WBGO Blog
  • Montreal Jazzfest 2015, Day 5

    July 1, 2015. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Add new comment | Filed under: FIJM, FIJM 2015

    A Montreal Jazzfest Haiku:

    Sun breaks through the clouds
    Fountains gush at the jazzfest
    Kids dance in the street

    Place des Arts is the biggest performing arts center in Canada, and, like the jazz festival, gets bigger every year.   Also better.

    credit: Benoit Rousseau
    credit: Benoit Rousseau

    They've not only terraformed a street, a hill, and empty buildings into the Quartier des Spectacles and year-round Maison du Festival, they're now reconstructing the abandoned buildings next to the jazzfest "house" into what will be centers as impressive for film and ballet.  I'm architecturally amazed how they somehow squeezed an enormous Symphonic Hall where there used to be festival eats and a playland for kids.  And at the center of Place des Arts, although mostly seen from above, there's also a massive rebuilding on the roof over the promenade to the halls and shops below.  Don't know what that's for.

    Along with the landscaping and streetwork, installing the fountains and erecting the light poles, two very nice restaurants were opened in the Quartier des Spectacles, one French, one Portuguese.  I opted for the latter's lunch, the cholesterol special, steak with a fried egg on top.

    Folks everywhere in red, white, and blue ... shorts, shirts, sneakers, make-up.   Especially on young women.  So much is happening in Montreal, jazzfest, clownfest, I didn't realize the Women's World Cup was being played at The Big O, the erstwhile Olympic stadium that became the Expos baseball stadium where today Germany and the US are playing  futbol. I've been where the jazzfests (and entire cities) have shut down for the final game.  Istanbul.  Vienna.  Perugia.   I've been in Montreal when the final game was being played.  However loud was the music around Place des Arts, the honking and hooting of soccer fans driving around was louder.  Today, not as much soccer noise for the women as for the men many times -- even though the American women beat Germany.

    Drizzle continues at FIJM/credit: Victor Diaz Lamich
    Drizzle continues at FIJM/credit: Victor Diaz Lamich

    Drizzle came again, and we wetly judged a couple of bands.  Between the judgings, Kurt Rosenwinkel was playing solo at the Gesu.  Solo but technologically surrounded.  A computer.  A synthesizer.  A footbank of doohickeys amplifying, echoing, playing an electronic beat.  All, again, playing melodies going every which way.

    I wondered if the heavier rain might shut down the Grande Evenement tonight: the folk-ish, classical-ish, jazz-ish, pop-ish Barr Brothers.  I was indoors anyway for a farewell to the festival.  Vic Vogel is an icon of Canadian jazz, as a composer, as a pianist, as a big band leader, and as a beloved-but-grouchy character.  He's the only musician who's played FIJM year after year from the jump, and, at 80, tonight's concert was to be his last with his band.  Sadly, he was too sick to be on stage at the Maisonneuve.  Happily, he was videotaped welcoming everyone and introducing his band.

    Vic Vogel tribute concert/credit: Benoit Rousseau
    Vic Vogel tribute concert/credit: Benoit Rousseau

    I first encountered Vic Vogel twenty years ago when the Jazz Journalists Association gathered in Montreal for a conference during the jazzfest.  Vic came in and grumped at all of us, wanting to know why we American critics don't write much (if at all) about Canadian musicians.   We didn't have an answer, but we deserved his wrath.  Most of us didn't know who he was -- or, really, much at all about jazz above the 49th parallel.  I got to hear his band during the festival's 25th anniversary.  Some of us, along with governmental movers and shakers, were boated to an island in the river.  There, in a concrete arena leftover from the Olympics decades ago, Vogel's band swung heartily.   I've heard him since through the years and especially remember a concert when he celebrated Dizzy.

    Some of the cats have played with Vogel for many years, including two of his best soloists, alto saxist Dave Turner and tenor saxist Andre Leroux.   Filling in for Vogel was a who's who of Montreal piano, including Lorraine Desmarais and Oliver Jones.  Together, they played highlights from Vogel's bandbook, including several of his arrangements of jazz classics -- "Con Alma," "Strollin'," "Giant Steps"  -- and a ferocious "Georgia on My Mind" with blues singer Martin Deschamps.

    The Barr Brothers/credit: Victor Diaz Lamich
    The Barr Brothers/credit: Victor Diaz Lamich

    Rain was done when I came out.   A harpist (from the Barr Brothers) was loudly plucking.   I walked back to the Gesu for an exquisite concert of accordionist Richard Galliano and guitarist Sylvain Luc playing songs of Edith Piaf.  I could almost hear the hearts of all the folks who'd grown up loving Piaf's records.  And at the last, they heartfully sang-along.

  • Jimmy Greene Remembers A 'Beautiful Life'

    June 30, 2015

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    Jimmy Greene. (Image Credit: Jimmy Katz/Courtesy of the artist)

    Saxophonist Jimmy Greene's newest album, Beautiful Life, is dedicated to the memory of his 6-year-old daughter. Ana Márquez-Greene was killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Greene paid tribute to his daughter by composing and arranging a genre-spanning album to reflect the way she lived. A portion of the proceeds of the album will go to selected charities and a scholarship in Ana's name.

    Jazz Night in America captured Greene's quartet presenting this music live at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    Copyright 2015 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit .

  • WBGO News Team Wins 9 Radio News Awards

    June 30, 2015. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    “A good story is a good story. It’s our job to tell them.” – Doug Doyle

    Doug Doyle has been telling stories as the WBGO News Director for seventeen years. With nine new awards from Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), it seems like he’s found a way to tell them right.

    PRNDI2015
    WBGO News Director Doug Doyle, PRNDI emcee and Planet Money host Robert Smith, and former WBGO Assistant News Director Andrew Meyer

    Under Doyle’s leadership, the WBGO news team was celebrated by PRNDI at its June 2015 conference in categories from sports to arts and commentary to continuing news coverage.

    Doyle is particularly proud that everyone from full-time staffers to interns are recognized by the awards. “Everyone here contributes to shared knowledge,” he says. Doyle gets input from the entire staff to keep WBGO News topical, diverse and thorough. “Reporters help select stories they want to cover. If all of our news came from this fifty-three year old’s mind, it would be too narrow to be news.”

    When you work as a team, you can do some great things - Doyle

    This year’s round of national awards confirms WBGO’s mastery of local news. Corporate stations may have whittled down their coverage of local issues, but Doyle continues to tap into his genuine interest in people to fuel WBGO’s reputation for great coverage of the most pressing stories in Newark and Essex County. “When I walk down Broad Street, I almost always end up having a conversation with someone. My daughter yells at me because I take too much time talking with everyone from grocery clerks to passersby on the street. I can’t help it. I’m curious. I want to know who people are and what got them to this point.”

    One top example of a staff-driven lean for a story came from intern Maxine Macias’ coverage of LBGTQ issues in Newark from the 1960s to today – a story from the WBGO Journal that garnered one of the nine awards.

    WBGO was also recognized for Phil Gregory and Doyle’s coverage of “Bridgegate,” and Alexandra Hill’s coverage of the controversial One Newark Plan.

    Doyle will continue to seek out stories that are thought provoking for listeners – a quality that’s getting harder to find in the privately-owned mediascape. “Commerical stations cover things that shock. WBGO covers those stories if there is news behind it – but also stories that make us think, cry or smile. And especially stories that connect to jazz, rhythm and blues, of course!”

    -Josh Landes