WBGO Blog
  • WBGO's Monifa Brown: My Sarah Vaughan

    April 10, 2015. Posted by Monifa Brown.

    Monifa Brown tells us how  Sarah "Sassy" Vaughan first entered her life. Read on!

    When I was a voice student at New York’s LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, I had this dream: I would meet Sarah Vaughan, and she would take me under her wing.

    I would apprentice with one of the greatest voices to ever grace the planet.

    Photo: William P. Gottlieb / LOC
    Photo: William P. Gottlieb / LOC

    Needless to say, that never happened. But to this day, Sarah’s emotive and highly textured, multi-octave contralto can move me to tears - in an instant.

    Her voice is without rival. It is transformational.

    With a single note, Sassy can create a state of euphoria: her spine-tingling vibrato and cascading turns of phrase can nestle you deep inside the bluesy harmonic crevices of a song.

    “Music was my refuge,” Dr. Maya Angelou once said. “I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness."

    I often wondered if she had Sarah Vaughan in mind when she wrote that.

    Here’s Sarah, in her own words: “When I sing, trouble can sit right on my shoulder - and I don't even notice.”

    Photo: William P. Gottlieb / LOC
    Photo: William P. Gottlieb / LOC

    I have always gravitated towards music and musicians that elicit a visceral reaction, or emotional and spiritual awakening. Those are the musicians who transcend their art.

    They are the creative spirits who make you aware that artistry flows through them – it emanates from a higher source.

    For me, 'The Divine One' is such an artist.  Her voice is the perfect balance of yin and yang; it is the ebb and flow of the cerebral and the visceral, the technical and emotional, of restraint and wild abandon. Sassy's instrument is the ultimate voice.

    My parents played all of the great female vocalists when I was coming up. In addition to Sarah, they loved Billie, Nina, Ella, Betty, Abbey and Nancy.

    But there was one particular day when I began to really appreciate what I was experiencing.

    It started on a sunny afternoon in Brooklyn's Clinton Hill section, where I grew up: a few apartments away from John Ore, down the street from Lester Bowie and the Marsalises, and a few blocks away from Oliver Lake.

    I ventured out on a warm Saturday afternoon to rummage through Pratt Institute's Street Fair. I was looking for vintage clothes, so I could make some sort of Denise Huxtable-Gordon Gartrell ensemble.

    Don't laugh - yes, I liked to make my own crazy clothes back in the day!

    denise500

    What I found was so much more. Somewhere between Dekalb and Willoughby Avenues, buried deep in a milk crate, I found a cassette of a Sarah’s 1954 Emarcy session with Clifford Brown.

    For less than $2, I held in my hand what would spark my lifelong affinity for one of the world's greatest voices.

    sarahclifford1

    I remember spending hours in my room that afternoon listening to that album, again and again.

    In the days and weeks that followed, I was on a crusade to match Sassy’s impeccable and swinging solo on George Shearing's “Lullaby Of Birdland” note for note.

    If you ever happen to hear me playing this track on air, know that as it is pumping through the speakers at WBGO, I am once again trying to scat those brilliant lines.

    As a teenager, just beginning to understand heartache, disappointment and romance, Sarah's honey-drenched delivery of songs like “Jim” - which we hear above - spoke to me.

    The cry in her voice spoke to my soul.

    Sassy's flawless diction, irrepressible sense of swing and the sheer beauty of her instrument were undeniable - unlike anything I had ever heard.

    They are still unlike anything I have ever heard.

    In a word, Divine.

    - Monifa Brown, host of Saturday Afternoon Jazz

    Follow Monifa on Twitter: @globaljazzqueen

  • WBGO JAM Live 2015: Manhattan School Of Music Jazz Quintet

    April 6, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    The Manhattan School of Music Jazz Quintet performs live at WBGO for Jazz Appreciation Month, directed by Justin DiCioccio. Click below to hear this concert, and tune in to 88.3 FM to hear this group featured on air during the second week of April. A full set list is below.

    Every week in April, WBGO-FM will showcase a different student ensemble with vocalists who performed live in our studios for Jazz Appreciation Month. All of these full sets will be available online. Enjoy!

    msm669

    Manhattan School of Music Jazz Quintet
    March 19th, 2015
    Director, Justin DiCioccio

    "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" (vocals) by Harry M. Woods
    "The Peacocks" (vocals)  Jimmy Rowles
    "Everything Happens To Me" (vocals +flute) by Tom Adair, Matt Dennis
    "Day Dream" by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, lyrics by John La Touche

    All arrangements are original

    Elena Pinderhughes - Voice, Flute
    Patrick Bartley - Alto Saxophone
    Billy Test - Piano
    Dion Kerr - Bass
    Evan Sherman - Drums

  • WBGO JAM Live 2015: Rutgers University Jazz Ensemble I

    March 31, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    The Rutgers University Jazz Ensemble I performs live at WBGO for Jazz Appreciation Month with vocalist Champian Fulton. Click below to hear this concert, and tune in to 88.3 FM to hear this group featured on air during the first week of April. A full set list is below.

    Every week in April, WBGO-FM will showcase a different student ensemble with vocalists who performed live in our studios for Jazz Appreciation Month. All of these full sets will be available online. Enjoy!

    rutgers_620

    The Rutgers University Jazz Ensemble I

    live at WBGO 3/6/15

    Conrad Herwig, director

    "Deed I Do" (by Fred Rose with lyrics by Walter Hirsch, arranged by Ernie Wilkins)

    "Let’s Do It" (by Cole Porter)

    "Easy Living" (by Ranger & Robin, arranged by Marc Stasio)

    "The Song Is You" (by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, arranged by Gerald Wilson)

    "They Didn’t Believe Me" (by Jerome Kern and Herbert Reynolds, arranged by Dave Burger)

    Vocals on all songs by Champian Fulton

    Jimmy Merchant, Sax-Alto
    Oliver Santana Rivera, Sax-Alto
    Sam Tobias, Sax-Bari
    Abraham Burton, Sax-Tenor
    John Donathan, Sax-Tenor

    Guest sax on “The Song Is You” and “They Didn’t Believe Me” by Stephen Fulton

    Gregory DeAngelis, Trombone
    Matthew Echols, Trombone
    Timothy Rechen, Trombone
    Ben Weisiger, Trombone

    Devenny Bennett, Trumpet
    Shawn Edmonds, Trumpet
    Anthony Fazio, Trumpet
    Yi-JIUN Kao, Trumpet
    Joshua Orr, Trumpet

    John Morrison, Guitar
    John Nunez, Guitar
    Michael Bernabe, Piano
    Luciano Minetti, Piano

    Ross Garlow, Bass
    Christopher Smith, Bass
    Kyle Duppstadt, Drums
    Daniel Giannone, Drums