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.
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.
© 2013 WBGO
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.
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!
© 2013 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!
© 2013 WBGO