WBGO Blog
  • Over Drive

    February 17, 2008

    Rob Crocker played John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" as the winter fund drive faded into memory at 6 p.m. Sunday. Goals were met, audience sustained, and nobody got hurt too badly.

    These fund drives are a major undertaking and consume the entire staff, so when its over, there is a collective "Whew!" around here. Listen to how quiet we sound for the next few days. Jock exhaustion.

    Since this drive began, we've gone through the Super Bowl, Super Tuesday, the Super Bowl parade, the NHL and NBA All Star games and said Bye Ya to "Smooth Jazz" radio. We heard from you in Sudan, Iraq, Japan, UK, Ireland, Kuala Lampur, Bayamon, Sao Paolo and even exotic Lubbock, Texas.

    Thanks to all of you who made a pledge this time around. You do nothing less than keep jazz alive on the radio. - David Cruz

  • Love is on the Air

    February 13, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    trane_hartman2.jpgThis Valentine's Day our announcers are celebrating by sharing their favorite love songs with you.
    Let us know if you share their sentiments, or tell us what your must-have CD is on the most romantic day of the year.

    Rhonda Hamilton's Picks

    "Cheek to Cheek" by Irving Berlin. This song has sentimental value for me. I lost my mother when I was 12 years old, but I remember when I was a very little girl she taught me to sing this song. It was one of her favorites and the first song I ever learned.

    "Loving You" by Stephen Sondheim. This song is from Sondheim's musical Passion. The melody is very pretty, but I chose the song for its words. The lyrics express a very passionate, all-consuming, life changing love.

    "Luiza" by Antonio Carlos Jobim. I chose this song for its melody. The lyrics are in Portuguese so I don't understand them, but the melody is so heartbreakingly beautiful, you can sense that it is a song of longing and a very deep and passionate love.

    There are countless versions of "Cheek to Cheek", but one classic is by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
    Nancy Wilson & Peabo Bryson sing "Loving" You on the CD Color and Light - Jazz Sketches on Sondheim
    Michel Camilo plays "Luiza" on his Solo CD.

    Brian Delp's Picks

    "Witchcraft" (Frank Sinatra) Love is truly a spell that ensnares us all...
    "If You Could See Me Now" Love lost sometimes teaches us more than love found...
    "Autumn Nocturne" The best season to find love (not spring!)

    Monifa Brown's Picks

    1. Shirley Horn "Too Late Now"
    To me Shirley Horn is synonymous with the ballad - she is the Queen of the ballad! With the whisper of a single phrase she has the ability to send tingles down your spine. She had the ultimate control of her voice, not to mention she was as sensitive as a piano player. Her phrasing was impeccable and the timbre of her voice was so sweet. I loved the way she could take a line from a song and stretch it out like taffy, bending and twisting new meaning into each word.
    The lyrics to this Burton Lane song really convey what it feels like to be in love:

    Too late now to forget your smile
    The way we cling when we danced awhile
    Too late now to forget and go on to someone new
    Too late now to forget your voice
    The way one word makes my heart rejoice
    Too late now to imagine myself away from you

    It is one of my ultimate favorite love songs and Shirley Horn for me sings the definitive version.

    2. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman - "My One and Only Love"

    This is without a doubt one of the most sophisticated and romantic love songs I know. The balance of John Coltrane's robust yet lyrical, eloquent and tender playing alongside Johnny Hartman's cool, unruffled and warm baritone - is nothing short of sublime.

    It is hard to believe that until this recording, Johnny Hartman was relatively unknown despite his prowess as a singer. And even more shocking is the fact that it was not until three decades later --when his singing was featured in the heart-wrenching "Bridges of Madison County" with Clinton Eastwood and Meryl Streep (love this movie!)-- that he was introduced to an entire new generation of audiences.

    The lyrics to "My One and Only Love" are also beautiful:

    The very thought of you makes
    My heart sing,
    Like an April breeze
    On the wings of spring
    And you come to me all your splendor,
    My one and only love

    The shadow's fall and spread their
    Mystique charms in the hush of night,
    While you're in my arms.
    I feel your lips, so warm and tender,
    My one and only love

    If this is not romance - I don't know what is!

    3. Abbey Lincoln - "Strong Man"

    I love Abbey Lincoln and I love Oscar Brown Jr., who penned the song for Abbey. As the story has been told, Abbey told Oscar that she was tired of singing songs about ‘no good men' and that she wanted to sing a song about a man she could be proud of.

    Abbey recorded "Strong Man' on a 1957 session called "That's Him," alongside an all-star cast that included Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Kenny Dorham, Paul Chambers and Wynton Kelly. I grew up listening to this album...my dad loved it. The song brings back great memories of listening to music with my dad as a kid and now as an adult who is blessed with my own ‘strong man,' the song has taken on an even deeper meaning.

