• NC350: Newark - The Center of the Poetry Universe

    October 19, 2016. Posted by Steve Williams.

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    This week "The Gateway City" is the site of the 16th Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, the largest gathering of poets and poetry enthusiasts in North America. To celebrate the festival's 16th edition, WBGO is playing jazz interpretations of some of the world's most beloved poems. Here are some of the recordings we've featured this week, during Midday Jazz with Rhonda Hamilton and Saturday Afternoon Jazz with Monifa Brown.

    Strange Fruit -Abe Meeropol/Billie Holiday

    Written by New York City schoolteacher Abe Meeropol as a protest against the lynching of African Americans, the poem was published in 1937 and was soon set to music. Shortly afterwards, Meeropool met Billie Holiday and asked her to record the song, which she did for the first time in 1939. Since then, Strange Fruit has been performed or recorded numerous times, but Holiday's stirring recordings of the poem over the span of her career remain the most memorable.

    Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman/Fred Hersch

    “I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
    And what I assume you shall assume,
    For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” - Walt Whitman (from "Leaves of Grass")

    New York native Walt Whitman never truly finished his epic creation; though first published as a small volume of 12 poems in 1855, Leaves of Grass grew to a compilation of over 400 after 4 decades of revisions, the last of which was completed shortly before the author's death in 1892. In 2005, pianist Fred Hersch recorded several musical interpretations of Whitman's best known works, which add yet another "leaf" to the exultant and groundbreaking collection of poems.

    I Carry Your Heart - E.E. Cummings/Kate McGarry

    Cummings and McGarry grew from Massachusetts roots - he from Cambridge, she from Hyannis - and their works display a common penchant for the eclectic and unconventional.  Before his death of a stroke at the age of 67, Cummings amassed a body of work that includes two novels, four plays, numerous paintings and drawings and nearly 3000 poems, containing some of the most romantic passages in American literature. Such is the case with "I Carry Your Heart", which appears in musical form on Kate McGarry's 2008 release  "If Less Is More...Nothing is Everything. McGarry, who has also sung interpretations of Walt Whitman's poetry, lifts Cummings' words from the page with requisite sweetness and sensitivity. Above is a recording of the author himself reading the poem.

  • Newark Stories: Tracey Norman

    October 19, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    In the mid 1970s, Newark, New Jersey​-native Tracey Norman was the first African American transgender model to work in the beauty industry. She did so undetected. Tracey graced the pages of fashion magazines all over the world including Essence​ and Vogue Italia​, and was best known for appearing on a box of Clairol​ hair color, before her outing nearly ended her career.

    After a near 30-year hiatus Tracey “Africa” Norman is back. After sharing her story and recently appearing on the cover of New York Magazine, Tracey is again working with Clairol as the face of the new, “As Real As You Are” ad campaign.

    This is her story.

  • Jimmy Heath Talks to Eulis Cathey

    October 18, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    NEA Jazz Master and living legend Jimmy Heath stops in with Eulis Cathey to talk about his 90th birthday celebration concert. Heath shares the story behind his switch from alto to tenor saxophone and how he was first hired to record for Riverside records.

    jimmy heath 1

  • Newark Stories: Khali Raymond

    October 17, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    All October, WBGO is celebrating Newark, New Jersey​'s 350th Anniversary with stories from your friends, family and neighbors, all around the city.

    Khali Raymond​ is 17 years old, and he's has written six books. His experience in writing and self-publishing earned the recognition of Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka​, who hosted his first official book signing at City Hall.

    Only a senior at East Side High School, Kahli already envisions a day where he'll be honored with a key to the city for his accomplishments. He sat down to talk about what life was like before he finished writing his first novel "The Ballad of Sidney Hill."

  • Marty Elkins Performs on Singers Unlimited

    October 17, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    Singer Marty Elkins stops by Singers Unlimited with Michael Bourne. The two discuss the transformative experience that was Marty's first exposure to a Billie Holiday record and Marty demonstrates that profound influence with a live performance here at WBGO's studio.

    marty elkins