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.

  • Herbie Wins Highest Grammy Honor

    February 11, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.


    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.

    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

  • Jaleel Shaw

    February 8, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.


    This is another up-and-coming artist that I'm really excited about. Jaleel Shaw is one of the most talented and interesting young players that has come along in the latest wave of young lions. I first met Jaleel around 2002 - he was a finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition that year as well. I was completely blown away by this cat. This year, he is a recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award, along with another great young talent, Kendrick Scott.

    Check him out

    Oh, and Happy Birthday too!

  • Long time, coming

    February 7, 2008

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    So, here we are more than week into the "I heart jazz" fund drive. (That's my name for it.) It's hard to take stock of where we are with this thing, beyond the dollar figure, which is around halfway to the goal so far.

    We take these fund drives seriously because it's true that 50 cents of every dollar comes from our listeners. So, we plan, have meetings, design strategies, employ consultants and generally bust our collective hump (the membership department, mostly) to have a successful drive. To make sure the drive is easier on the ears. To make sure you don't turn your radio off or (worse) turn to another station.

    At the risk of over-sharing, I'll tell you that, this time around, we wanted to concentrate on being briefer (or is it more brief) during our breaks. Get in. Drop the message. Give the number. Get back to the jazz. I don't think anyone actually used those words, but that was the idea.

    All our fund drives have a life of their own. They are affected by the events that take place around us (Super Bowl. Super Tuesday. Fat Tuesday. Ticker tape parade, even 9/11.). Like most drives, we started this one out watching the clock, then loosened that up a bit and then went back again.

    It's caused some testy exchanges, I'll admit. We don't all agree on these matters. All of it was behind the scenes and all a regular part of any fund drive at a public radio station. I'm not convinced that you tune out because our breaks are too long. I think you think our drives are too long.

    But, maybe we can put this blog to good use. I know you're reading our posts. We have ways of counting that sort of thing. So, if you're reading this post, do me a favor. Click on the comments link and leave a comment. What turns you off about our fund drives? What might you do differently? (disclaimer: this is me, Cruz, asking this question and it should not be mistaken for an official WBGO inquiry.) - David Cruz

  • One love!

    February 6, 2008

    Robert Nesta Marley was born on this day (Feb 6) in 1945 in Jamaica, W.I. His friends called him Bob. He died in 1981. Simple math will tell you that he barely got a chance to live. But the music he crammed into his 36 years will outlive all of us.

    If all you know about Bob Marley is "I shot the Sheriff," I urge you to dig deeper. The man was one of the most eloquent and sensitive songwriters ever. Whether he was singing about the oppression of hate or the deliverance of love, his lyrics were simply - true. Marley is Dylan is Lennon and McCartney is Jagger and Richards and then some. But, as hip as those cats were, they still couldn't break it down like Bob.

    "I-and-I no come to fight flesh and blood, but spiritual wickedness in high and low places; so while they fight you down, stand firm and give Jah thanks and praises! I-and-I don't expect to be justified by the laws of men. Oh, You may find me guilty but truth, truth will prove my innocence. When the rain falls, it don't fall on one man's house. Just remember that!"

    You don't have to be a Rasta to dig that! Happy Birthday, Bob. This world misses you, bro. - David Cruz