• JAM 2010: Lenny Pickett's NYU Block Party Band

    April 15, 2010. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    Lenny Pickett's NYU Block Party Band rocked WBGO's performance studio on Afternoon Jazz with Michael Bourne.  If you missed their set of Tower of Power, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and original Lenny Pickett tunes, click below.

    Musicians featured during the live broadcast below.

    Jon Lijoi, trumpet
    James Delano, alto sax
    Lenny Pickett, tenor sax
    Brad Gunson, trombone
    Christian Anderson, bari sax
    Frank Cogliano, guitar
    Kris Nolte, piano
    Alex DaSilva, bass
    Miles Arntzen, drums

  • Sam Yahel Trio: Live At The Village Vanguard

    April 14, 2010. Posted by WBGO.

    Sam Yahel Trio. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    If you'd heard of Sam Yahel before last year, you probably knew him as a Hammond B-3 organist. And he's a fine organ player at that — one who can play with down-home grittiness or winding, lithe flourishes. It's a niche that brought him gigs with Maceo Parker and Norah Jones, several different bands with Joshua Redman, four studio albums, tons of sideman work and summers spent opening for Steely Dan.

    Then, in 2009, he released Hometown, a record made with a traditional piano-bass-drums trio. Lean, neat and enjoyable, it left some fans wondering why Yahel hadn't made more music on acoustic piano. Luckily, he's playing an entire week at the Village Vanguard with this setup. WBGO and NPR Music presented the Sam Yahel Trio in a live radio broadcast and online video webcast from the Vanguard.

    Yahel admits that he's more comfortable behind the organ than the piano, but listening to Hometown, it's awfully difficult to hear it. He plays with a deceptively straightforward approach, spiced with complex harmonies, left-hand motion and energetic solo bursts. In concert, he reprised several of the cuts from that album, interjecting standards into the mix. With him were Matt Penman and Jochen Rueckert, clean and nimble players who swung with deftness and variety.

    Though Yahel grew up in Germany, he came to New York to study music, and never left for too long. It was there where he got hooked on playing the organ; not long after leaving school, he went on the road with Maceo Parker playing three- or four-hour concerts nightly. He's been a sideman of choice for plenty of jazz performers looking for a distinctive voice, as well as other folks looking for a sensitive accompanist. Perhaps his best-known gig was in Joshua Redman's electro-funk Elastic Band; the core three members of that group were also known collectively as YaYa3, and even on record, once, as the Sam Yahel Trio.

    In all this, Yahel has made a handful of records under his own name, all on organ — until last year. He's also made a number of appearances at the Village Vanguard, but never any under his own name, until now.

    Set List

    • "So In Love" (Porter)
    • "Every Little Thing/Jealous Guy" (McCartney/Lennon)
    • "Truth And Beauty" (Yahel)
    • "Moonlight In Vermont" (Blackburn/Suessdorf)
    • "Think Of One" (Monk)
    • "Will You Still Be Mine" (Dennis)


    • Sam Yahel, piano
    • Matt Penman, bass
    • Jochen Rueckert, drums


    • Josh Jackson, producer and host
    • David Tallacksen, mix engineer
    • Lara Pellegrinelli, moderator
  • Randy Weston's Birthday Celebration Weekend Is Now

    April 9, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Randy WestonIt's Randy Weston's 84th birthday, and the celebration is at the Jazz Standard. Last night, I enjoyed the first set. For the opening minutes (at least five minutes), Weston's hands didn't venture above the middle of the keyboard. That powerful low piano goes straight to your center. The vibration is strong enough to make you a resonator! As Randy Weston says, "In the African tradition, we are all musicians. Your heart is your drum and your voice is your sound."

    As the set unfolded from the processional "Blues to Africa" through "Saucer Eyes," "African Sunrise" for Dizzy Gillespie and Machito, "Hi Fly" and "Berkshire Blues," I felt as if I'd died and gone to heaven (or Sunside, a Paris club which for some reason came to mind). Love yourself. Go see Randy Weston.

    Here's a clip of "African Sunrise" from the same quintet, as heard on JazzSet in 2004.