• Randy Weston Talks Jazz, Africa, and more...

    February 29, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive


    I've been hosting a new podcast with our News department entitled, We Insist!: Jazz Speaks Out.

    It's a 4-part series that discusses jazz in terms of social political advancement and expression in Black culture.
    We launched it for Black History Month, but it's so much broader than that, and has really become a wonderful experience for me.
    I've interviewed some of my favorite musicians, and favorite people, for that matter.  It's been completely eye-opening for me as well.
    I'm a self-professed "jazz nerd" as some would say.  I simply say a lover and appreciator and a part of the culture (but that's a lot wordier, LOL).
    With all of that said, working on this has been a huge life lesson for me, and I'm discovering so many new ideas and concepts.  And I'm pleased that we're sharing it with all of you!

    Last week, I interviewed the great Randy Weston at his home.  David Cruz, our producer, and I hopped on the train to head to BK (that's Brooklyn, for non-natives) to talk to the man himself.  What an amazing experience.  First of all, when I stepped into Weston's home, it was almost like going to Africa.  His home just FELT like the motherland - and he and his wife have the warmest spirit.  We sat at the piano and talked about Uhuru Afrika, a wonderful piece of work that was one of the earliest intergrations of African and African-American music.  He talked about his first trip to Africa and what led him there, the amazing roster of musicians that were a part of Uhuru Africa, and why Africa is not far at all from Jazz, and how it's really quite central.  I won't give it all away - you'll have to check it out for yourselves.  And please - feel free to send emails with your thoughts, and even input on some albums you think are relevant to the program to weinsist@wbgo.org

    Look for the Randy Weston episode soon.  Before that, Grammy-winning trumpeter Terence Blanchard calls in to discuss Miles Davis' A Tribute to Jack Johnson.
    You don't want to miss it...

  • Digging on Dexter

    February 27, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    It's the birthday of saxophonist Dexter Gordon, who holds a special place in the hearts of many people at WBGO. Perhaps no one here knew him better than our station mother, Dorthaan Kirk. Here's a story she just told me:

    I met Dexter when I was touring Europe with Rahsaan Roland Kirk's band. Rahsaan loved Dexter, so I knew the name and the music before I ever met him. Anyway, we had some time off, so we went to Copenhagen. We saw an early concert at Tivoli Gardens with the Basie Band, then we joined some of Basie's guys and headed for the Club Montmartre. Copenhagen was Dexter's home, and he played that club all the time.
    I remember so much about that evening. Dexter was wearing a blue jean suit. It was definitely the 70s! At the end of the night, it's 3 or 4am, and all of the musicians are at the bar. I'm keeping to myself, mostly, while all the guys are carrying on. Long, tall, and handsome as can be, Dexter walks out of the kitchen, comes right up to me, and says, "Who are you?" I was practically speechless, which you know never happens...
    From that night on, Dexter always called me "Miss Rahsaan." I sure do miss him.

    Here's Dexter playing Sonny Stitt's "Loose Walk" in Amsterdam, with a Swiss trio - George Gruntz piano, Guy Pederson bass and drummer Daniel Humair:


  • SportsJam - Trumpeter Jon Faddis

    February 25, 2008. Posted by Doug Doyle.

    Doug Doyle and Trumpeter Jon Faddis

    I had a blast interviewing trumpeter Jon Faddis for SportsJam, WBGO's new sports podcast/on-demand feature. Jon is a real sports fan who loves the old-timers from several different sports. I asked him to put together his all-time jazz band made up of sports stars. He selected Tiger Woods to be the saxophone of John Coltrane. Find out who else he picked, his thoughts on why he thinks jazz and sports are related and hear about his special sports relationship with his dad. Listen now.
    -Doug Doyle

  • The audacity of Jazz

    February 25, 2008

    While we celebrate Jazz every day here for its energy and complexity, and relish in the swing of it, and nod our heads in approval at a monster solo, it can be easy to forget that Jazz has been at the forefront of social change movements and African-American history and culture for more than a century, supporting freedom movements abroad, civil rights struggles at home and fighting against war and racial injustice both here and abroad.

    To celebrate that, we've launched a new podcast series called "We Insist!: Jazz Speaks Out." Over the four half-hour episodes, host Angelika Beener talks to some of the brightest lights in Jazz about how the music influenced them and how they influenced the music. Guests include USC Professor Dr. Robin D. G. Kelly,  pianist Randy Weston; trumpeter Terence Blanchard; saxophonist Marcus Strickland and others.

    Some of the featured music includes: Max Roach's "We Insist;" Miles Davis' "Jack Johnson;" Randy Weston's "Uhuru Afrika;" John Coltrane's "Alabama;" Sonny Rollins' "Freedom Suite;" and many more. The series launched Friday and we'll add epsodes weekly.

    Listen (and subscribe) to the first episode here.  - David Cruz

  • Studio Session - Kendrick Scott Oracle

    February 21, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Kendrick Scott
    Drummer Kendrick Scott, a recipient of the 2008 ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award, performs music from his debut release, The Source.
    Hear the WBGO studio session on NPR Music.

    Oracle. What an intriguing name for a jazz ensemble, one that conjures prophesy, divination, mythological seers and soothsayers. It's also reminiscent of Kendrick's inspiration, another drummer-led group. "Before you even heard the music, the name itself caught you. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. You're going to receive a message. It's almost like going to church."

    Kendrick Scott brought his group, Oracle, to the WBGO studio to play music from his self-released debut, The Source. The quintet plays three Scott originals, including "Memory's Wavering Echo," words borrowed directly from Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet.

    Every language has a poet. Consider the language of jazz, which happens to have many. New composers in jazz function like emerging wordsmiths. They inject the narrative of humanity with a fresh shot of adrenaline, and they reinvent the basic vocabulary of a cultural tradition. Kendrick Scott is a new voice in jazz. He is a drummer, a composer, and a 2008 recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award.

    Kendrick Scott's music does not lay so easily in the beat, as one might expect from a drummer. "Whenever I'm composing, I'm actually singing melodies. I'll call my voicemail and sing a melody into the voicemail. Then when I get home, I sit down at the Fender Rhodes or at the piano and I'll try to harmonize it. And then I'll come up with some rhythms. Melody is first, harmony is second, and rhythm is actually third."

    The results are often sprawling, cinematic compositions like the twofer, "Retrospect/View From Above." It's worth the wait, seven minutes into the medley, to hear guitarist Mike Moreno and pianist Fabian Almazan in cascading harmony. This kind of heightened interaction and listening is the result of directing live action in the moment.

    Scott learned some valuable lessons when he recorded his debut release, The Source, on his own label, World Culture Music. He labored over every minute detail, until his mentor, Terence Blanchard, offered some advice about making records. "It's just a snapshot of who you are at this moment. This record doesn't define your whole life. And hopefully after this moment, you'll have more and more records to document that."

    Our session with Oracle ends with "The Source," featuring an introduction from bassist Derrick Hodge, Kendrick Scott's bandmate in the Terence Blanchard Sextet.

    Mysticism aside, it takes more than a drummer and composer to give Oracle its power. Scott says, "The band itself is the oracle, not just me. They send out the messages, and it's free for whoever is listening to interpret however they feel the music should be. You go to the oracle not to get the answer, but to find out what the question is. So you can get to the answer.

    Check it out.