• Lee Konitz Trio: Live At The Village Vanguard

    January 20, 2010. Posted by WBGO.

    Lee Konitz. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    Nobody knows for sure which tunes the venerable alto saxophonist Lee Konitz had planned for his recent visit to the Village Vanguard — probably because he doesn't plan his sets much these days. In recent years, he's become fond of a certain game: Somebody in the band starts a jazz standard, and everyone else joins in once they figure out what it is. Sometimes the music takes on another sort of controlled anarchy, in which freely improvised chord progressions structure the proceedings.

    We do know that Konitz, an octogenarian still going full tilt, has these approaches well oiled. Joined by pianist Dan Tepfer and drummer Matt Wilson, he played the Village Vanguard for a live radio broadcast and audio/video webcast on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 9 p.m. ET. WBGO carried the concert live on air, and NPR Music streamed the music live online on this page.

    After an entire career of stretching jazz standards to their limits, Konitz still loves a good melody. Sometimes breathy, or a bit sour, or even muffled with a piece of cloth in his bell, Konitz still sounds like he's in total command of his horn, even as he cedes command of the set list. (There's more open space than there once was, but there are still plenty of lyrical turns of phrase.)

    In recent years, he's also taken to working with a variety of highly capable players many years his junior. Dan Tepfer is one of those — he is 28, Konitz 82 — but the two have worked together often, even teaming up to record a series of freely improvised duets (Duos With Lee, 2009). Matt Wilson is in his 40s, and can play colorfully in almost any imaginable setting — and has himself recorded a series of duets with Konitz (Gong With Wind Suite, 2003). Konitz's weeklong residency is the first time this particular bass-less lineup played together, but all came together to spontaneously create many a tactile groove or spacious framework.

    Konitz came onto the scene as bebop did, but he always maintained a distinct voice through that and every subsequent stylistic revolution in jazz. Working with Lennie Tristano, Stan Kenton and the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool sessions led critics to categorize his style as "cool jazz"; after a long career of performing in ever-widening contexts, perhaps that's better classified as an unorthodox imagination at large.

    The result is that Konitz is among the few who could lay claim to the designation of jazz legend. As such, he's played the Vanguard on many occasions, though he didn't lead a group at the venue between 1983 and 2009. But he returned again in early 2010, which provided plenty of intrigue in itself.

    Set List

    • "Solar"
    • "Out Of Nowhere"/"317 E. 32nd St."
    • Group Improvisation ("A Thing")
    • "Darn That Dream"
    • "I'll Remember April"
    • "Stella By Starlight"
    • "How Deep Is The Ocean"


    • Lee Konitz, alto saxophone
    • Dan Tepfer, piano
    • Matt Wilson, drums


    • Josh Jackson, producer and host
    • David Tallacksen, mix engineer
    • Josh Webb, recording assistant
  • Mind the Gap: Why Good Schools are failing Black Students

    January 19, 2010. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive


    Honoring Black History Month, WBGO seeks out programming focusing on not just the history, but the present and future of African-Americans in and around our area and nation.  On February 18th at 8pm, WBGO  will air the documentary program, Mind the Gap: Why Good Schools are failing Black Students, produced by Nancy Solomon.

    Nationwide, suburban schools are doing a good job educating white students, but those schools are not getting the same results with black and Latino students. This documentary tells the story of a suburban high school with lots of resources and a diverse student body that is struggling to close the minority achievement gap.

    Award-winning NPR Reporter Nancy Solomon takes you inside a school to hear a discussion on race in the classroom.  Listen as students try to explain what went wrong with their education. Join her at the kitchen table with black middle-class parents who thought that a move to the suburbs would ensure school success. Find out how the school's best teachers motivate their students. Be a fly on the wall in the busy dean's office where kids with discipline problems land.

    Tune in to WBGO on Thursday, February 18 at 8pm to listen to this compelling documentary

  • Ben Sidran with WBGO's Gary Walker

    January 15, 2010. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive


    Ben Sidran has left a deep mark and he’s far from finished. A musical life which so far has connected with Mose Allison, Blue Mitchell, Phil Woods, Jon Hendricks, Eric Clapton, Steve Miller, Diana Ross & The Rolling Stones….

    A life in media as radio host of Sidran on Record and television host of Jazz Visions for VH-1. A rich life. A Peabody Award winning life.  And because of his hip attitude, a life readily shared .

    Recently, Ben Sidran and I sat down for a two part chat; part one on his rich musical life and the stories that come naturally; part two on his current focus “Dylan Different”, a recording of Bob Dylan material. - Gary Walker

    Listen to part I here.

    Listen to part II here.