filmed in New Orleans. Photo courtesy Michael Wilson
    Versatile British actor Hugh Laurie, an American favorite for his role in the hit TV series “House,” showcases his musical side in an atmospheric special filmed in New Orleans. Photo courtesy Michael Wilson

    On Friday at 6:30pm, tune into WBGO for the WBGO Journal as TV Guide's Bruce Fretts stops by to preview Prohibition.  Ken Burns will also be a guest on Jazz at Lincoln Center Radio on WBGO Jazz88.3FM on Monday, October 3 at 6:30pm.

    Female dancers performing the Charleston, 1926. Credit: ©Scherl / Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / The Image Works
    Female dancers performing the Charleston, 1926. Credit: ©Scherl / Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / The Image Works
  • WBGO Celebrates 100 Years of Robert Johnson

    May 5, 2011. Posted by Michael Downes.

    robertjohnsonMay 8th, 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of Robert Johnson's birth. According to legend, Johnson met the Devil at the crossroads of Routes 61 and 49, and promised him his soul in exchange for supernatural abilities on the guitar. The Devil got the best of him, though--during his lifetime, Johnson never did achieve fame outside the Mississippi Delta. Yet 100 years later, Robert Johnson's name is virtually synonymous with the blues. In a cruel twist of fate, his publishers, who own the rights to the 29 songs he recorded during his lifetime, have since earned millions of dollars re-releasing his material. The moral of the story, of course, is that the Devil is evil (except for the D).

    Take a listen to today's very special Blues Hour, which features Gary Walker, Bob Porter, and Michael Bourne discussing the life, legacy, and mythology of Robert Johnson.

  • JazzSet: Swiss Movement Revisited at the Kennedy Center

    November 14, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Javon Jackson
    On November 10 at the KC Jazz Club, JazzSet recorded the "Swiss Movement Revisited" show, featuring Javon Jackson on tenor and special guest Les McCann, singing at the keyboard. The title comes from the 1969 Les McCann Trio live-at-Montreux LP with Eddie Harris on sax. Swiss Movement captured a primal-screamin moment at the end of the 60s, with the sly & infectious anthem that asks the question, "Tryin' to make it Real, Compared to What?"

    Mark Schramm was our onsite producer for "Swiss Movement Revisited," and Mark reports.

    "Javon has put together a crack band to play this music. They've been together for a year now and it shows. The arrangements are tight but the band plays loose and with tremendous energy. After "Where Is the Love?" (think Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway), Javon brings on Les, who uses a motorized cart to get around. In Les's first blues - earthy, soulful, funny, intense - every note has meaning. There's a quality of directness of expression with Les that is very moving in person.

    "They played Eddie Harris' 'Cold Duck Time' (click to listen to the tune with a guitar solo by David Gilmore) from Swiss Movement, then an uptempo Javon original, then quieted down for an "Amazing Grace" duet with Les and Javon. Javon backed him perfectly. There was a lady sitting next to me at the back of the room and she had tears coming down her face at the end of that song. She wasn't the only one.

    "An excellent 'Freedom Jazz Dance' followed (yet another great Eddie Harris tune), and then came the set closer, 'Compared to What.' This is Les's signature tune, and he sings that song (an anti-war anthem, let's not forget) with all the passion of the original. The driving rhythm got people up out of their seats, dancing in the back of the room. I don't think I've ever seen that at the Jazz Club!

    "Between sets and after the show, Javon signed CDs out front of the club. His new one, Once Upon a Melody (Palmetto), is excellent by the way. Almost every person who bought one asked, 'Do you have a CD with you and Les?' And the answer was no. I can't tell you how many people came up and THANKED us for being there recording the concert."

    **

    "Swiss Movement Revisited" airs on JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater the first Sunday in February, launching 26 weeks of JazzSet in Surround Sound, thanks to underwriting from Neural Audio. Let us fire up all six of your speakers!

    Becca Pulliam