• A Remembrance For Chicago's Jazz Record Mart

    April 16, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    Owner Bob Koester at the Jazz Record Mart in Chicago, which closed last month. (Image Credit: Sue Koester/Delmark Records)

    Chicago's Jazz Record Mart attracts visitors from all over the world. At least, it used to: Last month, owner Bob Koester sold the store, saying he was just too old to run it any more.

    Koester began selling used records when he was a teenager in Wichita, Kansas. After moving to Chicago, he opened his own store, as well as his own jazz and blues label, Delmark. But after more than 60 years in business, he decided this spring that it was time to pack it in.

    "One reason I'm selling is that my son, who will inherit the label, isn't too interested in the retail business," he says. "I'm 83 years old."

    Another reason, Koester says, is the rent — too steep for his current budget. On Jazz Record Mart's final Saturday, the store was jammed with loyal customers, among them local radio host Leslie Keros, teacher Shawn Salmon and pianist Robert Irving III.

    "It's been a few weeks since I've been here," Keros says, "but I used to work downtown and my lunch hour became lunch hours, because I came here to browse."

    Salmon says there are certain advantages to going to a brick-and-mortar store instead of shopping online.

    "I love going to stores, because usually online they just kind of show you what's happening, what's cool, what's selling. And it's always the same stuff," he says. "You can walk into a store and [say], 'I had no idea that existed,' or 'I've been looking for that forever.' I love it. I'd just spend hours and get lost."

    Iriving has fond memories of the store as well.

    "I can't remember the first time I was in here," he says, "but I think I even performed here once, many years ago. And it's just an institution. Considering what's happened with the record industry at large, the fact that a jazz record mart or shop has survived this long is pretty remarkable."

    Another regular customer was Bill Sagan, back when he was in college and business school in Chicago.

    "It was a store where people came in and relied on some very capable store employees that could route them to either what they wanted to buy and listen to, or what they should want to buy and listen to," Sagan says. "And if you ever run into someone that tries to convince you that making a purchase in any of the great record stores that we've all gone to in our lives is the same as the experience you have online, they would be kidding you. It is not the same and it will never be the same.

    That's saying something considering that today, Sagan runs the online store and subscription service Wolfgang's Vault. He bought the Jazz Record Mart's entire collection of jazz, blues, gospel, experimental, rock and world music — along with the name.

    Sagan is putting that inventory online, starting today, in a special section of the Vault, but it won't have those employees to guide you. A lot of them were nascent writers, like me — I worked at the Jazz Record Mart back in the day. Some of them were musicians, like trumpeter Josh Berman. He clerked at the Record Mart longer than he cares to remember, getting educated by listening to the store's stock.

    "I think I got a lot of my aesthetic from the Record Mart," he says, "because I started there so young. I didn't know anything. I mean, zero. I knew about Miles Davis. And I saw the future of what I wanted to do in the Record Mart."

    Not to glamorize the Jazz Record Mart — it was no Apple store. It was dusty and funky; the boss could be cranky and had his own way of doing things. Josh Berman says the hours were long and the wages low, but there were benefits.

    "I kind of, like, lived there, you know?" he says. "I was there all the time. There was a piano in the back, and I was practicing there every night. You know, you'd go on tour, you'd come back, the job would be there. They were very flexible, so there was a generosity that was kind of amazing."

    However, with the rise of online sales and low-cost streaming services, brick-and-mortar retail outlets must adapt to survive. The Jazz Record Mart did have a website, but the physical store was the thing. It was an experience — and not just for the customers. Bob Koester loved being there.

    "Jazz fans are really interesting people, good-to-know people, and usually very nice people," he says. "It was part of the business that I enjoyed — especially Saturdays, you know, you'd get these guys from out of town. And it might only be, 'Hi there. I'm from Belgium,' or something. It's just fun to meet them. That's something I'm gonna miss."

    Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

  • Steve Jordan Talks to Michael Bourne About the 25th Annual Jazz Loft Party

    April 13, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    Steve Jordan talks to Michael Bourne about his role as musical director of the 25th Annual Jazz Loft Party, which benefits the Jazz Foundation of America. Michael and Steve play some tunes from the lineup for this year's show, including Randy Weston, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and a tribute to David Bowie.

    steve jordan crop

  • WBGO JAM 2016: Juilliard Jazz Ensemble A

    April 13, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    Juilliard's Jazz Ensemble A performs at WBGO as we continue celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month. Hear some of the future household names of jazz take on tunes by Charles Mingus and Andrew Hill.

    Hear this group and other top student ensembles featured on 88.3 FM throughout the month of April.

    Keep watching the blog for more complete JAM sessions all month long.