    Abbey Lincoln is a remarkable storyteller and really knows how to get to the heart of a song and enrapture her listeners in anything she sings. Her gifts make her truly unique and there is no one around who sings quite like Abbey (who happens to be a brilliant composer in her own right). Abbey Lincoln is also an incredibly emotive singer who has an unparalleled ability to manipulate time, melody, phrasing and subtle nuances of the music, which allow her to completely own any song she sings.

    Gary Walker's Picks

    Dianne Reeves, "Just A Little Lovin'" from "That Day" on Blue Note Records:

    " Just a little lovin' early in the mornin'
    Beats a cup of coffee for starting out the day
    Just a little lovin' when the world is yawning
    Makes you wake up thinking
    Good things are coming your way"

    Put me down for that day starter kit!

    Sarah Vaughan, "The Island" from "Crazy & Mixed Up" on Pablo Records

    " Make believe we've landed on a desert island
    Bathe me in the waters, warm me in the moonlight
    Taste me with your kisses, find the secret places...."

    By now, that box of chocolates is a melted mess. Replace with wine. Stir. Return.

    Kurt Elling, "Not While I'm Around" from "Flirting With Twilight" on Blue Note Records

    "Nothin's gonna harm you, not while I'm around
    No one's gonna hurt you, no sir, not while I'm around
    Demons are prowling everywhere, nowadays
    I'll send them howling
    I've got ways...."

    One definition of the comfort found in a special relationship. Sound too corny? Consider: one night the two of you are coming out of a great hang at your favorite late night joint. Suddenly you're surrounded by would be evil doers. One of you is a third degree black belt, singing Kurt's song and whuppin' some butt.

    Now that's luv, L....U....V

    Rob Crocker's Picks

    1) Joe Cuba "To Be With You"
    Joe's single swept over Brooklyn. All of us in school thought this was exactly what we were trying to say to our girlfriends.

    2) King Pleasure "This is Always"
    "This isn't Sometime. This is Always". Simple but endearing lyrics about love. From High School till adulthood they've touched me.

    3) Sarah Vaughan "That's All"
    I first heard this as a kid on WCBS-AM, my mother's favorite radio station. "I can only give you love that last forever" or "I can only give you country walks in springtime..." These were some of the lyrics that caught my young mind.

    Michael Bourne's Picks

    I have a personal connection to three love songs. I've actually "performed" all three during the free-wheeling "parlor games" that I host on the last Monday morning of the January jazzfest at Mohonk Mountain House. "Old Devil Moon" because, while I've played the American Popular Songbook for decades on the radio, it's the only standard that I've (more or less) "sung" in public ever. "As Time Goes By" because the fundamental things about love always indeed apply. "I'll Remember April" because my Other Half walked in the door on an April 13th and, after not seeing each other more than 25 years, lovingly walked right into my very cells.

    John Cooper's Picks

    Marcus Roberts "Single Petal Of A Rose".
    Taken from his recording The Truth Is Spoken Here. One of the prettiest versions of this I've ever heard.

    John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman - "Dedicated To You"
    This recording features the classic My One & Only Love, but over the years I've found this song to be my favorite. The power of love to move an artist to create music, paint or write a book is a powerful force indeed.

    Rachel Z - "Iyakutanda"
    Taken from her recording Trust The Universe. The song title is Zulu for I LOVE YOU. Rachel plays this in duet with Gumbi Ortiz. The melody is beautiful while being easy and complex at the same time. Just like love.

  • Snap Crackle, it's Roy Haynes

    February 12, 2008. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Interviews

    Roy Haynes with Gary Walker and Rhonda Hamilton

    Master drummer Roy Haynes - not only one of the most recorded drummers around, but also one of the hippest dressers - was in the studio with Gary Walker this morning. This is a guy who's played with everyone from Lester Young and Sarah Vaughn to Christian McBride and Pat Metheny. So he's got stories to tell, and that he did!

    Take a listen now!

    And today only, pledge your support to WBGO and pick up the Roy Haynes box set thank you gift, and it will be autographed. As always, we thank you for supporting Jazz88!

  • "DIGGIN' THE CLASSICS": A.T.C.Q. EDITION

    February 11, 2008. Posted by Stevan Smith.

