WBGO Blog
  • A Tribute To Kenny Wheeler

    May 19, 2015

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    Kenny Wheeler. (Image Credit: W. Patrick Hinely/Courtesy of the artist)

    The late Kenny Wheeler's stunning compositions and imaginative improvisations on trumpet and flugelhorn left deep impressions on generations of musicians. Two such devotees — trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and saxophonist Steve Treseler — revisited Wheeler's compositions after his death in 2014 at age 84. And in doing so, they realized they wanted to record their arrangements, paying tribute to the man who catalyzed their own careers. So Jensen, raised in Vancouver and now based in New York, traveled back across North America to meet Treseler, who resides in Seattle, to make the album and play a gig while they were there.

    Jazz Night In America explores the legacy of Kenny Wheeler through the music that Jensen and Treseler arranged and performed live at the Royal Room in Seattle. They're accompanied by Jensen's working rhythm section — pianist Geoffrey Keezer, bassist Martin Wind, drummer Jon Wikan — and local vocalist Katie Jacobson. Watch the concert here.

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

  • WBGO's Michael Bourne Remembers B.B. King

    May 16, 2015. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    BB was actually named King.  He was born Riley B. King on a cotton plantation in 1925.  He grew up around Indianola, Mississippi, and he first became known in Memphis — where he worked as a singer and DJ on radio station WDIA.

    That's when his nickname Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy, and then to BB.

    Photo by Dave Stryker
    Photo by Dave Stryker

    T-Bone Walker was an early inspiration, and I always remember the look on his face when I quoted something he’d said about how much he loved listening to Django Reinhardt.

    With his eyes closed and his face beaming, he smiled and he said only “Django …”

    BB’s own sound on the guitar he called Lucille was magisterial.  When he played a note, a finger of his left hand quivered on the string, so that every note sounded like a bell, echoing.
    BB loved listening to Frank Sinatra sing, and his own voice was as down-to-earth and heartful.  When he was singing, he didn’t play.  When he was playing, Lucille was singing.

    No blues artist popularized the blues around the world like BB King.  No blues artist ever sang or played the guitar like BB King.

    He was — and always will be — the King of the Blues.

    Guitarist Dave Stryker sent me this picture of of his "prized possession" - a Red clear vinyl Crown Records 195.

    Pretty much says it all. For Dave, for me, and for all of us.

    Thank you, BB.

  • 50 Years Ago, Ramsey Lewis Joined 'The In Crowd'

    May 16, 2015

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    Ramsey Lewis' hit single "The In Crowd" was recorded live in concert 50 years ago this month. (Image Credit: Courtesy of Ravinia Festival)

    Fifty years ago, the Ramsey Lewis Trio sat in a Washington, D.C. coffee shop, musing over what it could add to its set that evening. It was booked for a run at Bohemian Caverns — the group had issued a live album made at the nightclub, and it was gearing up to record a follow-up live album. Over walked a waitress, who inquired about the band's predicament.

    Fifty years later, Lewis still remembers her name: Nettie Gray.

    "She had a jukebox," Lewis says. "Jukeboxes in coffee shops — people don't know about that any more, but she went over to the jukebox and played: 'You guys might like this! Listen to this!'"

    Her recommendation was "The In Crowd," sung by Dobie Gray — a popular hit at the time. Lewis and the band worked out an arrangement quickly, then ended their set with it that evening, to wild applause.

    Fifty years later, that song remains Ramsey Lewis' biggest hit.

    "If somebody had come up with another song that fit the style of what we wanted, there would not have been an 'In Crowd,' " he says.

    Lewis, now 79 and still actively performing, spoke with NPR's Arun Rath about how the song came to be. Hear their conversation at the audio link above.

    Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.