WBGO Blog
  • This Week in JazzSet History: Jaco, Bill Henderson, Teri Thornton, Jane Bunnett, and Daniela Schächter!

    June 4, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    "This Week in JazzSet History," this blog series, has come to and end; this is the final post. I have had an incredible time combing through 20 years of JazzSet. This series could easily extend into 2013, but for now, we must turn the page and look forward to new JazzSet episodes, like this one.

    Cover of Pastorius' "The Word is Out"
    Cover of Pastorius' "The Word is Out"

    First, I’ve selected a rare 1982 tape of Jaco Pastorius' Word of Mouth Big Band, from NYC. The concert was recorded at the Kool Jazz Festival for NPR’s Jazz Alive! The tune “Liberty City,”  featuring Toots Thielemans, was recently featured on A Blog Supreme. I chose to feature the big band's opening number. The band is led by Pastorius on bass, with Bob Mintzer, Mario Rivera, Randy Emerick, Aaron Levin, and Frank Wess on woodwinds; Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff, Jon Faddis, and Ron Tooley in the trumpet section; Peter Gordon and John Clarke on French horn; Wayne Andre, Bill Reichenbach, David Taylor in the trombone section; Othello Molineux, steel drums; Peter Erskine, drums; and Don Alias, percussion. Pastorius pioneered the melding of genres (blues, funk and large composition) with non-traditional sounds; Randy Brecker used effects pedals throughout his tenure with Pastorius. Above all, I love Molineux's ability to push the limit of steel drums on “The Chicken." It's scary funky.

    Here are two vocalists who capture ultimate, relaxed, swing. The first voice messenger you’ll hear is Bill Henderson, live at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in November of 2004. His supporting trio is Ed Vodicka, piano; Mark Z Stevens, drums; Chris Conner, bass. Henderson later released this concert on a record entitled Live at the Kennedy Center. The first clip you’ll hear is Bill Henderson and his trio performing “I Thought About You,” then you will hear a fade into the voice of Teri Thornton (1934-2000).

    terithorton

    Thornton’s 1998 performance from the Jazz Times Festival in NYC was joyous and jubilant. It was the 64-year old vocalist's first performance after winning the Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition. Mike Joyce of The Washington Post called her “exquisitely aged,” and Thornton told The New York Times: “the stage is my great love, and I like to entertain, and it’s good to feel that the love is reciprocated.” Judges that year included Dianne Reeves, Joe Williams, Diana Krall, Nnenna Freelon, and JazzSet’s Dee Dee Bridgewater! Sadly, Thornton lost her battle to cancer in 2000, at the age of 65.

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    Believe it or not, I’m still on a Cuban kick from last week’s smorgasbord! That led me to Jane Bunnett, a Canadian saxophonist who fuses folkloric Cuban, American and Japanese music. She recently recently performed at the 17th Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival in Washington D.C. Here is Bunnett’s take on a Japanese folksong, “Red Dragonfly,” from the 2005 Vancouver Jazz Festival in British Columbia. In 2004, when the album Red Dragonfly was released, it was declared “the most ambitious expression yet of her very personal Cuban-Jazz fusion.” Here is Jane Bunnett on soprano saxophone; Larry Cramer, trumpet; David Virelles, piano; Kieran Overs, bass; Mark McLean, drums; Jerzy Kaplanek, violin; Jeremy Bell, viola; Christine Vlajk, viola; Simon Fraser, cello.

    Photo courtesy of the artist
    Daniela Schächter, photo courtesy of the artist

    I conclude this week, and this series with a special re-post, by request by the artist. I posted a clip back in April of Daniela Schächter’s group performing “Stella by Starlight.” Here is an excerpt of a piece she composed entitled “Quore.” I love the harmony of this tune, and the long-phrased melody reminds me of mid-60s Miles Davis. She doubles the main line, singing along with trumpeter Alex Sipiagin.

