• WBGO In South Africa 9: At The Cape Town Jazz Fest

    April 15, 2015. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Our amazing WBGO travel experience to South Africa ends with an exclamation point: The 16th Annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival!


    Thanks to our travel expert, Hema Shah from Immersion Journeys, Rhonda Hamilton, 25 WBGO members and I spent the first part of our trip truly immersed in the Rainbow Nation’s heritage, wildlife, history, communities of Johannesburg and Soweto – and even got to play golf!

    After this we dove headfirst into South Africa's vibrant jazz scene. The Cape Town International Jazz Fest featured more than forty concerts over two days on five stages, exhibitions, master classes, and even a fashion show.

    Most of these concerts were held at Cape Town’s convention center, which stands up to any state-of-the-art theater anywhere in the world. It is well worthy of hosting a world-class jazz festival.


    In his news features for the WBGO Journal, Giovanni Russonello explains this year’s fest emphasized South Africa’s domestic jazz talent - such as emerging Cape jazz drummer Claude Cozens, and bassists Benjamin Jephta and Carlo Mombelli.

    Photo by Ignatius Mokone

    Russonello also had a conversation with Cozens for The Checkout – don’t miss it. They talk about Abdullah Ibrahim, the so-called “Goema” Cape Jazz sound, and the young drummer’s modern take on that music with his trio’s new CD, Jubilee Jam.

    In addition to these newcomers, South Africa’s musical legends are here too. I felt lucky to hear in concert and also interview the man who is perhaps Africa’s most important living jazz player: trumpeter Hugh Masekela.

    Photo by Ignatius Mokone
    Photo by Ignatius Mokone

    It cannot be overstated how much of a gift is to see and hear Hugh play on his home turf, in front of ten thousand squealing fans humming along to every song.

    “It’s akin to seeing Shakespeare performed by the Royal Shakespeare company,” says Dean Irby, an actor and WBGO member who traveled with our group. “Seeing the master actors perform in front of the people the play was written for.”

    Photo by Ignatius Mokone

    In my conversation with Masekela for The Checkout, we take a time warp back to 1965, the year that made him a star.

    That year, Masekela recorded his career-making album The Americanization of the Ooga Booga, while in exile in New York City. He says that experience brought his music into the mainstream.

    In 1965, he also launched his own boutique record label, Chisa! That venture helped the trumpeter find his unique voice that combined jazz with the sounds of his homeland.

    Another high point for me was hearing the contemporary jazz/hip-hop group led by the talented singer Melanie Scholtz alongside rapper Jitzvinger.

    Photo by Mary-Ann Daniels
    Photo by Mary-Ann Daniels

    Scholtz, a Cape Town-bred singer and songwriter, won the 2010 Standard Bank Young Artist jazz prize. Her popularity in Europe has been growing steadily; she plans to move to Prague soon. She will be featured on The Checkout in May.

    Photo by Ignatius Mokone
    Photo by Ignatius Mokone

    Last, and definitely not least, for me, was Thundercat, aka Stephen Bruner! HooooooO!

    This elusive bassist, singer-songwriter and producer is one of my personal creative heroes; I’ve tried to get him on The Checkout for years. I was thrilled to spend an hour talking with him at the Cape Sun Hotel.

    Thundercat not only creates his own brilliant music, but he is constantly busy, working with some of today’s cutting-edge mainstream musicians, such as Kimbra and Kendrick Lamar.

    We talked about those artists and many others in his Los Angeles creative sphere: Eric Andre, Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, and the late Austin Peralta.

    What more can I say about my experience at the Cape Town International Jazz Fest? Only that I can’t wait to go back!

  • WBGO Jam Live 2015: William Paterson Vocal Ensemble

    April 13, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    The William Paterson University Jazz Vocal Ensemble performs live at WBGO for Jazz Appreciation Month, with vocalists Ana Petrillo, Jamie Henry and Vuyo Sotashe. Click below to hear this concert, and tune in to 88.3 FM to hear this group featured on air during the second week of April. A full set list is below.

    Every week in April, WBGO-FM will showcase a different student ensemble with vocalists who performed live in our studios for Jazz Appreciation Month. All of these full sets will be available online. Enjoy!

    Click on the image below to see a slideshow from this live in-studio performance.


    William Paterson University Jazz Vocal Ensemble

    Live at WBGO - March 11th, 2015
    Nancy Marano, Instructor
    Dave Demsey, Coordinator of Jazz Studies

    1) "I’ll Be Seeing You" by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal

    (Arranged by Darmon Meater, sung by Anna Petrillo, Jamie Henry, Vuyo Sotashe, and Megan Roy)

    2) "Lush Life" by Billy Strayhorn

    (Sung and arranged by Jamie Henry)

    3) "Yesterdays" by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach

    (Sung and arranged by Jamie Henry)

    4) "On Green Dolphin Street" by Bronisław Kaper and Ned Washington

    (Sung and arranged by Anna Petrillo)

    5)  "Wee Small Hours" by Bob Hilliard and David Mann

    (Sung and arranged by Anna Petrillo)

    6) "Day By Day" by Stephen Schwartz

    (Sung and arranged by Vuyo Sotashe)

    7)  "Sophisticated Lady" by Duke Ellington and Mitchell Parish

    (Sung and arranged by Vuyo Sotashe)

    Anna Petrillo (senior, Bayonne, NJ), vocals
    Jamie Henry (senior, Edmonton, Alberta), vocals
    Vuyo Sotashe (masters, Fulbright Scholar, South Africa), vocals
    Sam Javitch (senior, New York, NY), piano
    Chris Sullivan (masters, San Francisco, CA), alto saxophone
    Miguel Rodriguez (senior, Freehold, NJ), tenor saxophone
    Vincent Dupont (junior, Hudson, NH), bass
    Matt Niedbalski (junior, Gainesvoort, NY), drums

  • A Young Jazz Saxophonist Wants You To 'Get Up And Move'

    April 11, 2015

    Saxophonist Hailey Niswanger's new album is PDX Soul. (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    Since she was a teenager, saxophonist Hailey Niswanger has been drawing attention in the jazz world, and not just because she's a woman in bands most often populated by men. Niswanger's alto- and soprano-sax mastery is captivating. Now 25, she's just released her third album as a bandleader, PDX Soul, and is preparing to go on tour with fellow Portland, Ore., native Esperanza Spalding.

    The funk-influenced PDX Soul, which finds Niswanger embracing heavy production and certain elements of smooth jazz, represents a departure from her straight-ahead jazz albums.

    "I wanted to show another side of my passion," says Niswanger, who points to Cannonball Adderley, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis as models of artists who have moved easily among musical styles. "Maybe it's more prone for festival-type vibes and outdoor, standing venues — dance, get up and move."

    Niswanger says she sees an opening among her generation for jazz in the way it crosses genre boundaries.

    "I think jazz is starting to break into other areas," she says. "I know that this big hip-hop album that just came out, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, there's jazz all over the album. There's improvisation; there's jazz saxophone playing all up in there. It's definitely starting to cross over, and I think there might be a new wave of interest, especially for the younger crowd."

    NPR's Tamara Keith spoke with Niswanger about PDX Soul, the story of how the saxophone first called to her, and the unique challenges of playing the soprano sax. Hear their conversation at the audio link.

    Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.