WBGO Blog
  • Strike Up The Bandoneon! Jazz For Squeezebox

    July 22, 2011. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    In the 1950s, Astor Piazzolla became a pariah back home for his unconventional, complex tangos. (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    If Argentine composer and performer Astor Piazzolla didn't exist, the subgenre of "Nuevo Tango" — a mix of tango, classical and jazz — wouldn't, either, nor would this taster of accordion jazz. Piazzolla created a massive canon, influencing generations of bandoneon players after him, and he rejuvenated Argentina's greatest musical tradition and export.

    However, it was Piazzolla's formative years in New York's Greenwich Village — soaking in the swing of the 1930s — that often informs his style, a jazzier sound he leaned to during his later years. Piazzolla personally touched the lives and music of four of the five artists featured below.

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  • Ben Williams + Pedro Giraudo: Live From 92Y Tribeca

    July 19, 2011. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    Ben Williams (left) and Pedro Giraudo lead their bands at 92Y Tribeca. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    It's the bassist's role in jazz to know the time and place; to anchor a band rhythmically and guide it through a song. The young bassists Pedro Giraudo and Ben Williams are quite adept at all that, but when they lead their own bands, they have an even broader sense of time and place.

    The new album from the Pedro Giraudo Jazz Orchestra, 13 or 14 pieces strong, is called Córdoba. It takes its name from Giraudo's hometown in Argentina, and borrows architecture from Argentine tango and folk rhythms in service of color-rich modern jazz ends. Ben Williams has a new record, too, his first. State of Art is a jazz record which alludes heavily to the street sounds of his native Washington, D.C., where go-go still abuts R&B, hip-hop and organic soul. And, like Giraudo, Williams' band also brings together some of New York's hottest under-40 (and often under-30) talent.

    For the latest edition of The Checkout: Live From 92Y Tribeca, WBGO and NPR Music presented the Pedro Giraudo Jazz Orchestra and Ben Williams and Sound Effect, live in concert. Look for a full audio recording soon.

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  • 'Treme,' Ep. 21: Jazz And Heritage

    July 4, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

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    Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters), Donald Harrison and Delmond Lambreaux (Rob Brown) perform with Mardi Gras Indians at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, on Treme. (Image Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

    In 2010, WBGO's Josh Jackson and I were down at New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, where we attended a panel discussion with the lead writers and actors of Treme. The show was only a few episodes old, but it had already won over a number of the locals and Jazz Fest regulars, from the audience's reaction. But after the show's producers admitted that Jazz Fest wouldn't make the program's first season, I distinctly recall several people expressing their disappointment. Apparently the first Jazz Fest after Hurricane Katrina was a rather cathartic experience.

    Well, it's never too late to get to Jazz Fest.

    Oh, hey Josh. You know, it struck me down there that Jazz Fest was a little bit more of a tourist draw than a locals' hangout. But here in the season finale, it's at least somewhat important for city residents — even if life goes on outside it — and clearly a joyous occasion.

    The festival is a huge economic engine for tourism. It also functions as a homecoming party for some expats. Despite its programming philosophy of attracting every demographic profile, there's still a lot to love about Jazz Fest as a showcase for local talent.

    I think so, anyway. Indeed, let's get to our weekly recap of the music of the show. This time, the season two finale.

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