• Mark Murphy with WBGO's Michael Bourne

    October 23, 2015. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive, RIP


    Mark Murphy passed on Thursday October 22nd, 2015, at age 83.  A singer’s singer.  A singer’s teacher.  You can hear in countless singers around the scene (and around the world) the vocal DNA of Mark.  “Stand next to the drummer,” Mark once told me, was the first and most important lesson.

    Mark Murphy was my favorite jazz singer.  And (sez me) was the definitive jazz singer.  Always improvising.  Always imaginative.  Colorful with a melody.   Poetic with a lyric, even when scatting.  And always swinging.

    I’d heard the Riverside album Rah when new in the 60’s, when I was first getting into jazz, but what really pulled my ears and shook my head was Mark singing “I’m Glad There Is You,” first song on the 1972 Muse album Bridging a Gap. Mark sings the verse, quietly, tenderly, with only the guitar, floating freely. Then some chords from the keys enter with a pulse, and Mark sings into and around the pulse — until, like Icarus flying skyward, Mark swirls up to the sun, to the climax of the verse, and with a cry at the top of his voice, whoooom! Mark swoops suddenly down and deep into the song.  “In this world … of ordinary people … extraordinary people … I’m glad there is,” sings Mark, lovingly caressing “you…”

    I’m glad there is, on all the records, in all the memories, Mark Murphy …

    Here’s an interview, my last with Mark, broadcast on WBGO July 18, 2011, just before a gig at Birdland:

  • WBGO's Farewell to Ornette Coleman: Listen Now

    June 11, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: josh jackson, RIP

    WBGO says goodbye to alto saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman, who passed away today at age 85 from a heart attack.

    Coleman, who won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for music, is best known as the originator of "free jazz," a movement which took its name from his 1960 album for Atlantic Records, which featured two quartets recorded independently on each stereo channel.

    Ornette's own deeply emotional, immediately recognizable sound and compositions were deeply rooted in the jazz tradition, especially the legacy of Charlie Parker and the rhythm 'n blues of his Texas youth.

    Coleman sat down with WBGO's Josh Jackson in 2008 for a memorable conversation, which we'd like to share with you again now.

    Thank you, Ornette!


  • Amy Wright on Les Paul Centennial: Listen Now

    June 9, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Interviews, RIP

    Amy Wright talks with musicians, friends and family members about guitarist and inventor Les Paul, and the centennial celebration of his birth on June 9, 2015.

    New York's Times Square will host a free, daylong celebration of Les Paul's legacy June 9, with an interactive traveling exhibit, "Les Paul's Big Sound Experience."

    The exhibit will also be open to the public in Paul's former hometown of Mahwah, NJ, at the Mahwah Museum Friday through Sunday.

    Happy Birthday Les, and thank you!

    Photo: William P. Gottlieb/LOC
  • WBGO's Farewell to Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave: Listen Now

    May 26, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    WBGO says goodbye to trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, who passed away May 24 from heart failure at age 78.

    Marcus and his wife Joan, a vocalist, stopped by WBGO in 2014 to talk with Awilda Rivera about their storied careers, making music with everyone from Ray Charles to Martha & The Vandellas. We'd like to share that remarkable conversation with you again now.


    Born in Chester Pennsylvania, Belgrave began his professional life in music at age 12, in a band that also included trumpeter Clifford Brown.

    Jazz artists he performed with include Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. He was also an original member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, which he joined at the request of Wynton Marsalis in 1988.

    Marcus was an original member of Ray Charles's horn section in the 1950s, then settled in Detroit in 1962, where he joined Motown Records' house band. He can be heard on the hit records of Marvin Gaye, Martha & The Vandellas, The Four Tops and many others.

    Belgrave mentored many Detroit jazz musicians, including pianist Geri Allen and violinist Regina Carter.

    He also regularly participated in the annual New York Festival of New Trumpet, and spoke with Josh Jackson in 2013 about that event.

    Thank you Marcus, we will miss you!

  • WBGO Says Goodbye to Saxophonist Bob Belden

    May 20, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: RIP, The Checkout

    WBGO says farewell to saxophonist and record producer Bob Belden, who passed away today after a massive heart attack over the weekend.


    A highly imaginative arranger, performer and producer, Belden served as the head of artists and repertoire for Blue Note Records, and won multiple Grammy Awards for his reissues of Miles Davis recordings for Columbia Records. He also produced two well-received Davis tribute albums with international musicians, Miles From India and Miles Español.

    "Animation," an ensemble he created with trumpeter Tim Hagans, recorded two albums for Blue Note and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2001. He reformed the group for a concert in 2006 with young musicians from his alma mater, the University of North Texas. He released three RareNoise albums with the reformed group, with a fourth on the way.

    He also took Animation to perform at a music festival in Iran in February of this year, with Pete Clagett on trumpet, Jair-Rohm Parker Wells on bass, Roberto Verastegui on piano, and and Matt Young on drums. They were the first American jazz musicians to perform in the country since its 1979 Islamic revolution. A film crew traveled with the musicians for a forthcoming documentary.

    Belden and Hagans also brought Animation to perform in WBGO's studios in 2011, where they spoke with Josh Jackson. We'd like to share that special session and conversation with you again now.

    Farewell Bob and thank you!