    From 1992 to 2012 (and counting), JazzSet has brought music from the stage to the living room. The wide spectrum of jazz and its worldly intersections have all been captured and presented by Becca Pulliam, Duke Markos, Branford Marsalis, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the rest of the JazzSet team. I hope that you continue to enjoy new music, and explore WBGO’s rich website.

    If you'd like to continue reading my work, or explore other projects that I'm involved in, please visit my blog, Hardbop Jazz Journal. Happy summer!

  • This Week In JazzSet History: CUBA!

    May 22, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    Back in 1998, JazzSet received special permission to document four days and three nights of jazz in Cuba. The crew consisted of Producer Becca Pulliam, Technical Director Duke Markos, and Alfredo Cruz (then he was with KLON in Long Beach, now he is CEO at KUVO Jazz 89 in Denver), and Field Producer Carolina Sanchez who lived in Havana. Much time has passed, but this trip remains one of the most special moments in JazzSet history. This will be one of the last posts in the This Week in JazzSet History series; the final will appear next week. I hope that you have had as much fun as I have, reliving and rediscovering great moments.

    Skyline of Havana from Becca Pulliam's hotel
    The Malecón from Becca Pulliam's hotel, the Habana Riviera .. Note from Becca: I thought of the Malecón as equivalent to Chicago's Lakeshore Drive without the traffic, but it's on along a lakeshore, it's on the sea between Cuba and Florida

    What better way to begin, than with a street performance! Here is Rumba Moreno, a seven-women percussion group, featuring Steve Turre on seashells. The session sparked up organically outside painter Salvador Gonzalez’s house, in the world-famous arty alley Callejón de Hamel.

    Rumba Morena
    Rumba Morena

    Next, we’ll hear an excerpt from a concert tribute to a composer who we all know was greatly influenced by Cuban music, Dizzy Gillespie. Bobby Carcassés scats a wild solo on “Salt Peanuts.” Carcassés helped to found the first International Jazz Festival in Havana in 1980, and Dizzy Gillespie was on the bill! As the solo builds listen closely for the incredible chekere (a gourd with beads) solo played by Pancho Terry.

    Now we’ll hear flautist Orlando Valle, aka “Maraca.” He is most popular for his role in the group Irakere, but here he is leading his own band Otra Vision. This was some of the hottest Afro-Cuban jazz captured during JazzSet’s entire visit! The name of this tune is “Tumbao pa’ Changuito,” for guest timbalero, Changuito (of Los Van Van). Note: Timbalero is the word for one who plays the timbales.

    Next, here is a performance by the six-man a cappella group Vocal Sampling. They are singing “Todo el Mundo Cantando Coro,” which translates to " the whole world sings in a chorus." JazzSet recorded Vocal Sampling during a rehearsal at the home of Raúl Castro (yes, brother of Fidel). (Although we did not know this in advance, says Becca. And Duke recalls that the group's engineer was the politician's son.)  Duke Markos used individual microphones to capture each vocalist's clear sound. Believe your ears! No instruments here, folks!

    vocalsampling
    Vocal Sampling rehearsing inside of Fidel Castro's brother, Raul's house.

    The moment the JazzSet team stepped into EGREM studios, it was like stepping into a the time capsule of Cuban music. La Empresa de Grabaciones y Ediciones Musicales de Cuba (EGREM), is to Cuban music what Rudy Van Gelder's spot in New Jersey is to jazz. EGREM was founded in 1964 and remains Cuba’s oldest record label. Its most notable recording is the music from the Buena Vista Social Club. I recovered these photos taken inside the legendary studio.

    The sign outside of EGREM studios
    The sign outside of EGREM studios
    A vinyl tracking console
    A tape-to-vinyl console inside EGREM
    Duke Markos and Yurik, EGREM's cheif engineer
    Duke Markos and Yurik, EGREM's chief engineer

    Inside the legendary tracking room. A long standing tradition is to sprinkle rum on the floor of this room before tracking. This is the musicians way of honoring those who have come before them. Pictured (L to R) is Margarita Nuñez, archivist; Becca Pulliam; Yurik, and Alfredo Cruz.

