WBGO Blog
  • 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.

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    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!

  • WBGO Says Farewell to Bruce Lundvall

    May 19, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: RIP

    WBGO says goodbye to friend and music lover extraordinaire Bruce Lundvall, who passed away today at 79 from complications of Parkinsons' Disease.

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    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.

  • WBGO's Michael Bourne Remembers B.B. King

    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.

    Photo by Dave Stryker
    Photo by Dave Stryker

    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.

  • WBGO's Lezlie Harrison Remembers Dale Fitzgerald

    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!

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    Photo courtesy of Ingrid Hertfelder

    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.

    In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to an education fund for his young son, Gabriel.

  • Farewell to NEA Jazz Master Orrin Keepnews

    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.

    More about Keepnews' storied career, including links to interviews, can be found at his NEA Jazz Masters profile page and in his New York Times obituary by Nate Chinen.

    Thank you, Orrin!