• Singers Unlimited: 25 Years

    November 5, 2010. Posted by Kien Lac.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive


    Listen to a hand-picked selection of Singers Unlimited shows over the past 25 years:

    Loss, Love, Life: Ironically, our finest hour on WBGO was after 9/11. So many radio and TV stations were knocked off the air, and for a week we became a mostly news station. We played no music during the day. I'd read a weather break or tell where to give blood. I heard from countless listeners that just hearing us on the air, even when not playing music, meant something that mattered to listeners, something like continuity, or hope. I'd been on the radio almost 30 years by then, and I'd never before realized how intimate is the relationship we have with our listeners. When Sunday came, I programmed a "Singers Unlimited" with songs about love and loss and life going on. NPR asked me to encapsulate the show into an hour for the network website, and here's that show.

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  • Manhattan School of Music Quintet

    November 4, 2010. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    MSM Photo

    The Manhattan School of Music Jazz Quintet visited WBGO's studios last week.  If you missed the performance, click below!

    Band members:
    Justin DiCioccio, Assistant Dean/ Chair, Jazz Arts Program
    Ben Benack, trumpet
    Mike Ruby, tenor saxophone
    Christian Sands, piano
    Kate Davis, double bass/vocals
    Jake Goldbas, drums

    Set list:
    1. Prince Bulo
    2. Blood, Sweat, and Plantains
    3. Close Your Eyes
    4. Never Will I Marry
    5. Searching East
    6. Nearness of You
    7. Body and Soul
    8. Nichols 2 Dimes

  • Lou Donaldson Quartet: Live At The Village Vanguard

    November 3, 2010. Posted by WBGO.

    Lou Donaldson Quartet. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    By the time he started his latest weeklong run at the Village Vanguard, alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson was 84. He'd been based in New York for 60-odd years, during which time he became a jazz legend — the kind who made albums that are still remembered today, who recorded lines memorable enough to be sampled years later, who toured the country's back rooms back when a jazz musician could post up for two weeks at a time in, say, Dayton, Ohio. It bred in him a style that was solid, soulful and swinging, with a charismatically salty wit to match. It hasn't broke, and he hasn't felt the need to fix it.

    When "Sweet Poppa Lou" descended into the basement and ascended to the stage, there were the japes, the blues singing, the exemplary straight-ahead jazz he's pursued for decades. ("No fusion, no con-fusion," he said — twice.) WBGO and NPR Music will be there to broadcast and webcast the first Nov. 3 set live; it will also be recorded and archived online on this page.

    Since recording with organist Jimmy Smith in the late 1950s, Donaldson has often worked with a rhythm section of Hammond B-3 organ, guitar and drums. That instrumentation allows him to dish on funky, danceable grooves; not coincidentally, it was responsible for some of his most famous appearances on record. He reprised some of those greatest hits — "Blues Walk," "Alligator Bogaloo" — and called some favorites from the bebop and hard bop eras. He even sang some blues: his trademark "Whiskey Drinkin' Woman," with many embellishments by way of prologue. With him at the Vanguard was his current working band: Pat Bianchi on organ, Randy Johnston on guitar and Fukushi Tainaka on drums.

    Donaldson grew up in North Carolina. While playing in military and dance bands, he became enamored of Charlie Parker, then the modern trend in jazz. When he moved to New York to make it as a musician, he found his way into the community and, after a few years, was invited to record for Blue Note Records. He made some of his most celebrated albums for the label, and also recorded there as a sideman with Milt Jackson, Art Blakey and Jimmy Smith.

    Though not as often as when he booked his own tours on the 1960s chitlin circuit, Donaldson still occasionally travels the world for gigs. He's also still based in New York City, which makes it convenient for him to play weeklong runs at the Village Vanguard. Of late, he's done so about twice a year.

    Set List

    • "Blues Walk" (Donaldson)
    • "Wee" (D. Best)
    • "What A Wonderful World" (Thiele/Weiss)
    • "Fast And Freaky" (Donaldson)
    • "Whiskey Drinkin' Woman" (Donaldson)
    • "Alligator Bogaloo" (Donaldson)
    • "Bye Bye Blackbird" (Henderson/Dixon)
    • "Cherokee" (Noble)


    • Lou Donaldson, alto saxophone/vocals
    • Pat Bianchi, organ
    • Randy Johnston, guitar
    • Fukushi Tainaka, drums


    • Josh Jackson, producer and host
    • David Tallacksen, mix engineer
    • Michael Downes, production assistant
    • Lara Pellegrinelli, moderator