    Juilliard Jazz Ensemble A, directed by Frank Kimbrough

    1) Remember Rockefeller at Attica (composed by Charles Mingus)
    2) Dusk (composed by Andrew Hill)
    3) Baby Babble (composed by Andrew Wangemann)

    Zoe Obadia - Alto Saxophone
    William Hawley - Trombone
    John Whitcomb - Trumpet
    Joel Wenhardt - Piano
    Dan Chmielinski - Bass
    Andrew Wangemann - Drums

  • Walking Pafuri in South Africa's Kruger National Park

    April 13, 2016. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    You may remember WBGO’s Rhonda Hamilton’s reports from South Africa at last year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival, including her account of witnessing some of the country’s natural wonders of elephants, rhinos, and lions.

    Kruger National Park in South Africa
    Kruger National Park in South Africa

    This year, we experienced South Africa’s safari a bit differently - we swapped the diesel-fueled 4X4 Land Cruisers packed with camera-happy tourists for a much smaller group with binoculars in-hand and hiking boots on-foot.

    Pafuri Walking Trail
    Pafuri Walking Trail

    Plus, most importantly, this year we were accompanied by two of the more knowledgeable guides in the entire region, also equipped with rifles and elephant-killing (god forbid) caliber bullets.

    Pafuri Walking Trail Guides Sarah Nurse and Rhodes Bezuidenhout
    Sarah Nurse and Rhodes Bezuidenhout

    Sarah Nurse and Rhodes Bezuidenhout are our guides for our 4-day Pafuri “walking trail,” provided by Return Africa at Kruger National Park. This area was introduced to us last year by bassist Carlo Mombelli. He described it as “South Africa’s Notre Dame,” his country’s most important tourist attraction.

    Makuleke Concession
    Makuleke Concession

    Kruger is the rarest of National Parks just in terms of its sheer size. As one of the largest protected areas on the planet, it covers 7,523 square miles, about the size of Israel. The area we hike only features one percent of that land, but offers some of its richest landscape, situated at the park’s northeast corner on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It’s one of the most biologically-diverse areas in South Africa. About 75 percent of Kruger wildlife diversity can be discovered here.

    Lana Gorge
    Lanner Gorge

    The best way to get up close and personal with Mother Africa Nature is on foot, leaving all vehicles behind. This way of “roughing it” and experiencing the bush may not be for everyone: hiking underneath a scorching sun with sudden, chance encounters with South Africa’s Big Five: buffalo, rhino, elephants, lions, and leopards, will certainly raise any spectator’s blood pressure. My heart palpitated when we encountered a herd of curious, unflinching African buffalo.

    African Buffalo
    African Buffalo

    Our guides tell us these beasts are the most dangerous and unpredictable mammals in Kruger’s animal kingdom. But the thrill of watching them on foot is only half of the story. The moments of the walking trail that are most memorable are more subtle  – like hearing the wind rustle through the Fever Tree forest. (Fever trees got its name because they were once believed to be the cause of malaria.)

    Fever Tree Forest
    Limpopo fever tree forest

    Or, the endless loop of exotic African songbirds, singing, chirping, dancing all around you.


    Or, the graceful galloping of all its deer-like creatures: zebras, impalla, nyalla, and kudu running next to your path. I swear I even felt the ground reverberate, sending chills down my spine.


    And just when the serenity and natural beauty is all too much and your spirit couldn’t get anymore tranquil, you turn a blind corner to find the rear of an giant elephant, tail wagging exuberantly, only a few yards away.

    The unpredictability of the bush is really one of its biggest selling points, especially when you are on foot. Every walk offers its own story and surprise engagement with the most compelling natural world around you. And, if the Pafuri Walking Trails isn’t your thing, which is a step up from car camping -- I believe the term is “glamping" -- then you can opt for a more luxurious stay in Return Africa’s Pafuri Camp, complete with 4X4 vehicles, 19 designer lodges with en-suite bathrooms, fine dining, full amenities, and a view of the Luvuvhu River that will steal your breath away.

    Pafuri Camp Luxury Lodge
    Pafuri Camp Luxury Lodge

    For information about Return Africa's Pafuri Camp, click here.  And for the "walking trails," here.

  • Win Tickets for Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Kate Davis

    April 12, 2016. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and vocalist Kate Davis pay tribute to Broadway’s brightest lights. The famed avenue has been home to some of the most talented, inventive, and sophisticated composers, many with jazz-oriented roots. Harold Arlen wrote over 500 songs, including many for the stage as well as the classic “Over the Rainbow,” which was voted the No. 1 song by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin are two of the most significant American theatrical composers of the early 20th century, each having been represented on Broadway hundreds of times. The list goes on: composers like Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim, and Mel Brooks have penned time-tested musical gems that continue to uplift and entertain – both on Broadway and on record. In tonight’s performance, gutsy songstress Kate Davis shares her own fresh spin on the standards, which are sure to put you in a New York state of mind.

    Kate Davis
    Kate Davis


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