• Martial Solal Duo: Live At The Village Vanguard

    April 13, 2011. Posted by WBGO.

    Martial Solal. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    At 83, Martial Solal is still one of the finest jazz pianists to be seen anywhere. Here's a man — then, as now, a legitimate virtuoso — who made recordings with all-time legends like Django Reinhardt and Sidney Bechet, and has adopted elements of just about all the styles of jazz since then into a distinct personal vision.

    It's just that he's not seen that often, at least in the U.S.; he's been based in Paris, France for the great majority of his career. But he's embarking on a rare U.S. tour this year, and it stops in New York City for a week at the Village Vanguard. NPR Music and WBGO presented a live audio/video webcast and on-air broadcast with Solal, performing in duo with bassist Francois Moutin.

    A largely self-taught pianist, Solal is a versatile stylist. He loves the standard repertoire, especially fracturing it and exploring its tangents; he can make the abstract swing. (In performance, it was hard to tell the difference between standards and originals, or the improvised and pre-arranged.) He's written film scores and classical works, and has written for a 12-piece band he calls the Dodecaband. But among those who do know his discography, he's largely remembered for highly flexible small group performances and recordings in trios, duos and solo. The bassist Francois Moutin, decades Solal's junior, was a member of Solal's trio in Paris; he's since become a highly sought-after session player in New York City.

    Solal was born in Algiers, then a French colony — to a mother who sang opera and introduced him to music — and settled in Paris in 1950. There, he met the greatest of the great U.S. expats: Bechet, drummer Kenny Clarke, saxophonists Don Byas and Lucky Thompson, and so forth. He scored Godard films, anchored the Parisian scene and won the recognition of American musicians, even playing a New York club and the Newport Jazz Festival in 1963, a time when U.S. attention, much less respect, was hard to come by for European jazz artists.

    He's been highly active since then. Within the last decade, Solal has also put out two sparkling albums recorded live at the Village Vanguard. (The first one, NY-1, was recorded with a trio featuring Moutin; the most recent was a solo performance recorded in 2007.) Chances are, he's been keeping his chops in order since the previous engagements by practicing classical repertoire for hours every day.

    "If I play much improvisation at home, I would maybe have nothing more to say," he told Frank Browning in a 2009 NPR story. "That's a sort of attitude to keep the best for the concerts."

    Set List

    • "Here's That Rainy Day"
    • "Tea For Two"
    • "I Remember You"
    • "Round Midnight"
    • "Zag Zig" (Solal)
    • "Body and Soul"
    • "Coming Yesterday" (Solal)
    • "Monostome" (Solal)
    • "There's A Small Hotel"/"I Can't Get Started"
    • "Willow Weep For Me"


    • Martial Solal, piano
    • Francois Moutin, bass


    • Josh Jackson, producer and host
    • David Tallacksen, technical director
    • Michael Downes, mix engineer
    • Lara Pellegrinelli, moderator
  • Julliard Stops by WBGO Studios

    April 12, 2011. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive


    The Julliard Jazz Artist Diploma Ensemble stopped by WBGO studios today for  another intimate performance celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM).  The band is directed by Carl Allen (drums), Rodney Jones (guitar) and Kenny Barron (piano). The band is, to quote Carl Allen, "the crème de la crème" of Julliard Jazz and features: [left to right] John Chin (piano), Matthew Jordell (trumpet, flugelhorn), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), Patrick Cornelius (alto sax), and Luca Santaniello (drums).

    Luca Santaniello has performed with Lee Konitz, Roy Hargrove, Joe Lovano, Joe Locke, Billy Harper and Ron Carter. Jordell and Chin have also accompanied Ron Carter (as of last night!) and all three musicians are booked to accompany Benny Golson on May 16. Also, you may recognize Patrick Cornelius from his appearance on WBGO's  The Checkout this past March. Keep and eye and an ear out for these players, on the New York scene and beyond. In the meantime, hear today's performance below:

    Set List:

    Rat Race (Matthew Jodrell)


    Undercover (John Chin)


    Tara (Patrick Cornelius)


    Flying (Luca Santaniello)

    New York (Donald Brown)

  • Duke's Men: Ellington's Loyal Improvisers

    April 12, 2011. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Cootie Williams of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. (Image Credit: William Gottlieb/Library of Congress via Flickr)

    Every successful big band leader featured brilliant soloists: Count Basie had Lester Young, Fletcher Henderson had Coleman Hawkins, Benny Goodman had Gene Krupa. But the Maestro, Duke Ellington, spotlighted his men apart from the rest.

    Ellington's soloists captured the spirit of his music. He wrote concertos, short- and long-form tunes, with his musicians in mind, allowing for their personality to shape the structure of the music. He specifically targeted his musicians' strengths — Johnny Hodges' seductiveness, Cootie Williams' bravado, Tricky Sam Nanton's humor — and accentuated those attributes. That's why musicians remained so loyal to him over the years, even at the expense of their own fame. He understood them and brought the best out of their playing. These tunes remind us why.

    Read more