WBGO Blog
  • Al Foster Quartet: Live at the Village Vanguard

    May 21, 2008. Posted by WBGO.

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    Al Foster performing live at the Village Vanguard. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    Master percussionist Al Foster, longtime drummer for Miles Davis, brought his own quartet to New York's legendary Village Vanguard, for a performance broadcast live on air by WBGO and online at NPR Music.

    To start the second night of a week-long residency at the West Village club, Foster called a mix of trusted jazz classics and savory, groove-happy originals. The quartet opened and closed with tunes penned by Foster's former employer Miles Davis, spinning a cymbal-happy take on the famous "So What" and ending with an acoustic version of "Jean Pierre," which Foster recorded with Davis live in 1981. In all, it was an affair decidedly more hard-bop-oriented than the electric funk that Foster created with Miles, but one no less full of subtly masterful performances from all hands on deck.

    Raised in New York, Foster was only 19 when he made his first recording, backing trumpeter Blue Mitchell on the classic Blue Note LP The Thing To Do. Foster soon became a "first call" drummer for many of jazz's leading lights, playing with musicians like Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, and Thelonious Monk.

    Foster got his biggest break while playing a date at the Cellar Club on 95th Street in Manhattan. Miles Davis was in the crowd that night, and was awed enough to hire him on the spot: "[Foster] knocked me out because he had such a groove and he would just lay it right in there," Davis wrote in his autobiography. "That was the kind of thing I was looking for. Al could set it up for everybody else to play off and just keep the groove going forever." Davis would count Al Foster as his drummer for 20 years — spanning the trumpeter's wildest electric experiments — and as a friend for life.

    Foster's own group included bassist Doug Weiss, who has served as Foster's "straw boss" since 1996; saxophonist Eli DeGibri, who joined the quartet in 1998 after a stint with Herbie Hancock, and the newest member Gary Versace, whose skills on organ, keyboard, accordion and acoustic piano make him one of the most in-demand sidemen in New York.

    The quartet headlined a live webcast of WBGO and NPR Music's concert series from the Village Vanguard. For Foster, it also marks a return to the storied club where he recorded with saxophonist Joe Henderson, with pianist McCoy Tyner, and recently with his own group on the new Love, Peace and Jazz. "That's all we need to get along," he says.

  • Ben Sidran & Mike Mainieri Talking Jazz

    May 20, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    Why had I never heard Mike Mainieri up close? What a pleasure to finally do so! At Jazz Standard last night, the New York vibist joined Ben Sidran & his trio, and the music & talk were totally absorbing. In the first set, we learned that boy-Mainieri's mom went to work to buy him a set of vibes, boy-wonder-Mainieri worked with Paul Whiteman, youth-Mainieri joined legendary Buddy Rich. They spent three weeks in Kabul (JFK's State Dept sponsored this), then went on to India, where Rich split suddenly, leaving behind his drums and young band behind to finish the tour. Years later, in the US, an Indian man came up to Mainieri and said "I was living in New Delhi, and I knew you were not Buddy Rich." Ben is truly onto something, to feature his peers and those slightly ahead of him telling stories that -- up til now -- Ben has enjoyed privately. I love this format. Thank you! Come back soon!! By the way, Ben says Talking Jazz is radio, narrowcasting to the room. I hope he can extend its reach.

  • Studio Session - Berklee Blue Note Ensemble

    May 20, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Berklee Blue Note Ensemble

    Whenever you hear young performers from Berklee College of Music, you are hearing the future of music. WBGO presented the Berklee Blue Note Ensemble on Midday Jazz today. For a decade, Berklee students with strong jazz creds make an annual trek to the Blue Note in Note in New York. Bill Pierce has been a Berklee faculty member for more than three decades. He directs the student ensemble. They are:

    Melissa Aldana - saxophone (Santiago, Chile)
    Jeonglim Yang - bass (South Korea)
    Michael Palma - piano (Dallas, Texas)
    Dan Pugach - drums (Raanana, Israel)
    Jeremy Sinclair - trumpet (Dallas, Texas)
    Nadia Washington - vocals (Dallas, Texas)

    Listen to the session. Remember the names.
    -Josh