WBGO Blog
  • In Time For The World Cup, 'Explorative' New Music From Brazil

    June 13, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    image
    Flame Collective. (Image Credit: Cezar Altai/Courtesy of the artist)

    Brazilian song has a way of capturing the imagination, and Rio de Janeiro is its crucible. From maxixe and choro in the 19th century to samba and bossa nova in the 20th, Rio's history of melding rhythms with deep lyricism has been extraordinary.

    For Brazilians, these songs have even greater significance. In a country where formal education is still not open to all, popular song offers a sentimental education.

    "Most Brazilians learn how to speak, how to write and even how to feel by listening to Brazilian songwriters," says Thiago Thiago de Mello.

    De Mello is part of a rising generation of Rio songwriters who take Brazil's music seriously. The son of Amadeu Thiago de Mello, an Amazonian poet, he combines Brazil's rich literary traditions and African-inspired rhythms, such as samba, forró and pagode, with jazz, rock and electronica.

    He and his peers call their original take on Brazilian music "explorative." Like the bossa nova of Tom Jobim and João Gilberto, and the tropicália of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, the name may not fully translate into English. But it evokes Brazil's utopian heritage and ambitions — aspirations which feel appropriate as Brazil takes its place among the world's economic powers, and hosts the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

    "My Brazil is a world of the powerful imaginations that precede me — of a countless amount of dreamers," singer-songwriter Pedro Sá Moraes says. "It's a peculiar state in which imagination is so strong, it can be binding — but it can also liberate."

    Sá Moraes, de Mello and other members of Coletivo Chama, a Rio arts organization, recently visited WBGO's studios to share some of their compositions. We will feature these live performances on The Checkout on July 15. Here, we share five recent studio recordings by Sá Moraes, de Mello and their colleagues — recordings which showcase their abilities as arrangers as well as composers and performers.

    Read more
  • Winter Jazzfest 2014: Tips Of The Iceberg

    January 13, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    image
    Rene Marie. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    The logo for the 2014 Winter Jazzfest, marking the festival's 10th anniversary, is a giant iceberg floating into New York harbor. Like the iceberg, this year's edition was both big — 90-plus groups over five nights, representing just a small portion of a larger scene — and cold and wet, in that it rained both nights of the music marathon last Friday and Saturday evening. But Winter Jazzfest was hot on the inside, as we soaked up great music like a sponge.

    It's a lot to process. So on Sunday, after some strong coffee and sleep — more coffee than sleep — we compared notes via online chat with WBGO colleague Alex Ariff and fellow travelers David Adler, Derrick Lucas and Brad Farberman — who covered the fest for the Village Voice, Jazz 90.1 FM in Rochester, N.Y., and Time Out New York, respectively.

    Read more

  • 5 Must-See Projects At Winter Jazzfest

    January 8, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    image
    Lionel Loueke (left) and Miguel Zenon (right) join Jeff Ballard in the drummer's rhythm-oriented trio. (Image Credit: Andrea Boccalini/Courtesy of the artist)

    This year's Winter Jazzfest seems to be a kind of turning point — for the festival, and maybe for jazz in New York City. What started 10 years ago as a one-night showcase under one roof has expanded to five days at 10 venues, featuring more than 90 groups in a vast array of styles.

    The underground edge is still there, but this year's acts include multiple Grammy winners, beyond-jazz acts such as singer Keren Ann, and three midweek marquee concerts. One teams star pianists Robert Glasper and Jason Moran to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Blue Note Records.

    Still, much of the festival's excitement still resides in its signature two-night marathon, where acts perform in quick succession in neighboring Greenwich Village nightclubs. For the price of a single ticket, concertgoers can choose — or try to choose — between groups, which range from Balkan and New Orleans brass to Latin and straight-ahead jazz. The 18-piece orchestral pop ensemble Mother Falcon, with cello and glockenspiel, will also appear.

    At WBGO HD2 we'll stream a mix of all 92 groups at this year's Winter Jazzfest around the clock to prepare for these new sounds. (For more insights, check out the conversation between WBGO's Josh Jackson and NPR Music's Patrick Jarenwattananon on our weekly new-music magazine, The Checkout.) Here are five of the acts performing in this year's WJF marathon, and a rundown of what they plan to perform.

    Read more