WBGO Blog
  • Farewell to NEA Jazz Master Orrin Keepnews

    March 2, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    WBGO says farewell to NEA Jazz Master Orrin Keepnews, who passed away at 91 on March 1.

    The producer's Riverside Records, which he co-founded in 1953, was home to memorable sessions by pianist Thelonious Monk, saxophonist Sonny Rollins and many others.

    Keepnews and former Columbia classmate Bill Grauer worked together at Record Changer magazine, then launched Riverside on a shoestring in 1953. At first, they focused on reissues of traditional jazz and blues, but quickly gained interest in modern jazz, signing pianists Randy Weston in 1954 and Thelonious Monk in 1955.

    While Keepnews famously insisted a record producer was really a catalyst, rather than a creator, his thoughtful approach quickly earned respect from many of the era's most innovative music makers.

    In appreciation, Pianist Bill Evans composed "Re: A Person I Knew" - an anagram of Keepnews' name - and recorded it for Riverside in 1962:

    In 2011, Keepnews was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. The nation's highest honor for jazz musician, he is one of only a handful of non-musicians - along with fellow writers Nat Hentoff and Dan Morgenstern - to receive the honor for their advocacy.

    More about Keepnews' storied career, including links to interviews, can be found at his NEA Jazz Masters profile page and in his New York Times obituary by Nate Chinen.

    Thank you, Orrin!

  • Farewell to NEA Jazz Master Gerald Wilson

    September 9, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    WBGO says goodbye to Gerald Wilson, who died Sept. 8 at his home in Los Angeles, four days after his 94th birthday.

    The trumpeter, bandleader and arranger played a key role in the development of West Coast and orchestral jazz over his 75 years as a professional musician. Fresh out of Detroit's Cass Technical High School in 1939, he joined Jimmie Lunceford's band and never looked back.

    Based in Los Angeles, Wilson arranged for Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, and dozens of others, as well as his own large and small ensembles. In 1990, he was named an NEA Jazz Master, the nation's highest honor for a jazz musician.

    Wilson visited WBGO many times over the years, and stopped by in 2003 for a heartfelt chat with Morning Jazz host Gary Walker, which we'd like to share with you again now.

    Thank you, Gerald, we will miss you!

    geraldwilson669

  • Horace Silver Memorial Service: July 7 at 7 p.m.

    July 1, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    A memorial service will be held Monday, July 7 at 7 p.m. for pianist and composer Horace Silver, at the Saint Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church at 290 Henry Street in Manhattan, NY, 10002.

    Attire is casual, and the family requests flowers not be sent to the church. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to:

    Horace Silver Foundation

    20 Emerson Point

    New Rochelle, NY 10801

    Silver passed away June 18 at his home in New Rochelle from cardiac arrest.

    Born in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1928, Silver got his first big break in 1950. when saxophonist Stan Getz heard the pianist's group in Hartford and invited them on tour. Moving to New York in 1951, he recorded many memorable sessions for the Blue Note Records and remained with the label until 1980.

    Silver, who was honored as an NEA Jazz Master in 1995, will be remembered for his soulful hard-bop performances and compositions, which include "Peace," "Song For My Father," "Sister Sadie" and "The Preacher."

    WBGO says goodbye to this dear friend and master musician. Our condolences go out to Jemela, Greg, other family members and the countless others he touched over the years.

    Thank you, Horace, and rest in peace!

    Horace_Silver_by_Dmitri_Savitski_1989
    Photo by Dimitri Savitski