WBGO Blog
  • For The Love Of James Moody: Five Tributes

    October 19, 2012. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

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    Clarinet and saxophone player Paquito D'Rivera wore a James Moody T-shirt during a recent recording session in Brazil. (Image Credit: Jorge Rosenberg/Courtesy of the artist)

    "James Moody is the most beloved jazz musician in the world," reedman Paquito D'Rivera says.

    These may be strong words, but D'Rivera is far from alone in his appreciation of the tenor saxophonist, who died in 2010. On the bandstand, Moody was universally admired for his musicality, his generosity — he gave away mouthpieces, saxophones and, once, even the coat off his back — and his ability to illuminate any room with his personal warmth.

    "He always had this big smile on his face," pianist Kenny Barron says. "Whenever he saw you, you got a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. He was just always that way."

    Barron and Moody played together over the course of 40 years, and it was Moody who persuaded Dizzy Gillespie to hire Barron for his first big gig in 1962, when he was only 19.

    "Moody was so humble — he always felt like he needed to learn more," Barron says. "He'd say, 'Hey, can you play these chord changes for me? I'm not really getting it.' Of course, when you did, he'd eat 'em up!"

    D'Rivera and Barron are just two of the dozens of Moody's famous friends, including Jimmy Heath, George Benson and the Manhattan Transfer, who perform Friday night in the "For Love of Moody" concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. The event raises money for a scholarship fund bearing Moody's name, and is the keystone of the inaugural James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival — a weeklong celebration of the saxophonist's legacy in his hometown of Newark — which runs through Sunday.

    "He was one of the most giving human beings," Heath says. "Everybody who knew Moody knew he was a beautiful person."

    The musicians will perform round-robin style in a "living room" created on the stage of NJPAC's Prudential Hall. Jokes will be told and stories shared. Moody, who often played practical jokes to break the tension in any room he found too stuffy, would have liked this informality, Barron says.

    "Moody just had that enthusiasm and lust for life, you know?" he said.

    Here's a list of five recordings by artists playing Friday's concert. They all capture moments when the musicians shared the stage with Moody, or were inspired by him. For more coverage of the James Moody Democracy In Jazz Festival, visit the WBGO blog.

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  • Philip Dizack: What You Learn When You're Older

    October 16, 2012. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

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    Philip Dizack at WBGO, with saxophonist Jake Saslow in the background. (Image Credit: Josh Jackson/WBGO)

    A lot can happen in six years. For Milwaukee-bred trumpeter Philip Dizack, it marked the passage of an era worth documenting in his own artistic chronology.

    "End of an Era represents a moment when what you had is gone," he says about his new album during this session from WBGO's The Checkout. "For me, it's specific things like family relationships that ended. Both of my grandparents passed away. All those things were very personal, but I saw that everyone goes through something. And it's all the same."

    Deep listening brought Dizack to jazz. His father designs home audio environments for audiophile clientele. "When I was younger, my dad would always have people over at our house," Dizack says. "He'd always have new sets of speakers, he'd always be listening to different kinds of music. So I went to bed hearing music playing in my dad's living room."

    Those recordings included some monumental creative output from Miles Davis and Oscar Peterson, as well as new music by trumpeters who had arrived: Roy Hargrove and Nicholas Payton. "Those were the people I learned from before I even knew I wanted to be a musician," Dizack confirms.

    Dizack brought a quintet to WBGO to play music from End of an Era.

    "I feel like when you're young, and people who are older than you tell you, 'Well, you'll learn when you're older,' this is what you learn," Dizack says. "You learn by going through these experiences and really having to sort through the difficulties of learning and growing as a person."

    Personnel: Philip Dizack, trumpet; Jake Saslow, tenor saxophone; Eden Ladin, piano; Linda Oh, bass; Justin Brown, drums. Recorded Sept. 7, 2012, at WBGO in Newark, N.J.

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  • 'Treme,' Ep. 25: Sugar Boy's Salute

    October 15, 2012. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

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    Big Chief Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters, center) has his Mardi Gras Indian practice interrupted by a visit from members of the Creole Wild West tribe. (Image Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

    If you're one of the few viewers still confused about what Treme is saying about art, do note this episode's "play-within-a-play" staging of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. The existentialist play revolves around two characters, Vladimir (nicknamed Didi) and Estragon (called Gogo), who wait interminably for a mysterious "Godot" by a desolate country road. It's clearly meant to parallel New Orleans residents' wait for essential social services, complete with the barren backdrop of the city post-Katrina. And it's only the latest example of how artists are faster to respond to tragedy than a corrupt bureaucracy could ever be.

    True to Treme form, a company actually staged the play in flood-damaged parts of New Orleans in 2007. Wendell Pierce, who plays Antoine Batiste on Treme, played Vladimir; he was quoted in the New Orleans Times-Picayune as saying: "But I'm trying to find hope, the way Gogo and Didi do in the play. They say they'll go, but they stay. I find that hope where [producer] Paul [Chan] has found it, in the courageous people of New Orleans."

    Speaking of art, WBGO's Josh Jackson and I wrote about this episode's musical performances.

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