• Al Foster Quartet: Live At The Village Vanguard

    March 7, 2012. Posted by WBGO.

    Al Foster. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    The great drummer Al Foster was with us when WBGO and NPR Music first webcast live from the Village Vanguard, back in May 2008. Of course, he has a much longer history than we've kept; he's played on no fewer than six "live at the Village Vanguard" commercial albums, and he says he made his debut at the venerated club with Sonny Rollins in the late 1960s. That is, he's performed with the best of the best for longer than either WBGO or NPR have existed. Oh, and he was the drummer for some guy named Miles Davis for more than a decade.

    Foster earned his reputation as a sideman, but he's had the opportunity to lead a band in recent years — a band with a recently reconfigured lineup of young guns. WBGO and NPR Music present a live radio broadcast and video webcast of the new Al Foster Quartet live at the Village Vanguard.


    • Al Foster, drums
    • JD Allen, tenor saxophone
    • Adam Birnbaum, piano
    • Dezron Douglas, bass

    Set List

    Compositions by Al Foster unless otherwise indicated.

    • "Aloysius"
    • "Little B's Poem" (Hutcherson)
    • "Con Alma" (Gillespie)
    • "Peter's Mood"
    • "It Could Happen To You" (Van Heusen/Burke)
    • "Oooh What You Do To Me"
    • "St. Thomas" (Rollins)


    Producer And Host: Josh Jackson; Audio Engineer: David Tallacksen; Production Assistant: Michael Downes; Moderator: Lara Pellegrinelli. Recorded March 7, 2012 at The Village Vanguard in New York, N.Y.

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  • Stan Kenton At 100: Artistry In Rhythm

    February 17, 2012. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Stan Kenton. (Image Credit: William P. Gottlieb/Library of Congress via Flickr)

    Last December, the late composer, arranger, bandleader and pianist Stan Kenton would have turned 100. Centennial celebrations have been happening since then; Jazz at Lincoln Center plans a two-night retrospective of his music starting tonight.

    Kenton's brassy big band was enormously popular during his lifetime. He left behind an astonishing body of work as bountiful as it is strange, influencing even such groundbreaking artists as Cecil Taylor. And many of jazz's greatest improvisers passed through the band — baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, alto saxophonist Art Pepper, singer Anita O'Day, trumpeter Shorty Rogers and tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims, among others.

    But Kenton never lacked for controversy, and was often criticized for bombast. In 1948, Barry Ulanov wrote about the "sheer noise" of the Kenton orchestra in Metronome magazine: "There is a danger of an entire generation growing up with the idea that jazz and the atom bomb are essentially the same phenomenon." Accusations of racism also plagued the bandleader. Annoyed by the exclusion of what he felt were worthy players in the 1956 Down Beat critics poll, he sent a telegram to the magazine protesting on behalf of "a new minority, white jazz musicians." Though Kenton regularly employed African-American musicians and professed friendship and admiration for black jazz pioneers, he never fully shook the stigma.

    Kenton has also been in the news after his daughter, Leslie Kenton, published a 2010 book that stated alcoholism drove him to sexually abuse her repeatedly from when she was 11 until she was 13. The book is called Love Affair, and according to Wall Street Journal reviewer Will Friedwald, it takes a tone of "forgiveness rather than accusation." The Kenton estate offered no public comment when reached.

    Despite the offstage drama, Kenton tirelessly promoted his "artistry in rhythm" and sought original directions for jazz. How did Kenton hit the pop charts while remaining uncompromisingly experimental? Here are five notable selections from the man who called his music "progressive jazz."

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  • Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: Live At The Village Vanguard

    February 13, 2012. Posted by WBGO.

    The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra at soundcheck. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    There's a tradition in many New York City jazz clubs: Monday nights are reserved for big bands. The Village Vanguard, the most storied of clubs, has observed this practice since 1966, when a nascent large ensemble called together by trumpeter Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis was booked for three Mondays in February. Now called the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Grammy-winning 16-piece band upholds Jones and Lewis' precepts of swinging boldly and arranging deftly to a sold-out crowd weekly.

    NPR Music and WBGO featured the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra on its home turf, in a live radio broadcast and online video webcast Monday, Feb. 13. NPR Music and WBGO have our own tradition of broadcasting monthly from the legendary club; this marks the 50th concert in the npr.org/villagevanguard series.

    Set List

    • "A-That's Freedom" (H. Jones, arr. T. Jones)
    • "Extra Credit" (McNeely)
    • "ABC Blues" (Brookmeyer)
    • "Suite For Three" (Brookmeyer)
    • "Skylark" (Carmichael, arr. Brookmeyer)
    • "My Centennial" (T. Jones)


    • Nick Marchione, trumpet (lead)
    • Tanya Darby, trumpet
    • Terell Stafford, trumpet
    • Scott Wendholt, trumpet
    • John Mosca, trombone (lead)/co-leader
    • Luis Bonilla, trombone
    • Jason Jackson, trombone
    • Douglas Purviance, bass trombone/co-leader
    • Dick Oatts, alto saxophone (lead)/winds
    • Billy Drewes, alto saxophone/winds
    • Ralph LaLama, tenor saxophone/winds
    • Rich Perry, tenor saxophone/winds
    • Gary Smulyan, baritone saxophone/bass clarinet
    • Michael Weiss, piano
    • David Wong, bass
    • John Riley, drums


    Producer And Host: Josh Jackson; Audio Engineer: David Tallacksen; Production Assistant: Michael Downes. Recorded Feb. 13, 2012 at The Village Vanguard in New York, N.Y.

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