WBGO Blog
  • Glasper & Moran On Blue Note Anniversary: Listen Now

    January 5, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Listen now to pianists Robert Glasper and Jason Moran talk with Josh Jackson about their Jan. 8 concert at New York's Town Hall to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Blue Note Records, part of the 2014 New York Winter Jazz Festival.

    Jackson will host the Jan. 8 concert, and got the party started early with a hilarious conversation that touched on everything from double octaves to how to play jazz for the hip-hop generation.

    "Just thinking outside the box and saying, 'Ok, this is who we are, and this is our sound,'" says Glasper, "it's opening the doors for so many other artists to do what they naturally want to do."

    They also talked about and played some of their favorite recordings by Sam Rivers, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock and Freddie Hubbard.

    Click here to hear Jackson's full hour-long conversation with Moran and Glasper. Enjoy!

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    Glasper and Moran braved the mountains of snow dumped on the tri-state area by Super Storm Hercules, with their three young sons in tow, to reach the WBGO studios in Newark for the interview on Friday.

    The Jan. 8 concert commemorates Blue Note's first recording session, held Jan. 6, 1939, with boogie-woogie pianists Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis. The pianists will be joined at Town Hall by drummer Eric Harland, tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, vocalist Bilal and Alan Hampton on bass.

    The show kicks off a year of celebrations by Blue Note, which over eight decades has recorded artists ranging from from Sidney Bechet and Thelonious Monk to Norah Jones, as well as Moran, who has been with Blue Note since his first recording for the label fifteen years ago, and Glasper, who released his sixth Blue Note album in October.

    "There's not really many labels that will just let you be who you are," says Moran. "They have continued to say, 'Oh, we see where you're going, here's your open canvas, your open palette, and go ahead and make something.' "

    Moran and Glasper both graduated from Houston's High School For Performing And Visual Arts - several years apart - and performed together in January of 2011 as part of WBGO's "Houstonians in NYC" concert at the 92Y Tribeca.

    Click here to hear the full audio of the "Houstonians in NYC" concert.

  • Patrick Cornelius Octet Live From Berklee: Watch Now

    December 10, 2013. Posted by Chris Dennison.

    Alto saxophonist Patrick Cornelius is that rare thing: a true jazz composer. His works are more than jumping-off points for improvisers, as we heard on Dec. 11, when he premiered a new suite from the Berklee College of Music's Café 939 in Boston.

    Click on the links below to hear or watch our live broadcast of this event.

    “On a lot of great music that I’ve loved over the years in the jazz lexicon, the tune itself is kind of an afterthought,” says Cornelius. “I wanted to take the opposite approach, and write songs that I end up walking around whistling.”

    The musicians Cornelius assembled for this premiere are, like himself, Berklee alums. They include Jason Palmer on trumpet, John Ellis on tenor sax, trombonist Nick Vayenas, guitarist Miles Okazaki, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Peter Slavov, and drummer Kendrick Scott. Many of this tightly-knit group of musical forward thinkers have appeared on Cornelius’s albums, and vice versa.

    The suite is inspired by When We Were Very Young, the 1924 debut in a book of poetry by A.A. Milne of a friendly bear named Winnie The Pooh.

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    The original Pooh toys, on display at the New York Public Library

    Winnie has gone on to great fame, and is beloved to children around the world. These include Cornelius’s own toddlers, James and Isabella,who he says inspired him to write the work, a commission for Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Foundation.

    Fatherhood has also inspired him to explore new directions in his music, he says, which in the past hewed towards the hard-driving and intricate hard bop lines of one of his sax heroes, altoist Cannonball Adderley.

    “Being a father has definitely mellowed a lot of the more aggressive tendencies in my personality… and it’s heightened the more sentimental aspects,” says Cornelius. “It absolutely has influenced the way I hear music and what kind of music I want to write.”

    This sea change can be heard on tracks such as “Bella’s Dreaming” a beautiful ballad with a lullaby feel from his third album, 2011’s Maybe Steps. The album is dedicated to Isabella, who was a newborn at the time.

    Cornelius’s most recent album, 2013’s Infinite Blue with pianist Frank Kimbrough and drummer Jeff Ballard, features eight original, expertly composed, catchy tunes. While these include introspective tracks such as “In The Quiet Moments” and “Waiting,” it also includes fiery, up-tempo burners like “Puzzler.”

    “When it’s time to swing hard, that’s when Cannonball comes out,” he says.

    Enjoy our broadcast of While We’re Still Young, in which Cornelius takes his love of melody and extends it into the realm of long-form composition, for the love of Pooh.

  • Melissa Aldana: The Crash Trio's Jazz en Español

    October 9, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Chilean tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana makes "jazz en español" with The Crash Trio, her group with Chilean bassist Pablo Menares and Cuban drummer Francisco Mela. The group performed live for a WBGO broadcast from the Berklee College of Music's Cafe 939 on Wednesday, October 9.

    "Our way of relating with one another - our body language, and our jokes - are different," says Aldana, who won the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. "Latin Americans are very heartfelt, open, and tactile; that's what we're like, and it's a big part of what keeps the group together."

    Aldana visited the WBGO studios ahead of this broadcast and spoke with Tim Wilkins - en español - about jazz in Chile, her early experiences in music and the group.

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    The daughter and grandaughter of jazz saxophonists, Aldana grew up in a house filled with music in Santiago, Chile, where she blew her first notes on an alto sax at age six.

    She moved to Boston in 2006 to accept a Presidential Scholarship at Berklee. Mela was teaching there at the time, and Menares joined the group after she moved to New York in 2009.

    While jazz legends like Wayne Shorter and Don Byas rank high on Aldana's list of influences, she also highlights Chilean folk musicians like Violeta Parra and Victor Jara, and even "chinchineros" -  the musicians who play drums and dance for spare change on the streets of Chile.

    "In downtown Santiago, it's very common to see chinchineros with drums on their back, as they play Andean rhythms while they spin around," says Aldana. "Pablo (Menares) wrote a song for The Crash Trio that incorporates these rhythms; that's one of the ways we're trying to bring these influences in to jazz."

    For more of The Crash Trio, check back for archived audio from WBGO's broadcast of the group, and review the chat below from during the show. Enjoy!