WBGO Blog
  • 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!

  • Bassist Derrick Hodge's "Live Today" With WBGO

    July 31, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Bassist Derrick Hodge performs live at WBGO for a special edition of Josh Jackson's weekly new music show,The Checkout, which broadcasts on Tuesday, August 6 at 6:30 p.m.

    That same day, Hodge's Blue Note CD, Live Today, hits stores: click to hear Jackson's sneak preview of the album for NPR's First Listen series.

    A member of the Grammy-winning Robert Glasper Experiment, this Philadelphia native knows no boundaries. Hodge performs with hip-hop and soul artists such as Jill Scott and Maxwell, and with classical composer Osvaldo Golijov. Hodge also works with trumpeter Terence Blanchard on film scores which include Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke and Miracle At St. Anna.

    Hodge will also perform on August 6 at 8:30 p.m. at The Cutting Room, 44 E. 32nd Street in New York, with Travis Sayles on keyboards, Mark Colenburg on drums and Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet.

    Can't wait? Check out this video of Hodge's live broadcast for our Checkout Live series from the 92Y Tribeca in New York with Kris Bowers on piano, Dontae Winslow on trumpet, Jamire Williams on drums and Alan Hampton on guitar and vocals. There's more of Derrick and other cutting-edge performers in our video archive. Enjoy!

  • The Checkout Live: Bridge Trio, New Gospel Quintet at 92Y

    June 12, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    WBGO presented The Bridge Trio and Don Byron's New Gospel Quintet live from the 92Y Tribeca on Wednesday, March 20 at 8 p.m.

    You can watch video from this event and review the conversation with hosts from WBGO and NPRMusic.org on this page.

    Every month, The Checkout Live brings critically acclaimed performers, many of whom have been featured on host Josh Jackson's weekly music magazine, The Checkout, to live stages in New York and Boston.

    Like WBGO's other live broadcasts, these shows live on in our video archive and at NPRmusic.org.

    If you like what you hear, tune in to WBGO-FM's online stream for new music, The Jazz Bee, to hear more from Byron, The Bridge Trio and other artists at the cutting edge of jazz. Enjoy!

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    Click here to watch the Bridge Trio, with Conun Pappas on piano, Max Moran on bass and Joe Dyson on drums The trio met while students at New Orleans' performing arts high school, NOCCA, and their talents have blossomed as members of saxophonist Donald Harrison's touring ensemble.

    Click below to watch Don Byron's New Gospel Quintet with Carla Cook on vocals, Brad Jones on bass and backing vocals, Nat Adderley Jr. on piano and Pheeroan akLaff on drums. Byron plays clarinets and tenor saxophone.

  • Celebrate Jazz Around The World With WBGO

    April 30, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    International Jazz Day kicks off WBGO's monthlong celebration of global jazz, and you can join the celebration by watching video from UNESCO’s April 30 concert in Istanbul, Turkey and listening to earwitness reports from Istanbul by WBGO producer Josh Jackson.

    Jazz is increasingly embraced and played around the world. Last year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) partnered with the Thelonious Monk Institute to celebrate the contributions of jazz to world culture, staging concerts in Paris, New Orleans and at the United Nations in New York.

    This year's UNESCO concert in Istanbul featured more than 40 musicians, including Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper, George Duke, Esperanza Spalding, Pedrito Martinez and dozens of others.

    WBGO's celebration of global jazz continues on The Checkout, which airs Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m., showcases new music from this year's Jazzahead! festival in Bremen, Germany on May 7 and 14, and from South Africa on the 21st and 28th. We also have special reports on South Africa on The WBGO Journal by producer Simon Rentner, who just returned from the Cape Town Jazz Festival.

    On WBGO HD2, the jazz bee, we are hosting a special round-the-clock mix of recordings by artists who appeared at this year's Jazzahead! festival, from as far away as Albania, Brazil and Israel.

    And WBGO's brand-new Travel & Events series offers behind-the-scenes tours to the Montreal Jazz Festival in June, and to Perugia and the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy in July.

    Happy International Jazz Day - and join us every day to celebrate this music we love, in every part of the globe - at WBGO!