• This Week in JazzSet History: Bill Frisell and Ella + Stevie Spread Sunshine

    April 25, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    Alexander Ariff is a Master's Degree student in Jazz History & Research at Rutgers University . In celebration of 20 years, he digs up and shares special gems from the JazzSet archive.

    There is something definitively “American” about the two clips this week. JazzSet offers not only music that swings, but jazz's many overlapping elements (world, Latin, funk, soul, etc.) Today is Ella Fitzgerald's birthday so I thought I'd share a special clip featuring two icons, Ella and Stevie Wonder, in one seriously soulful duet. These two icons presented careers to the world of music that certainly bent, if not broke, genre boundaries.

    First, let’s have a dose of one of my favorite guitarists/composers, Bill Frisell.  A personal favorite of mine was his recent release with strings entitled Sign of Life and later this year (August), he’ll be interpreting the music of John Lennon with longtime collaborator and violinist Jenny Scheinman (who just released her own project, Mischief and Mayhem). Also, we'd like to extend a special congratulations to Bill Frisell for being selected as a 2012  Doris Duke Charitable Foundation recipient. In this clip, he is performing near the bluffs above the Iowa River in downtown Iowa City for the 2000 Iowa City Jazz Festival. JazzSet is proud to be a part of this great treasure of the Midwestern jazz scene.  Each year, the festival falls on Fourth of July weekend. Becca Pulliam remembers smelling a storm rolling in during Frisell's set as audience members occupied the street and nearby fire escapes. It must have been a magical Independence Day from the heartland. Frisell was joined by Greg Leisz, slide guitar; David Piltch, bass; Kelly Wolleson, drums. Here is a the full live audio performance of “Egg Radio,” first released in 1998 on Frisell's album Gone, Just Like a Train.

    Ella Fitzgerald and Stevie Wonder, 1977, (c) Michael P. Smith Photography

    The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival kicks off this weekend! This clip is in honor of one of the most authentic festivals and jazz vocalists) in the world. The 1977 festival was a particularly special year. New Orleans native and legendary brass band leader Ernest “Doc” Paulin performed, and a certain 94-year-old pianist called Eubie Blake gave one of his final performances aboard the SS President river boat. But one dream collaboration continues to warm the hearts of many (including JazzSet producer Becca Pulliam): Ella Fitzgerald invited Stevie Wonder on stage during her set to sing Stevie's "You Are The Sunshine of My Life." NPR's Jazz Alive! recorded this performance. It was unheard for decades until JazzSet aired it. And this performance was later released on We Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song. Listen closely to how the two masters trade back and forth and you can distinctively hear Ella's influence on Stevie.

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