    Mastering Engineer José Pérez Leroy with Alfredo Cruz
    Mastering Engineer José Pérez Leroy with Alfredo Cruz

    We’ll end this recap of JazzSet's trip with an intimate recording with international piano legend, Frank Emilio Flynn. Flynn played in a small club that had the feeling of a cozy home, and another Cuban jazz great, Chucho Valdez, showed up to join him. The two pianists span the last 60 years of jazz in Cuba. In this gorgeous clip, Flynn allows you to forget about how beat-up the piano is, propelling your imagination into romantic nostalgia. The audience sat comfortably in puffy chairs and sofas. Some chitchatted, while others puffed gently on cigars. The style of this piece is a filin—a genre that brought the blues to  bolero, Cuba's romantic dance music . Here is a “La Gloria Eres Tu” – “The Glory Is You,” by Jose Antonio Mendez.

    Frank Emilio Flynn performing in an intimate, smoky setting.
    Frank Emilio Flynn performing in an intimate, smoky setting. Note Blue Note's Bruce Lundvall, listening on the couch.

    Alexander G. Ariff is a Master's Degree student at Rutgers University-Newark, completing his thesis on jazz/poetry collaborations of the late 1950s.

  • This Week in JazzSet History: Jack DeJohnette and Ron Carter

    May 10, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    JazzSetAnniversaryNoTag_200x200_FinalThis week in JazzSet History we'll hear clips from two legends:  bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jack DeJohnette.  Carter and DeJohnette have known each other for years, and continue to perform side by side. This past January, DeJohnette was inducted as as 2012 NEA Jazz Master. The two shared the stage at the awards ceremony to perform "When Will The Blues Leave" by Ornette Coleman. All of the clips in this post come from JazzSet's extensive Festival Internatiaonal de Jazz de Montréal archive.

    Ron Carter turned 75 last week (born May 4, 1937), so I thought it fitting to feature him first. Standing 6'4'', Carter is nearly the height of his bass. He has influenced nearly every bassist of the past 50 years. Rob Hurst is one. In an interview with JazzSet host Branford Marsalis, Hurst recommended Picello as one of Carter's best albums as a leader, and Miles Smiles and ESP as his favorite albums featuring Carter as a bassist. I personally love his playing with Miles Davis' second quintet and on Wayne Shorter's Speek No Evil. The following clip certainly justifies his stature. Feel free to leave your favorite Ron Carter musical moment at the bottom.

    Carter performed in one of the small theater, living room concerts at the 1994 Festival Internatiaonal de Jazz de Montréal. Here is Carter's bass solo on “My Funny Valentine.” Listen closely at 2:06 for the "Bohemia After Dark" quote!

    Ron Carter (c) Jack Vartoogian from the 1995 NYT "Honoring Ron Carter in His Prime" by Peter Waltrous

    Let's fast forward to the 2003 Festival Internatiaonal de Jazz de Montréal. Artistic director, André Ménard selected Jack DeJohnette as the festivals artist in residence. DeJohnette created a series of concerts with a different band: one show, every night, for four nights! The first clip we'll hear is a dangerous trio: DeJohnette, drums; Herbie Hancock, piano and Dave Holland on bass. I was honored to witness this band back in 2010 at Herbie Hancock's "Seven Decades: A Birthday Celebration." Here is DeJohnette's solo on "One Fingers Snap."

    Finally, here is a duet between DeJohnette and vocalist Bobby McFerrin. The two freely improvise for a few minutes, then DeJohnette begins to play a funky back-beat. This is the moment when McFerrin enters, scatting a mumble-jumble of words, syllables and jargon.

    I will be back in two weeks to present a special recap on JazzSet's trip to Cuba in 1998. JazzSet presented three consecutive weeks of Cuban jazz in 1999, so look forward to a large amount of professional and field recordings! 

    Alexander Ariff is a Master's  student in Jazz History & Research at Rutgers University. In celebration of 20 years, he digs up and shares special gems from the JazzSet archive.