WBGO Blog
  • And Then There Were the Men… (at Cape Town Jazz Fest)

    April 12, 2016. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    The Cape Town International Jazz Festival is a fabulous way to see South Africa’s unique perspective and definition of jazz music. Singer-songwriters that perform something closer to “neo-soul” or “smooth jazz” -- Angie Stone, SWV, and Jazz Attack featuring Peter White, Rick Braun, and Euge Groove – are all billed as jazz headliners here. Nevertheless, many of the "heavier" musicians that we know in New York City, many of whom who have appeared on The Checkout, such as saxophonist Mark Turner, are featured here too. (Listen to that interview here.)

    Mark Turner at Rosies photo by Gregory Franz
    Mark Turner at Rosies photo by Gregory Franz

    And the Cape Town Jazz Fest certainly offers its own native crop of serious jazz talent such as Bokani Dyer, Themba Mokena, Thandi Ntuli, Nduduzo Makhathini, and Benjamin Jephta. Listen to The Checkout's interview with Benjamin Jephta from last year here.

    Benjamin Jephta
    Benjamin Jephta

    My favorite venue to hear this kind of talent is undoubtably Rosies. It’s the smallest space at Cape Town’s brand new convention center, yet offers the best ambience and sound, and it’s not even close. It’s also an experience worth paying for -- those concerts usually require an additional ticket price. Tumi Mogorosi performed at Rosies this year.

    Tumi Mogorosi
    Tumi Mogorosi

    He may be a rising star in South Africa, but remains relatively unknown on jazz’s international landscape, at least for now. (The Checkout intends to remedy that a little with an upcoming feature with him soon.)  The Sotho drummer and composer released The Elo Project in 2014, a more-or-less string-less trio of drums, bass, and saxophone with sparse interjections of guitar and trombone. Its distinctive and most important ingredient: a vocal quartet. This small choir with jazz combo sounds similar to what Kamasi Washington released a year later with his recording The Epic.

    Derek Gripper at Rosies
    Derek Gripper at Rosies

    By far the concert I enjoyed most at Rosies this year, and perhaps my favorite concert ever from my three years of attending The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, was guitarist Derek Gripper, solo. Who plays the music of Bach, Egberto Gismonti, Ali Farka Touré, and Toumani Diabate all in the same set?  No one I can think of. This classically-trained guitarist whose based in Cape Town is making us rethink how we perceive the music of some of Africa’s greatest composers of the 20th century when he compares the work of Bach with that of Touré and Diabate.

    Derek Gripper at home
    Derek Gripper at home

    We recorded an intimate interview and field recording with the guitarist in his home at the base of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. Look out for that soon, including music from his latest (awesome) recording Libraries On Fire. That name refers to a griots death in West African culture.  When a griot dies, a library burns.

    Ilhan Ersahin
    Ilhan Ersahin

    Ilhan Erhasin is all over the globe these days, playing with his Turkish popstar friends, or curating an electro-jazz festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We New Yorkers know and love the saxophonist for his Lower East Side establishment known as NuBlu. In his upcoming interview for The Checkout, he reveals that his iconic New York club is moving soon, and also shares music from his recording The Istanbul Sessions.

    BadBadNotGood at Moses Molelekwa Stage
    BadBadNotGood at Moses Molelekwa Stage

    Just when you think the legend behind Toronto’s rogue jazz trio couldn’t get any more mystical, these bad boys of jazz, BadBadNotGood, keeps dropping the magic -- releasing jazz/hip hop gems on the interwebs and enchanting young audiences at music festivals. South Africa’s millennials – who are often referred to as “Born-Frees” in Cape Town – were the subjects this time. The enthusiastic crowd was rewarded by a supernatural guest appearance of Yasiin Bey formerly known as Mos Def.  I can’t think of a better way to end The Cape Town International Jazz Festival’s 17th installment.

    Yasiin Bey photo by Paul Michael Charles
    Yasiin Bey photo by Paul Michael Charles
  • WBGO JAM 2016: Queens College International Quintet

    April 11, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    Queens College International Quintet stops by to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month. A diverse collective of students from around the world, this group's original compositions demonstrate the power of jazz as language both distinctly global and intimately personal.

    Hear this group and other top student ensembles featured on 88.3 FM throughout the month of April.

    Keep watching the blog for more complete JAM sessions all month long.

    jam 2016 queens

    The Queens College International Quintet, directed by David Berkman

    1) Like Kenny (composed by Samvel Sarkisian)
    2) January (composed by Miyoung Lee)
    3) Brooklyn Bound (composed by Flavio Silva)

    Flavio Silva (Brazil) - Guitar
    Sergej Avenesov (Russia) - Tenor Sax
    Miyoung Lee (Korea) - Piano
    Chang Min Jun (Korea) - Bass
    Samvel Sarkisian (Russia) - Drums

  • Jymie Merritt: The Beat Goes Deep

    April 7, 2016

    Philadelphia bassist Jymie Merritt's place on the historical register of jazz was cemented by his work with major players like Art Blakey, Max Roach and Lee Morgan. But there's a lot more music for which he hasn't received due credit: notably, his own. Starting in the 1960s, he began developing a personal system of polyrhythms and harmonies called Forerunner, and a working ensemble called The Forerunners to match. The music is rich in mathematical complexity, but it left a mark on many Philadelphians, including saxophonist Odean Pope and his son, Mike Merritt (now the bassist in Conan O'Brien's late-night band). Now, Mike has taken up the mantle and reassembled the band to finally record his father's music.

    Jazz Night In America goes to Philly to meet Jymie Merritt and see The Forerunners live in concert, as presented by WXPN, WRTI and the Philadelphia Jazz Project at World Cafe Live.

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

  • Pianist Bill Charlap Talks with Gary Walker About his From Broadway to Harlem Concerts

    April 7, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    Grammy-winning pianist Bill Charlap joins Gary Walker to talk about his special performance series "From Broadway to Harlem" - a new look at the totality of American popular song, featuring his expanded trio.

    bill charlap

  • Jersey Cat Freddie Hendrix Talks with Awilda Rivera

    April 7, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    Jersey's own trumpet master Freddie Hendrix joins Awilda Rivera, sharing the local roots and stories behind his debut album, Jersey Cat. He also steps up to spin his picks as a guest DJ. Find out if Freddie picked the trumpet - of if the trumpet picked him!

    freddie hendrix image