WBGO Blog
  • Playdate With Matt Wilson Show #8: 3/25/14

    March 24, 2014. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    PlaydateBannerUpdatedWelcome to Playdate #8, the last in our series of highlights from WBGO's archive of live recordings. We've packed this show, which airs on WBGO-FM March 25 at 6:30 p.m., to the brim with excitement, and there's even more at WBGO.ORG/PLAYDATE.

    First up is JazzSet's historic trip to Cuba in December of 1998. You'll hear trombonist Steve Turre jam on conch shells in the streets of Havana with a seven-woman percussion group, trumpeter Roy Hargrove grooving hard with locals, and more music and stories from producer Becca Pulliam and field engineer Duke Markos.

    To read and hear more about this trip, visit this blog post we created for JazzSet's twentieth anniversary.

    havanaskyline

    The view of the Habana River from Producer Becca Pulliam's hotel room

    Show #8 also features pianist Harold Mabern, The Dave Holland Quintet at the 1998 Mount Hood Jazz Festival, tenor saxophonist Frank Wess with the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, and music from the two hosts of JazzSet: saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who hosted the show in its first decade, and vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, our current host.

    You'll also hear part of an intimate performance by guitarist Larry Coryell with pianist Albert Dailey, bassist George Mraz and drummer Billy Hart at the Village Vanguard on April 26, 1984.

    That morning, Count Basie passed away. Coryell dedicates his version of "Body and Soul" to the legendary organist, pianist and bandleader, who embodied for many jazz lovers, the sound and sense of "swing."

    At WBGO.ORG/PLAYDATE, you can hear the full audio from this performance, as well as "On Green Dolphin Street," which features Coryell's group with innovative saxophonist Geroge Braith. On the track, Braith plays the Braithophone - a multi-reed instrument of his own invention.

    braith2

  • Toots Thielemans Hangs Up His Harp

    March 18, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    NEA Jazz Master Toots Thielemans, who turns 92 in April, has decided it's time to retire. After seven decades, the harmonica player and composer of "Bluesette" - who is also a master whistler -  has decided to hang up his harp, at least on the concert stage,  his website says.

    Toots has been a soulful and constant companion to jazz lovers lover over the years, with an unquenchable reserve of musical talent and enthusiasm. He has been frequently featured on WBGO and NPR, as in March, 2011, when we recorded him for JazzSet at the Kennedy Center.

    Listen to Toots' JazzSet here

    After that, he was scheduled to perform at New York's Blue Note, but canceled some of those shows, citing fatigue.

    A year later in May of 2012, Toots was back: he made an multi-city tour of his home country, Belgium, to celebrate his 90th birthday.

    WBGO's Becca Pulliam was lucky enough to visit Dinant and Brussels to take part in Belgium's celebration of their national treasure.  In the bookstore at the museum of musical instruments, she saw this stack of commemorative books.

    Stack of Toots books

    Back in the US, she wrote this appreciation of The Harmonica-Playing Baron of Belgium and the Toots90 concert in Brussels for NPR's A Blog Supreme:

    ". . . four of Toots' first five tunes were recorded by Miles Davis in a short span: 'On Green Dolphin Street' (1958), 'All Blues' (early 1959), 'I Loves You, Porgy' and 'Summertime' (both 1958, for Porgy and Bess). 'Days of Wine and Roses' was the other number. . . .  [T]hough he's streamlined his playing, 30 years later he still sounds tuneful, optimistic, willing to soar.

    "When [pianist Kenny]Werner and [guitarist Oscar] Castro-Neves came to the stage — excitement! embraces! — they brought shades of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Hollywood as they played 'How High the Moon' (a samba, thanks to Castro-Neves), 'All the Way' (Werner on synthesizer, interpolating 'My Way'), and the theme to Midnight Cowboy, an eight-note melody that circles and haunts. Indeed, Thielemans played it on the soundtrack [to the movie]."

    Toots was back in New York later that year to perform at Jazz At Lincoln Center, with his Brazilian friends Oscar Castro-Neves, Eliane Elias and Dori Caymmi, as well as Herbie Hancock, Kenny Werner, and Marc Johnson.

    The center of attention, the heart of the matter - was this wonderfully resilient, determined, and most musical nonagenarian, Toots Thielemans.

    According to his manager, Toots now - on the cusp of his 92nd birthday - "wants to enjoy the rest he deserves."

    Deserved, indeed, and thank you, Toots!

  • Playdate With Matt Wilson Show #7: 3/18/14

    March 18, 2014. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    PlaydateBannerUpdated

    Playdate #7 delivers The Message! Tonight at 6:30 p.m., host Matt Wilson presents hard bop innovator Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers live at New York City's Jazz Forum, in a vivid broadcast first heard on WBGO in 1983.

    Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison, Jr. play trumpet and alto on "One by One," written by former Messenger Wayne Shorter. The pianist is Johnny O'Neal, still a must-see these days at New York clubs like Smalls and Smoke.

    Also from the present day, Jazz Forum's proprietor, Mark Morganelli, gives Playdate a succinct, affectionate portrait of his friend Blakey who - Mark recalls - drove a Rolls Royce.

    Morganelli sent us this photo of Mr. Blakey behind Woody Shaw at the Jazz Forum, a loft near Bleecker and Broadway.

    BlakeyCROPPED1

    Born in Pittsburgh in 1919, Art Blakey emerged in the late 1940s playing drums with Thelonious Monk. He formed the Jazz Messengers in the middle 1950s.

    As host and drummer Matt Wilson says, "The Messengers were a jazz school before before there were jazz degrees from conservatories... an on-the-bandstand education."

    Over its thirty-plus years in existence, The Messengers produced more than ninety top-flight musicians, ranging from Wayne Shorter to Johnny Griffin, Wynton Kelly to Keith Jarrett, and Lee Morgan to Wynton Marsalis.

    Coincidentally, also from 1999 in this episode, we hear the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band play an exclusive arrangement of Monk's "Off Minor."

    We note with sadness the passing of drummer Ralph Penland earlier this week in California. Here on Playdate #7, Penland sounds great playing "Sky Dive" in Freddie Hubbard's sextet on New Year's Eve 1990.

    Guest tenor Ernie Watts joins the band, and the late keyboard man George Duke and bassist Stanley Clarke are in the audience at Catalina's for this set, first heard as part of New Year's Eve Coast to Coast, from WBGO and NPR.

    On the air, Freddie notes Penland's extraordinary drumming and says, "It's very seldom in Hollywood that I have a chance to play jazz... I haven't had this much fun for a long time!"

    And that's just to whet your appetite. Want more? Head to WBGO.ORG/PLAYDATE to stream all our shows and enjoy our web extras. Thanks for playing!