    What's going on all!
    Welcome to my blog series "DIGGIN' THE CLASSICS"! When new releases in the music world get slow, we all tend to dig into our collections for some vintage pleasure. Join me for my weekly (or whenever I feel like it) quest for soundtrack satisfaction. This is a blog for music lovers! "Walk With Me".
    This edition celebrates: A Tribe Called Quest- The Low End Theory (1991)

    Tracklisting (Contains Explicit Lyrics):

    1. Excursions
    2. Buggin' Out
    3. Rap Promoter
    4. Butter
    5. Verses From the Abstract
    6. Show Business
    7. Vibes and Stuff
    8. The Infamous Date Rape
    9. Check the Rhime
    10. Everything is Fair
    11. Jazz (We've Got)
    12. Skypager
    13. What?
    14. Scenario

    This is one of my all-time favorite hip-hop albums. Arguably the best album by Tribe, this project contained a very "jazzy sound" (East Coast hip-hop was James Brown sample crazy before this). This was a very different vibe from the G-Funk gangsta music made popular by Death Row Records at the time.
    While I was going through the credits, I noticed that Ron Carter played the bass on track #5 "Verses from the Abstract". Being that I said this is one of my favorite hip hop albums of all time (and I know every lyric), I never noticed that Q-Tip shouts out Ron Carter at the end of the song...."Thanks a lot Ron Carter; on the bass is my man Ron Carter on the bass..". Hey, what can I say...I was caught up in the music.
    As far as "jazz rap" goes, The Low End Theory was the bench mark. Though the album contained mostly samples of jazz music, it was the presentation of the package. From the "abstract/poetic" lyrics of Q-Tip, to the more direct delivery of Phife (in his prime I'd might add), this album is as smooth as butter. At the time of it's release, The Low End Theory was named a "5 mic" classic by The Source Magazine.
    This release was also responsible for shining a light on the "not yet solo" talents of Busta Rhymes. The song goes down in history as one of hip hop's best "posse cuts."

    This album is made classic by it's pure production excellence and it's varied subject matter.
    Exhibit A, B, C,.....and so on:

    ranked #154 in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time
    ranked #32 in Spin Magazine's "90 Greatest Albums of the '90s"
    One of the Top 100 Best Rap Albums of All Time (The Source)
    One of the 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century (Vibe magazine)
    Here's the video for "We've Got the Jazz":

    A classic example of how Jazz & Hip-Hop can co-exist.
    Peace............
    Vegas

  • Herbie Wins Highest Grammy Honor

    February 11, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.

     herbie-grammy.jpg

    Like many of you, I was home last night watching the Grammys.  I started not to watch it, because often times it's long, tedious, and not very interesting.  At least for someone like me who doesn't listen to a whole lot of mainstream music.  But it was a Sunday night, and I was routing for a few albums, and so I thought...why not?  I ordered up my dinner and plopped in front of the screen.

    As I was watching the red carpet special, the E! host caught up with Herbie Hancock.  Herbie mentioned to the host that it had been 43 years since a Jazz album won the overall Best Album category.  Well, the Grammys have only been around for 50!  That really blew my mind.  I then began to really think about that and frankly, it truly bothered me.  I knew that the lack of well-rounded programming on the Grammys was always frustrating to me and many others, but Herbie's comment really put it into perspective for me.  I mean, think about it...I don't think I've ever just seen a quartet or a quintet just burn out on a Grammy stage.  Jazz is always packaged in some cheesy, or watered-down package on mainstream award shows.  Bad enough that the Jazz categories don't get televised!  Then when they DO show jazz-type performances, they are so "Vaudevilled" out, that it's no wonder that the masses (especially a lot of young folks) don't become necessarily interested in Jazz...the representations are all wrong!

    OK, now that I'm done venting, let's talk about some of the highlights for me, and the things I'm very proud of about this year's Grammys.

    HERBIE HANCOCK WON THE GRAMMY FOR ALBUM OF THE YEAR!
    YES!!!! And well deserved.  It was not "stolen" as I've read a couple places in the press this morning.  I thought it was so commendable on the behalf of the academy to recognize Herbie in this way.  I think the young artists - Winehouse, Kanye and the like, needed that.  The music industry at large needed that.  They needed to see where so much of their inspiration comes from.  And that at 67, Herbie is still a giant among giants.  You don't have to check out Maiden Voyage or Empyrean Isles to know just how bad this cat is (though I strongly suggest everyone does).  He is always one to be contended with because he remains ahead of his time.  And River: The Joni Letters, is just a beautiful album.

    Another special highlight for me was Terence Blanchard getting the Grammy for Best Large Ensemble Jazz Album for his
    A Tale of God's Will: A Requiem for Katrina.  This album is truly special, and I'm so glad it was acknowledged in this way.  I was also happy for the late Michael Brecker to be honored.

    I hope that Herbie's high-profile victory will open up the discussion about the importance of Jazz, and spark the programming folks at the Grammy's to consider including more Jazz performances, and exposing the thriving genre to a lot of folks that need to be hipped...and would greatly enjoy appreciate the music.

    Congratulations to everyone!

    Here's a list of all the winners