May 19, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
WBGO says goodbye to friend and music lover extraordinaire Bruce Lundvall, who passed away today at 79 from complications of Parkinsons' Disease.
Born in Englewood, New Jersey in 1935, Lundvall fell under the spell of jazz on Manhattan's 52nd Street in his teens. He rose from an entry-level job at Columbia Records to lead the label in North America for two decades. He nurtured the careers of - among many others - Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, and Wynton Marsalis, James Taylor and Willie Nelson.
Lundvall then ran Blue Note Records for nearly three decades. He took over the dormant label in 1984, and turned it into a powerhouse that celebrated artists from the label's golden age, such as McCoy Tyner and Joe Henderson, and supported new talent, including singers Norah Jones, Dianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson.
Bruce was an honoree at WBGO's Champions of Jazz Gala in 2012. In this excerpt, record producer Tommy LiPuma describes meeting Lundvall for the first time in the 1970s, and discovering their shared love of jazz, although both worked extensively - and very successfully - with pop acts at the time:
Artists whose careers he championed - including singer Bobby McFerrin and Paquito D'Rivera, who Lundvall brought to New York from Cuba with Irakere in 1978 to record a Grammy-winning album, expressed their thanks and performed songs Bruce had chosen for the occasion.
In this excerpt, McFerrin tells the story of how Lundvall agreed to back his 1984 solo album The Voice, which became a platinum-seller for Elektra:
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you very much!" said a beaming McFerrin, summing up the feelings of everyone in the room after he sang two of Lundvall's bebop favorites - Charlie Parker's "Scrapple From The Apple" and Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight."
Thank you, Bruce, from all of us. Because of you, the music you loved lives on in our hearts and minds, and in generations to come.
© 2015 WBGO
May 16, 2015. Posted by Michael Bourne.
BB was actually named King. He was born Riley B. King on a cotton plantation in 1925. He grew up around Indianola, Mississippi, and he first became known in Memphis — where he worked as a singer and DJ on radio station WDIA.
That's when his nickname Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy, and then to BB.
T-Bone Walker was an early inspiration, and I always remember the look on his face when I quoted something he’d said about how much he loved listening to Django Reinhardt.
With his eyes closed and his face beaming, he smiled and he said only “Django …”
BB’s own sound on the guitar he called Lucille was magisterial. When he played a note, a finger of his left hand quivered on the string, so that every note sounded like a bell, echoing.
BB loved listening to Frank Sinatra sing, and his own voice was as down-to-earth and heartful. When he was singing, he didn’t play. When he was playing, Lucille was singing.
No blues artist popularized the blues around the world like BB King. No blues artist ever sang or played the guitar like BB King.
He was — and always will be — the King of the Blues.
Guitarist Dave Stryker sent me this picture of of his "prized possession" - a Red clear vinyl Crown Records 195.
Pretty much says it all. For Dave, for me, and for all of us.
Thank you, BB.
© 2015 WBGO
April 1, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
WBGO says goodbye to jazz advocate and friend Dale Fitzgerald, who passed away March 20 at age 72. Lezlie Harrison knew him well: she and Dale created The Jazz Gallery with trumpeter Roy Hargrove in 1995, and worked side by side for more than two decades. She offers this heartfelt remembrance. Farewell Dale, and thank you!
It's been just over a week since my hip, cool, smart, dapper, funny, daring, stubborn, generous, complex, ride-or-die friend, of 26 years, Dale Kelley Fitzgerald, Executive Director of The Jazz Gallery, physically departed this earth.
Our friendship was founded on our love for jazz music, art, and culture. We turned that love into creating The Jazz Gallery.
We jokingly called The Jazz Gallery our child. When we first acquired the space on Hudson Street, it was used to give trumpeter Roy Hargrove a space to rehearse. Dale was also Roy's business manager and often had to assuage Roy's neighbors who complained about his late night trumpet playing. It was there that The Roy Hargrove Big Band was created. The Gallery eventually morphed into an art gallery that showcased jazz related art work, with music as background. In 1995 we officially opened our doors in August with an exhibit that celebrated the extinct jazz club, the Tin Palace.
Over the last twenty years I have worked with and supported his efforts to establish a home for the youngest generation of jazz musicians to create and showcase their artistry. This year our baby turns 20 and our fearless Founder is gone.
When I returned to WBGO last June as a part time on-air announcer, he was thrilled. He was always “taking notes” to give me after each show to improve on the listening experience. In writing this, I really miss him as he was also a great editor and he I am sure he’d have me make changes somewhere! He was my champion. I will miss him dearly Though my heart is heavy, love remains.
Plans are underway to honor Fitzgerald with a celebration at The Jazz Gallery soon.
© 2015 WBGO
March 2, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
WBGO says farewell to NEA Jazz Master Orrin Keepnews, who passed away at 91 on March 1.
The producer's Riverside Records, which he co-founded in 1953, was home to memorable sessions by pianist Thelonious Monk, saxophonist Sonny Rollins and many others.
Keepnews and former Columbia classmate Bill Grauer worked together at Record Changer magazine, then launched Riverside on a shoestring in 1953. At first, they focused on reissues of traditional jazz and blues, but quickly gained interest in modern jazz, signing pianists Randy Weston in 1954 and Thelonious Monk in 1955.
While Keepnews famously insisted a record producer was really a catalyst, rather than a creator, his thoughtful approach quickly earned respect from many of the era's most innovative music makers.
In appreciation, Pianist Bill Evans composed "Re: A Person I Knew" - an anagram of Keepnews' name - and recorded it for Riverside in 1962:
In 2011, Keepnews was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. The nation's highest honor for jazz musician, he is one of only a handful of non-musicians - along with fellow writers Nat Hentoff and Dan Morgenstern - to receive the honor for their advocacy.
Thank you, Orrin!
© 2015 WBGO
February 25, 2015. Posted by Amy Niles.
It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Cephas Bowles, the recently retired President and CEO of WBGO-FM, Newark Public Radio.
Cephas was diagnosed with a form of Leukemia approximately 2 years ago and underwent a bone marrow transplant in November of 2013 in hopes of altering the course of the disease.
Cephas was born and raised in Newark, and WBGO could have had no better champion for our city and its music. He loved Newark, and was born of its culture - especially its tradition of organ music.
When he was tapped to return to Newark to assume leadership at WBGO after working at public media station KUAT in Tucson, he joined the board of trustees of NPR and was very vocal in his campaign for diversity within the public radio system.
Cephas was a very private man, but certain elements of his life he wouldn't mind sharing- his commitment to Newark, yes. This music, most definitely. But also his other main passions- his connection to Syracuse University, where he got his start in radio and his love of his family, most importantly his wife Linda.
We can find no better way to honor Cephas than to steadfastly champion his mission to keep WBGO thriving. He would want nothing more than to know that the his work that he began at WBGO has a strong future and lives on through the next generation.
Over the next few days, you will hear dedications of music in his memory and our hope is that we are all able to take a moment to reflect on how fortunate we all are to have been touched by his great spirit.
Visitation will be held at Fountain Baptist Church, 116 Glenside Avenue, Summit, NJ, on Thursday, February 26, from 4:00 - 8:00 p.m. Funeral services will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, February 27, at Fountain Baptist Church with internment immediately following at Evergreen Cemetery, 1137 N. Broad St., Hillside, NJ.
To read WBGO's press release on Cephas's passing, click here.
© 2015 WBGO