WBGO Blog
  • Wayne Horvitz: The Pianist And The Poet

    December 3, 2015

    The last time we went to Seattle, we met a piano player and bandleader named Wayne Horvitz. Among other things, he books a club called the Royal Room, teaches at Cornish College of the Arts, directs a high-school ensemble, and writes and performs many different sorts of music. Jazz and improvised music frames a lot of what he does, but as an artist, it's certainly not the only language he speaks.

    "I'm an American composer, not a jazz composer," he says. "My whole life, I've [never] thought of myself as a jazz composer. I've always been in this weird gray area where jazz musicians were the only people who don't consider me a jazz musician. Everybody else does."

    Ever since he moved westward from New York in 1988 — he's still remembered by some as the keyboardist in John Zorn's band Naked City — Horvitz has integrated himself deep into Seattle's music community. Fittingly, one of his latest projects was inspired by a Seattle-born poet named Richard Hugo, who wrote often about the American West (and the small-town bars he found therein). The songs based on the poems are collected in a new album called Some places are forever afternoon — a line taken from a poem about the working-class Seattle neighborhood of White Center.

    That music takes two of Horvitz's bands — a chamber-music group called the Gravitas Quartet and an Americana-tinged outfit called Sweeter That The Day — and melds them into a larger ensemble. Jazz Night In America recently went to the Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle to catch a performance of this music, and to learn how exactly the poet triggered the pianist.

    Personnel

    Wayne Horvitz, piano; Ron Miles, cornet; Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon; Peggy Lee, cello; Tim Young, guitar; Keith Lowe, bass; Eric Eagle, drums.

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

  • Hendrix On A Horn: The World Of Robin Eubanks

    November 28, 2015. Posted by WBGO.

    There have been plenty of distinctions in Robin Eubanks' career. The award-winning musician, composer and educator has played with Stevie Wonder, Elvin Jones and Art Blakey; he's appeared on The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, the Grammys. He even plays electric trombone — the result of years of listening to rock and funk music and wanting to get in on the action.

    "I was a guest soloist with a band in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the sax player had a mic clipped on his bell," Eubanks explains. "During the intermission, I asked him if I could clip it on my bell. I plugged it into the guitar player's rig, and all kinds of bells and whistles went off in my head. I said, 'This is it.'"

    But for all his accolades and experiments, there's something Eubanks hasn't tried until now. His latest album, More Than Meets the Ear, is a collection of big-band arrangements.

    "It just offers so many possibilities, 'cause within a big band, you have solo, duo, trio — you have all the different combinations of small groups," he says. "Of course, it's like three times the size of a quintet, or more, so there's a lot more overhead. It's a challenging thing. ... But I just love the sound."

    Robin Eubanks spoke with NPR's Scott Simon about the making of More Than Meets the Ear and channeling his love of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin into jazz. Hear more of their conversation at the audio link.

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

  • 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/.