WBGO Blog
  • Saxophonist Bruce Williams: "Altoicity"

    July 31, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Saxophonist Bruce Williams talks with Rhonda Hamilton about his recording "Altoicity" and work with students across New Jersey. Williams performs in at the Two River Theater in Red Bank August 1st and 2nd, and in the Montclair Jazz Festival on August 16. Enjoy!

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  • Bourne's Montreal: Prizes Galore

    July 31, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    I’m a judge for the festival's annual week-long competition of jazz groups from across Canada.  They compete on outdoor stages for the TD Bank Grand Prix: money and three festival gigs.

    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis

    I have a ritual with my long-time frere de jugement, Martin Roussel, director of the jazzfest at Rimouski (334.9 miles along the St. Lawrence seaway north-east from Montreal).

    When we hear, sometimes more than half-way through the contest, a group good enough to win, we show an index finger:  "That's One!"

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    Whoever plays thereafter will have to be better, and this year the TD "One" was a swingingly interplaying piano-bass-drums trio from Ontario, The Pram Trio.

    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis

    There's also a special prize for the best composition, granted by the satellite television service Galaxie.

    This year, we voted the Galaxie prix to Montreal bassist Rick Rosato, composer of a tune without a title - only called “New Untitled”…

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  • Bourne's Montreal: McBride's Canada Day

    July 30, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    "Happy Canada Day!" said Christian McBride, beaming. He heard a definitive "smattering" of applause.  Maybe 4 or 5 claps in a full house in Montreal's Salle de Gesu.

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    Christian reacted, dumbfounded by the evident indifference.  Or he was playing with the Francophones.  He laughed — and pulled out a tiny Canadian flag: a red maple leaf on a white banner.

    I've often said that I've been 22 times to Montreal, but I've never been to Canada.  And I'm not kidding.

    Banks close, and (by law) some shops close on Canada Day, but most Quebecois — and certainly the folks at the festival — don't care about Canada Day.  They celebrate Quebec Day a week earlier.  French-speaking "habs" (short for "habitants")  think of Quebec not as a province of otherwise English-speaking Canada.  Quebec natives think of Quebec as a virtually independent nation.

    "Okay then," said Christian as he dropped the little flag into the piano.    And then he played "O Canada" …

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    Christian's trio, with Christian Sands at the piano and Ulysses Owens Jr at the drums, played jazz as it ought to be played.  Played songs we've heard countlessly, but rarely have heard played so freshly.  Played songs they've played countlessly, but never have played routinely.   "Day By Day."  "Caravan."  A funky/sexy take on Billy Taylor's "Easy Walker."

    Richard Rodgers might have quibbled that they played "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World"-- "my waltz!" he must've screamed from the grave — in 4/4!!!! Played so sweet a waltz as a swinging whirlwind — but they played so quickly Richard Rodgers didn't have time enough to roll over.

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    I scribbled in the dark that jazz is the re-creation of a song that's been composed one way, but is played by cats like Christian's trio a different way.  Played differently every time they play.  And when played with such joyousness as they played on that gig, re-creation becomes recreation.   Fun …

    "We'll take you home with Thelonious Monk," said Christian — with a last little wave of the Maple Leaf.  And an encore of "East of the Sun."

    I don't know if this qualifies as a conundrum, but no one (but me, I'm amused by curious coincidences) observed that two cats named Christian were playing in the Salle de Gesu — the "Room of Jesus" …