• Tom Harrell: Live At The Village Vanguard

    April 8, 2009. Posted by WBGO.

    Tom Harrell. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    A veteran known for his lyrical compositions and full, round tone, Tom Harrell is one of the jazz world's most respected mainstream trumpeters. He's racked up accolades from critics and reader polls, his discography houses more than 20 discs under his own name, and he's been gigging with jazz legends for 40 years. He brought his horn, his quintet and his experience into the Village Vanguard, in a concert broadcast live by WBGO and streamed live on the Web at NPR Music.

    As was expected, Harrell called several numbers from his quintet's latest album Prana Dance, released earlier this year, including the hard-swinging opener "Sequenza" and deftly playful "Marching." But the group also ran through several of Harrell's older tunes, showcasing a diverse catalog which remained immediately accessible in spite of complex time signatures, rhythms and harmonic layers. Harrell himself proved a stylistic chameleon, forceful when taking on unclassifiable modal jams ("Blue News"), adept on mutable Latin rhythms (set closer "Otra"), and rich and warm on slower, atmospheric tunes (the ballad "Nighttime"). On stage, he was backed by a band of first-call New York sidemen who all lead their own touring bands: saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and pianist Danny Grissett had plenty of time to stretch out for themselves, and bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Johnathan Blake buoyed the band in both its hairiest and calmest moments.

    Harrell has plenty of experience in big bands: One of his first big touring gigs was with Stan Kenton, and he has recorded many of his own large ensembles. But he's earned his chops in extended stays in small groups, notably those of Horace Silver and Phil Woods. Harrell has been recording his own combos since the 1970s, and has been working with his current quintet since 2007's Light On.

    Harrell does it all in spite of — or perhaps as a distraction from — a potentially debilitating diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Though medications keep his illness under control, he is known to become noticeably more animated as soon as he lifts the horn to his mouth. Village Vanguard regulars should be familiar with Harrell's sound; in recent years, he has played a week at the club every year, and in 2002, he released a live album recorded on its stage.

    Set List

    • "Sequenza"
    • "Blue News"
    • "Marching"
    • "Nighttime"
    • "Otra"


    • Tom Harrell, trumpet
    • Wayne Escoffery, tenor sax
    • Danny Grissett, piano
    • Ugonna Okegwo, bass
    • Johnathan Blake, drums


    • Josh Jackson, producer and host
    • David Tallacksen, mix engineer
    • Darren Jones, recording assistant
  • Woodwind Master Bud Shank Dies at 82

    April 3, 2009. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Notes
    Photo: Elizabeth Becker
    Elizabeth Becker

    Saxophonist and flutist Clifford Everett "Bud" Shank died at his home in Tuscon, Arizona yesterday.  The cause was pulmonary failure.  As a young upstart in the late 1940s, Shank gained prominence as a reed player in both the Charlie Barnet and Stan Kenton big bands.  He was most closely associated with the West Coast jazz scene in its heyday, notably as a member of Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, where he further developed a cool but evocative alto swing that was his calling card.  Shank also recorded in small chamber jazz ensembles, and is credited as a co-leader on Brazilliance, some of the first sessions of jazz and bossa nova in the United States, long before the cross-cultural pollination became a national phenomenon.

    Shank was also a tremendous flutist, though he swore off the instrument later in his career.  Many of his best reed dates were recorded for World Pacific records in the 50s and 60s.  He also cast himself as a solid studio musician in Los Angeles, where he joined other jazz players looking for steady work [you can hear his flute solo on "California Dreamin'" from the Mamas and the Papas]. Shank eventually teamed up with his studio mates - bassist Ray Brown, drummer Jeff Hamilton, and his longtime associate from the Kenton band, guitarist Laurindo Almeida - and formed the popular LA Four band.  In more than six decades of performance, Bud Shank contributed a wide angle shot of improvised music.  He will be missed.

    Feel free to share some of your favorite Bud Shank recordings in the comments section.  I love his teamwork with fellow Kenton bandmate Laurindo Almeida on Brazilliance, Shank's work with trumpeter Shorty Rogers, as well as the Improvisations record with sitar master, Ravi Shankar.  And that's just scratching the surface of a very long career.

  • The Checkout: WBGO's New Music Show

    April 1, 2009. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    It's no April Fool's Day prank (Take it from a guy who got married on this day nine years ago).  This plug comes factory direct from the shameless self-promotion department.  Hope you'll listen and support us.

    checkoutlogoWBGO launches new program, The Checkout, to air Tuesdays at 6:30pm
    One hour magazine format will focus on new music and inaugurate new content rich website, CheckOutJazz.com

    The Checkout, which makes its debut on Tuesday, April 7 at 6:30pm, will be the first new produced program on the WBGO airwaves since JazzSet began 17 years ago.

    Josh Jackson, host of The Checkout, first began his life in radio in New Orleans, then landed a temporary production assistant job at American Routes, and followed with public radio boot camp at Murray Street Productions in New York. Josh still believes that radio is a legitimate career path, and no one has the heart to tell him otherwise.

    Josh joined the WBGO team in 2001 and is currently the station’ Special Projects Producer, blogger-in-chief and an unparalleled enthusiast for modern expressions in jazz. He has been responsible for new media projects such as Living With Music, an online multimedia riff about jazz, and the multi-media partnership between WBGO and NPR, Live at the Village Vanguard, a monthly concert series that includes live audio and video streaming via the web, live radio broadcast, plus an interactive blog where fans of the music interact with one another. The Vanguard series, along with its free podcasts, has become such a sensation, that it was a focal point in the current JazzTimes cover story on Ravi Coltrane, who recently appeared on the program.

    As Josh was producing award-winning documentaries and more than 250 live concert recordings at WBGO, an idea for a show highlighting new music came to him. “I wanted to put this content we were recording in context, to connect the dots between artists’ upcoming performances in the area, their new releases, and what they’re listening to.”

    The Checkout will be a one-hour magazine format, also available as a podcast, that will feature what’s new in the New York jazz scene. The New York Times’ Ben Ratliff will occasionally sit down with Josh to discuss new releases, reissues, and newly discovered or unearthed music.

    A new website will also launch on April 7, www.CheckOutJazz.com. Josh’s strong relationship with many musicians will enable the site to have on-demand content such as Featured New Music - single tracks from new releases that day - and Studio Sessions, which are recorded in the WBGO performance studio. But Josh Jackson will certainly not be contained to the WBGO offices in Newark, but rather, he will be recording interviews and experiences on location throughout the New York area to collect the pieces of The Checkout.

    While The Checkout is for all WBGO listeners, Program Director, Thurston Briscoe, hopes that “the in depth magazine style focusing on new music, a fresh approach for WBGO original programming, will attract new listeners and the young of spirit.”

    WBGO is celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month in April, which is also the station’s 30th anniversary. The Checkout launch on April 7, which replaces the no longer available Jazz Profiles, is a highlight of this celebration. The first month of shows have been confirmed, and will feature interviews with Tom Harrell, Omar Sosa, Sangam – Sakir Hussein, Charles Lloyd, Chick Corea and John McLaughlin, as well as studio sessions with Claudia Acuna and Marco Benevento, a new release from Allen Toussaint’s Bright Mississippi band, and a playlist from Branford Marsalis.

    Check out The Checkout, Tuesdays at 6:30pm, beginning April 7, on WBGO – The Source for Jazz (88.3FM and www.wbgo.org).