WBGO Blog
  • JazzSet: Swiss Movement Revisited at the Kennedy Center

    November 14, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Javon Jackson
    On November 10 at the KC Jazz Club, JazzSet recorded the "Swiss Movement Revisited" show, featuring Javon Jackson on tenor and special guest Les McCann, singing at the keyboard. The title comes from the 1969 Les McCann Trio live-at-Montreux LP with Eddie Harris on sax. Swiss Movement captured a primal-screamin moment at the end of the 60s, with the sly & infectious anthem that asks the question, "Tryin' to make it Real, Compared to What?"

    Mark Schramm was our onsite producer for "Swiss Movement Revisited," and Mark reports.

    "Javon has put together a crack band to play this music. They've been together for a year now and it shows. The arrangements are tight but the band plays loose and with tremendous energy. After "Where Is the Love?" (think Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway), Javon brings on Les, who uses a motorized cart to get around. In Les's first blues - earthy, soulful, funny, intense - every note has meaning. There's a quality of directness of expression with Les that is very moving in person.

    "They played Eddie Harris' 'Cold Duck Time' (click to listen to the tune with a guitar solo by David Gilmore) from Swiss Movement, then an uptempo Javon original, then quieted down for an "Amazing Grace" duet with Les and Javon. Javon backed him perfectly. There was a lady sitting next to me at the back of the room and she had tears coming down her face at the end of that song. She wasn't the only one.

    "An excellent 'Freedom Jazz Dance' followed (yet another great Eddie Harris tune), and then came the set closer, 'Compared to What.' This is Les's signature tune, and he sings that song (an anti-war anthem, let's not forget) with all the passion of the original. The driving rhythm got people up out of their seats, dancing in the back of the room. I don't think I've ever seen that at the Jazz Club!

    "Between sets and after the show, Javon signed CDs out front of the club. His new one, Once Upon a Melody (Palmetto), is excellent by the way. Almost every person who bought one asked, 'Do you have a CD with you and Les?' And the answer was no. I can't tell you how many people came up and THANKED us for being there recording the concert."

    **

    "Swiss Movement Revisited" airs on JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater the first Sunday in February, launching 26 weeks of JazzSet in Surround Sound, thanks to underwriting from Neural Audio. Let us fire up all six of your speakers!

    Becca Pulliam

  • Broadway Unplugged: Michael Bourne Interviews Scott Siegel

    November 14, 2008. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Broadway Unplugged LogoThe Town Hall was built in the 1920's for orators, and musicians also discovered that the acoustics are superb. None of today's audio tech existed back then, but no mics are ever needed there. "Broadway Unplugged" is an annual concert that gathers some of Broadway's best singers performing without mics and sounding that much more real. I've attended the last two years and I've been thrilled hearing (and feeling) all these beautiful voices, not amplified through speakers, but directly from the throats (and the hearts) of the singers.

    Scott Siegel is the producer and host. In this interview, we talked about the upcoming 5th annual "Broadway Unplugged" -- Monday the 17th at 8 at Town Hall -- for tonight's WBGO Journal. And we kept on talking, including listening to highlights from last year's show: Max von Essen and Sarah Jane McMahon singing "Tonight" from West Side Story, Lorinda Lisitza singing a heartbreaking "Surabaya Johnny" from Happy End, Marc Kudisch singing "I'm Still Here" from The Glorious Ones, and Bill Daugherty singing a show-stopping "Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat" from Guys and Dolls.
    -Michael Bourne

  • Interview & Feature with 2009 NEA Jazz Master Toots Thielemans

    November 13, 2008. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    Toots Thielemans

    Toots Thielemans turned 86 years young last April (He certainly does not behave as if he's 86).   His choice instrument -- the chromatic harmonica -- is not only unconventional, but also unusual that his artistry and musical contribution is too often overlooked in the jazz community (I know I've neglected to pay attention). Not any more.  On October 17th, The National Endowment for the Arts crowned him the highest honor: Jazz Master.  In this interview with WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton -- conducted on November 26th, 1991 -- Thielemans speaks of his early American influences while growing up in Belgium, and his role in jazz as a premier guitarist and whistler.  Also hear a music feature with Toots, which WBGO produced for the live broadcast of the 2009 Jazz Master Award Ceremony.  The complete ceremony broadcast will be available on-demand in April 2009. - Simon Rentner

    Click here for the NEA Jazz Master Feature on Toots Thielemans.

    Click here for the full interview of Toots Thielemans with Rhonda Hamilton.