WBGO Blog
  • An Artist Grows Into His Talent: Revisiting Sinatra's Radio Years

    November 25, 2015. Posted by WBGO.

    Nancy Sinatra has said some of her best childhood memories are of listening to her father over the air. His radio shows, from the beginning of his career through the 1950s, brought him home in her mind while he was away singing in clubs and ballrooms. For the rest of the nation, however, those broadcasts went beyond sentimental: They're what made Frank Sinatra a star.

    In honor of Sinatra's 100th birthday next month, those rare radio appearances are now out in a box set entitled Frank Sinatra: A Voice on Air (1935-1955). NPR special correspondent Susan Stamberg spoke with the set's producer to find out what it reveals about an artist growing into his talent — beginning with the days well before the screaming teenagers and the buttercream voice. Hear her report at the audio link.

    Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

  • Remembering Cynthia Robinson, Co-Founder Of Sly & The Family Stone

    November 24, 2015. Posted by WBGO.

    image
    Jerry Martini and Cynthia Robinson from The Family Stone performing in 2011. Robinson died Monday at age 69. (Image Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    Groundbreaking trumpeter and singer Cynthia Robinson, a co-founder of the pivotal funk band Sly & The Family Stone, died Monday night at age 69. Her death was confirmed by her bandmate and friend Jerry Martini, another co-founder of the Family Stone.

    In October, Robinson disclosed that she was suffering from cancer, in an online fundraiser launched to help defray her medical bills.

    Robinson was an integral member of The Family Stone. It's her voice that urges fans to "Dance to the Music," and her horn that
    blazed through the band's sets, from hits like "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" to lesser-known gems like "Underdog."

    In a 2013 profile aired on Morning Edition, Robinson said that Sly Stone wanted the band to be a galvanizing social force. "He made things very simple: to stand for what you believe in," she said. "He knew how to touch upon subjects that meant something to masses of people."

    Born in 1946, Robinson joined Stone's band in 1966 — in an era when being a female trumpet player, and an African-American trumpeter in a major band, was a singular achievement. In an undated interview with WBGH, Robinson said that while she was growing up, other kids gave her a hard time about playing her instrument: "It left me with the impression that, you know, no guy in the world would let a girl play the trumpet in his group."

    Robinson had two daughters, Laura Marie and Sylvette Phunne Stone, the latter with Sly Stone. This July, Robinson and her daughter Phunne released the single "Do Yo Dance" with the Family Stone.

    After Sly Stone & The Family Band dispersed in the late 1970s (partly due to Stone's drug abuse), Robinson and bandmates including saxophonist Jerry Martini continued to play together as The Family Stone. Robinson also played with such artists as Prince and George Clinton's Funkadelic.

    In 1993, Sly and the Family Stone were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

  • Sabertooth, Or The 23-Year Midnight Gig

    November 19, 2015. Posted by WBGO.

    In Chicago, one band holds down a midnight-to-5 a.m. gig on Saturday nights — or, technically, on Sunday mornings. It's a time slot which seems challenging enough to do once or twice. These guys have been doing it for 23 years.

    Sabertooth is a quirky band, currently an organ quartet led by saxophonists Pat Mallinger and Cameron Pfiffner. It swings hard (and a little off-kilter), mixing favorite standards and a repertoire of cleverly arranged tunes. Every week, Mallinger and Pfiffner play for curious newcomers, rowdy drunks, hardcore fans and musicians coming off their own gigs.

    "It's an after-hours jazz party," Mallinger says. "That's what it's labeled. ... It's not your average jazz gig."

    It all happens in a club called the Green Mill, which doesn't look to have changed much since its days as a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Inside, it seems a bit like a place removed from time — especially if you get to see the basement and the escape tunnels into which it leads.

    Here, Jazz Night In America follows Pat Mallinger and Cameron Pfiffner to the Green Mill, then stays up all night with Sabertooth.

    Personnel

    Pat Mallinger, saxophones; Cameron Pfiffner, saxophone and flute; Pete Benson, organ; Ted Sirota, drums.

    Copyright 2015 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/series/347139849/jazz-night-in-america.

  • Christian McBride On Ray Brown's Bass And James Brown's Appeal

    November 18, 2015

    image
    Christian McBride performs at the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, R.I. earlier in 2015. (Image Credit: Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images)

    Every month on All Things Considered, Christian McBride sits down with host Audie Cornish to discuss, dissect and deconstruct just about everything in jazz.

    From the interplay between the drum and the bass to the holy temples of jazz venues, they've talked about the greatest, the oldest, the youngest. They've even talked about jazz as a family affair.

    But this conversation turns the focus around: It's about McBride himself.

    Born and raised in Philadelphia, McBride is one of the premier bassists in jazz, and the leader of several bands. He's worked with Sonny Rollins, Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock — but also Sting, Queen Latifah, James Brown, Chaka Khan, the Sonos Quartet. He's a public radio host himself now; his voice narrates the radio program and video series Jazz Night In America.

    McBride recently brought his bass to the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C., where he spoke with Cornish in front of a live audience. An edited and condensed version airs on All Things Considered. Here's the full transcript of their conversation.

    Read more

  • Michael Mwenso And The Late Night All-Stars

    November 17, 2015

    image
    Michael Mwenso (left) leads tap dancer Michela Marino Lerman and a cast of Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola regulars in concert. (Image Credit: Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center)

    After the headliners and their crowds have left for the evening, a community of up-and-coming artists assembles in a corner of Jazz at Lincoln Center. It's a scene driven in large part by Michael Mwenso, a irrepressible vocalist and natural ringleader who curates the Late Night Sessions at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. But it also came together in off-campus listening sessions, and by the shared experience of being young and eager (and quite talented) musicians in the big city. As it turns out, all the time spent together away from the club translates directly to how Mwenso and the "family" make music on stage.

    Jazz Night in America hangs out with this family as it prepares for and seizes an opportunity to present its own music. Hear a performance at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola featuring Michael Mwenso and fellow vocalists Brianna Thomas and Vuyo Sotashe.

    Copyright 2015 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/series/347139849/jazz-night-in-america.