WBGO Blog
  • A Cirque Du Soleil For The Senses: Five Jazz Groups From Montreal

    June 28, 2012. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    L'Orkestre des Pas Perdus' latest album, L'âge du cuivre, was just nominated for a Juno Award. (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    C'est la saison de jazz à Montreal! Starting Thursday night and running through next weekend, Francophone Canada's cultural metropolis hosts its grand prix: the Montreal International Jazz Festival. The self-proclaimed "largest jazz festival in the world" casts a musical spell over the city, across 10 outdoor stages, 15 concert halls and clubs galore with more than 1,000 shows.

    Much of the festival's magic comes from its two million attendees. High society in bow ties and evening gowns peacefully intermingles with young fans in high-top sneakers. Toddlers and old folks dance together in the streets. Brass bands battle across intersections. Jugglers, puppeteers, clowns — street performers of all stripes — compete for your attention. Mix in Montreal's wondrous culinary pleasures, and it's Cirque du Soleil for your senses.

    As for the on-stage talent, it comes from everywhere, but many featured performers have a well-known Canadian connection. The singer-songwriter Rufus Wainright will give a free homecoming concert for an anticipated record-setting crowd. Many of the city's local jazz artists are propped up, too. Here are five to catch.

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  • Marc Ribot Trio: Live At The Village Vanguard

    June 28, 2012. Posted by WBGO.

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    From left, Marc Ribot (guitar), Chad Taylor (drums) and Henry Grimes (bass) performed at the Village Vanguard in New York City on Wednesday, June 27, 2012. (Image Credit: John Rogers/johnrogersnyc.com)

    The guitarist Marc Ribot has played in just about every conceivable setting in New York City. But through his involvement in punk bands, funk and soul groups, film scoring, the noise community, session work with rootsy singer-songwriters, South American and Caribbean folkloric projects, the contemporary classical scene and all the other experiments, he's also long held a love of jazz, from its hairiest to most clean-shaven expressions. Ribot has created bands dedicated to Albert Ayler and John Coltrane, saxophonists whose grounding in strong melody powered their fully liberated solo flights. He played in Allen Toussaint's Bright Mississippi band, which adapted the earliest New Orleans jazz. And he tours with a trio which gives him access to his full palette.

    For that trio's upcoming residency at the Village Vanguard, expect a mix of tunes from the Ayler and Coltrane songbooks, gritty blues jams and fiery free improvisation. With him are Henry Grimes, who himself played with Albert Ayler in the 1960s, and drummer Chad Taylor of the Chicago Underground collective (among dozens of other bands himself). WBGO and NPR Music presented a live radio broadcast and online video webcast of the Marc Ribot Trio live at the Village Vanguard on June 27.

    Set List

    • "Bells"
    • "Singing the Blues"
    • "Spirits"
    • "Fat Man Blues"
    • "Amen"
    • "Dearly Beloved"

    Personnel

    • Marc Ribot, guitar
    • Henry Grimes, bass
    • Chad Taylor, drums

    Producer And Host: Josh Jackson; Audio Engineer: Duke Markos; Production Assistant: Michael Downes. Recorded June 27, 2012 at The Village Vanguard in New York, N.Y.

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  • The Harmonica-Playing Baron Of Belgium

    May 18, 2012. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

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    Toots Thielemans performs at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands in July 2005. He's celebrating his 90th birthday with a series of concerts throughout his native Belgium. (Image Credit: Rick Nederstigt/AFP/Getty Images)

    People throughout Belgium are currently celebrating the harmonica player and guitarist Jean-Baptiste "Toots" Thielemans, born in Brussels on April 29, 1922. That puts the NEA Jazz Master, also made a Baron by the King of Belgium in 2001, just a few days past 90.

    The night after his birthday, Thielemans set out on an eight-concert tour across his homeland. In Ghent, Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine joined him as a special guest. In Brussels, his long-time pianist Kenny Werner and guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves came from the U.S. and Brazil, respectively. In Hasselt, Thielemans — who had broken his foot — performed from a wheelchair. And last night and tonight, May 17 and 18, the two final concerts take place in Liège and then Dinant. It's all taking place in a country where everyone can pronounce the name "Thielemans." (Try "teel-mahnz.")

    Invited by the Belgian Tourist Office, I attended his May 9 performance at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, a.k.a. BOZAR (get it?), in Brussels. The interviews and meet-and-greets were canceled, but the concert was sold out and a great success.

    Thielemans entered to roaring applause. His band members helped him cross the stage to perch on a high chair so his feet could dangle and clap together. He looks frail, but his breath support and musicality seem little diminished. Just the sound of his Hohner harmonica brings joy and sadness together, and sweetly so.

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