WBGO Blog
  • Opera Star Jessye Norman Picks Her Favorite Jazz Singers

    September 20, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

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    In a conversation aired on WBGO, Jessye Norman credits the study of jazz with her understanding of song interpretation. (Image Credit: Carol Friedman/Courtesy of the artist)

    Jessye Norman's commanding soprano voice makes her the quintessential operatic diva for many listeners. But she frequently draws inspirations from jazz: She ranks singers like Billie Holiday, Mabel Mercer and Sarah Vaughan high on her list of influences.

    "I love singing jazz," Norman says. "I don't like the idea that classical music should be over here and jazz should be someplace else. It's all wonderful, and we should be open to enjoying it all."

    Early in her career, Norman says, hearing singers like Holiday taught her that interpretation is as important as a written score. In her view, this applies to opera as much as it does to improvised music.

    "One has to draw upon one's own musical thoughts, and one's own musical acumen, and not to be afraid to let that come into one's work," she says. "Perhaps that comes with more experience, but perhaps it also comes with daring, and believing that you should."

    Norman sat down recently with WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton to play some of her favorite jazz records, and to discuss her musical inspirations.

    "We singers have a different level of responsibility from other musicians," Norman says. "We have words that we must convey; we have meanings that we must convey through these lyrics."

    Jessye Norman also hosts a special performance in New York on Sept. 24 of the musical Lady Day, which stars singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, to benefit WBGO. The musical opens at Broadway's Little Shubert Theater on Oct. 3.

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  • Dave King Trio: Live At The Village Vanguard

    September 11, 2013. Posted by WBGO.

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    Dave King. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    Perhaps you know Dave King as the drummer in The Bad Plus, or any number of avant-improv/indie-rock/Americana/electronic experimental bands rooted in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. But somewhere in that mix is a deep fondness for the jazz tradition, and recently, he made it a point to say so with a full-length album. I've Been Ringing You investigates standards, mostly slow and medium-tempo ballads, in rough-hewn textures. It also features a rhythm section of pianist Bill Carrothers and bassist Billy Peterson, fellow Upper Midwesterners whose underground reputations surface here. As King writes, "Not bad for some snow-pants-wearing doofs from the north!"

    It's certainly enough that New York's Village Vanguard is bringing the trio in from Minnesota and Michigan for a week in September. On this page, WBGO and NPR Music present a live video webcast and radio broadcast of the Dave King Trio.

    Set List

    • "Lonely Woman" (O. Coleman)
    • "If I Should Lose You" (R. Rainger)
    • "For All We Know" (Coots/Lewis)
    • "Solar" (Davis/Wayne)
    • "Body And Soul" (J. Green)
    • "So In Love" (C. Porter)
    • "Moonlight Serenade" (G. Miller)
    • "You And The Night And The Music" (Schwartz/Dietz)

    Personnel

    • Dave King, drums
    • Bill Carrothers, piano
    • Billy Peterson, bass
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  • Jimmy Cobb: Live At The Village Vanguard

    August 21, 2013. Posted by WBGO.

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    Jimmy Cobb. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    The drummer Jimmy Cobb is 84 — which, even if you didn't know his name, would signal that he's been around the jazz scene for a while. But he's been more than around: He was the drummer when Miles Davis recorded his late-'50s and early-'60s masterpieces, and then toured with Sarah Vaughan for nearly a decade. He's freelanced with just about every great of his generation. He's still touring around the world, these days often fronting the bands and recordings.

    Cobb brings an international trio to New York's Village Vanguard for a week — and, for one night, welcomes trusted tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson. WBGO and NPR Music presented a live video webcast and radio broadcast of that quartet.

    Set List

    • "My Shining Hour" (Arlen/Mercer)
    • "John Paul Jones [aka 'Trane's Blues']" (J. Coltrane)
    • "If I Were A Bell" (F. Loesser)
    • "You Don't Know What Love Is" (de Paul/Raye)
    • "Bolivia" (C. Walton)
    • "Someday My Prince Will Come" (Churchill/Morey)

    Personnel

    • Jimmy Cobb, drums
    • Javon Jackson, saxophone
    • Tadataka Unno, piano
    • Paolo Benedettini, bass
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