• Sam Woodyard - Stompin' the Yard

    January 7, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    It's the birthday today of Sam Woodyard, one of the great drummers from Duke Ellington's Orchestra.

    Check out a killer solo from Sam Woodyard with Ellington, 1961.


    January seems to be a good month for drummers to join the world. This month alone, you'll find the birthdates of Kenny Clarke and Max Roach on the 9th and 10th (that's the bulk of bebop drums in two days). Then there's Grady Tate (1/14), Gene Krupa (1/15), and both Jeff "Tain" Watts and Jimmy Cobb on January 20th. - Josh

  • The smell of vinyl in the morning

    January 6, 2008

    joe-newman.jpg(Long ago mp3’s were stored on plastic, circular wafers known as LP’s…)

    I’ve told this story to Rhonda Hamilton on the air and was reminded of it today when I came across my LP copy of “Joe Newman Quintet at Count Basie’s.” This is a terrific album from the great Basie trumpet man (‘43-’47 & ‘52-‘61), recorded live (with a very "live" audience) at the Count’s joint in NYC in 1961. It has smoking performances of “Caravan” and “Midgets” and features Newman, Oliver Nelson on tenor, Ed Shaughnessy on drums, Lloyd Mayers on piano and Art Davis on bass. I bought the record at a flea market about 10 years ago in great condition for maybe $3. $3!

    Joe Newman was the first authentic jazz great I’d ever met. It was at a jam session in Newark’s Terrace Ballroom at Symphony Hall in the late 80’s. I was a kid trying to run a jam session and he was in his mid to late 60’s, I think, like royalty with all the younger players hanging around him. I don’t think he even played much, and if he did, it was very briefly. But I’ve always remembered that encounter for Newman’s easy politeness and overall grand hipness.

    I was thrilled to have a Joe Newman-led live session. I don’t think there are too many on record. Are there? When I got the record home, I immediately threw it on the turntable. As soon as the needle hits the record, the band tears into Juan Tizol’s “Caravan,” and I mean they are cooking. The trumpet, muted, high-pitched and rapid, like if it was Diz or somebody like that. The drums, ripping at a furious pace and the bass strolling like a power walker. “Wow,” I thought. “Joe Newman is on fire!” After about 2:30 of the cut, the pace was still so intense that I thought surely they couldn’t sustain it. It took me another 30 seconds before I realized that the LP was actually playing at 45 rpm. I laughed, thinking how much of a jazz neophyte I was (and really still am.) But it sounded great!

    This is what I do when I should be cleaning the house. – David Cruz

  • Studio Session - Big Pump Song

    January 5, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    We had a great session with Now vs. Now.
    You'll have to wait next month for the complete results, but here's a teaser.


  • There's No Debate

    January 4, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Soundtrack Album Cover

    I haven't seen Denzel Washington's film, The Great Debaters. But I'm already hooked on the soundtrack with Sharon Jones, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Among others, they collaborate on the opening track, a ring shout called "My Soul is a Witness."

    A ring shout is one of the most infectious and powerful types of music you'll ever hear. It's basically a religious song using traditional African dance patterns, with a counter-rhythm that can start easy but get extremely complex, depending on how intensely the performers get possessed by the spirit. Shouts were common ritual during slavery, and you might even find traces of the style in rural church services in the South, the Georgia coastal islands and the Tidewater region of Maryland and Delaware.

    For The Great Debaters, "My Soul is a Witness" is recreated from the original field recording by Alan Lomax. In 1934, Lomax spent six weeks in Louisiana. In one of the Acadian (Cajun) towns, Lomax recorded a series of ring shouts by Austin Coleman, with Joe Washington Brown and Samson Brown.

    Hear the original version of "My Soul is a Witness," as performed by Austin Coleman.

    I spoke with G. Marq Roswell, the Music Supervisor for The Great Debaters, about the music he selected music for the movie. You can hear that on The WBGO Journal. Or listen below. - Josh

    WBGO Journal - The Great Debaters

  • Obama rocks Iowa

    January 4, 2008

    Add new comment | Filed under: News, Notes

    We've been hearing about the Iowa Caucuses for more than a year now, so it was great to finally get it over with. I usually look at all politics with a jaundiced eye, and the Iowa Caucus was no exception. It wasn't that big a surprise that Sen. Barack Obama and Governor Mike Huckabee won their respective races. The polls predicted the outcome in the days leading up to the vote. Still, Obama's victory speech took many of us by surprise. His delivery has changed some over the last 18 months, but I've always thought he was just a so-so orator. When he took the stage to address his supporters yesterday, though, he actually looked like someone who could be president.

    Now, i'm not endorsing any candidate or any party, and I recognize that the winner of the Iowa Caucus doesn't automatically become the nominee (or the president.) But, if, as Obama suggested, we look back at yesterday as "the day it all began," his speech, with its measured cadence and perfectly-placed emotional punches, will be remembered right up there with the most significant in our political history. Just in case you missed it, you can see it below. - David Cruz