WBGO Blog
  • The Ray Charles Songbook

    July 1, 2016

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    Ray Charles and Marian McPartland. (Image Credit: Courtesy of Vanguard)

    At age 21, trumpeter Kenny Rampton (now of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra) launched his touring career with a nine-month stint in Ray Charles' band. Earlier this year, Rampton honored his former bandleader by presenting the most authentic Ray Charles experience possible. The band was full of Ray Charles alumni (including backing vocalists The Raelettes), the set lists were faithful recreations of actual Ray Charles sets, and the charts were transcribed from the original tour music.

    Jazz Night In America checks out Rampton and the band as they present The Ray Charles Songbook, live in concert from Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    Copyright 2016 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Michael Shannon Picks His Favorite Tunes With Gary Walker

    June 30, 2016. Posted by Josh Landes.

    Actor Michael Shannon, fresh off a run of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" on Broadway, came by the WBGO studios to host an hour with Gary Walker - sharing his picks of the jazz, blues, and even Elvis tunes that inspire his celebrated turns on stage and screen.

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  • Walli Collins Joins The Queen Of Hang For A Salon Session

    June 28, 2016. Posted by Josh Landes.

    Walli Collins considers himself an entertainer- a term just broad enough to capture his comedy, his music, and his love of the stage. Fellow Friars Club member and neighbor Sheila Anderson brought him to WBGO to join her for a Salon Session on Weekend Jazz After Hours.

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  • Joe Morton Talks Satire, Blues, and Dick Gregory with Michael Bourne

    June 27, 2016. Posted by Josh Landes.

    Known for his commanding performances on television shows like Scandal and Eureka, as well as his turns on stage and in film, actor Joe Morton is also a blues scholar and a keen observer of the human experience. Michael Bourne took the Blues Break to the Westside Theater to sit down with Joe and talk about his leading role in "Turn Me Loose", a play about the comedian, activist, and sage Dick Gregory.

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  • Bernie Worrell, 'Wizard Of Woo,' Dies At 72

    June 24, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

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    Bernie Worrell performs at the Black Rock Coalition Presents: All The Woo In The World — An All-Star Celebration benefit concert on April 4 in New York City. The concert was raising money for Worrell's medical costs. (Image Credit: Al Pereira/WireImage)

    Keyboardist and composer Bernie Worrell, who helped shape the sound of the band Parliament-Funkadelic and influenced countless artists across a wide range of genres, died Friday at 72.

    Worrell announced earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer.

    His musical life began early — according to his official biography, he started studying piano at age 3, wrote his first concerto at age 8 and performed with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., at 10.

    The classically trained keyboardist (he studied at Juilliard and the New England Conservatory of Music) made his name — and an indelible mark on music — in the world of P-Funk.

    Worrell, aka "The Wizard of Woo," was an early member of Parliament-Funkadelic, George Clinton's sprawling, theatrical and wildly influential funk collective.

    The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame notes that Parliament and Funkadelic "prefigured everything from rap and hip-hop to techno and alternative," with latter-day disciples including Prince and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Worrell was one of the key collaborators shaping the sounds of the collective.

    He was particularly famous for his innovative embrace of the sounds of synthesizers.

    In the 1980s, Worrell helped reshape the sound of the Talking Heads and became a regular member of their expanded lineup.

    Even if you don't know Worrell, you've probably heard his work. As a studio musician he contributed to scores of albums, and P-Funk songs are frequently sampled on hip-hop tracks.

    In 1991, when his second solo album came out, Worrell spoke to reporter Andy Lyman for Morning Edition. Worrell said his mastery of musical fundamentals was central to his genre-mashing work.

    "The art of creating is not just pushing a button," he said. "We're going to lose
    the art of creating — composing — because they won't even know how to make a chord. The chords are already just on a button. What is the root? What's the third? What's the fifth of the chord?

    "I feel that a lot of artists and parents who are interested in music should get music back into the mainstream in school systems," he said. "That's being lost also."

    You can hear that whole piece, which also explores the social awareness of Parliament/Funkadelic as well as Worrell's lasting influence on the Talking Heads, here:

    In January, Worrell announced that he had been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer. An online fundraiser and star-studded benefit concert helped cover his medical expenses — and gave many in the music community a chance to honor his life while he was still there to hear it.

    George Clinton and Bootsy Collins of P-Funk, David Byrne and Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads, Fred Schneider of the B-52s, Buckethead, Living Colour and Questlove, among others, performed at the "All The WOO In The World" benefit concert in April. And Worrell played too, of course.

    The crowd shouted "We love you, Bernie!" as he struggled for words, holding a proclamation from the mayor of Newark, N.J., in his honor. "I don't know what to --" Worrell said.

    "Thank you," he finally said. "I love you, too."

    Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.