WBGO Blog
  • Two Greats From Seattle, 'One Of The Most Important Jazz Cities'

    March 12, 2015

    image
    Ernestine Anderson performs at the Windsor Jazz Festival in 1966. (Image Credit: David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images)

    Jazz bassist and composer Christian McBride recently finished a week-long West Coast tour in Seattle. It reminded him of how great a town it was for jazz, both historically and presently.

    "There's always been a very powerful jazz community in Seattle," McBride says, citing the early careers of Ray Charles and Quincy Jones. "Quietly, it's been one of the most important jazz cities."

    All Things Considered's jazz correspondent (and the host of the public radio program Jazz Night In America) recently introduced host Audie Cornish to two more names from Seattle: trombonist Julian Priester and vocalist Ernestine Anderson.

    Ernestine Anderson, 'A Very Rare Living Example'

    Now 86, Anderson graduated high school in Seattle before launching her professional career.

    "Ernestine Anderson, kind of, was very similar to Dinah Washington in the sense that she crossed a lot of different genres," McBride says. "She was very well respected — is still very well respected — not just as a jazz singer, also as a pop singer, also as an R&B singer. She had a very, very strong following with the R&B crowd."

    McBride says that Anderson's early experience singing in church, from the time that "the basic rhythm of traditional gospel still was a swing rhythm," also affects how she phrases. He theorizes that a young Aretha Franklin (another musician with gospel roots) must have checked out Ernestine Anderson's records.

    "Leaving a lot of tension, that other kind of 'church' thing I talked about — I think Ernestine is a very rare living example of someone who can do that in the jazz language," McBride says. "Kind of, bring that sophisticated elegance of jazz to a more earthy and gritty soul singing.

    Julian Priester, 'Like A Great Sixth Man'

    Trombonist Julian Priester, 79, still lives in Seattle, where he teaches music at Cornish College of the Arts. McBride spotlighted the work Priester did in the early 1970s with Herbie Hancock's experimental band Mwandishi.

    "This period in music — not just in jazz, but all across the board — it seemed like everything was bleeding into one another," McBride says. "Everybody was experimenting with these other sounds. Everything was on the table."

    Of course, Priester's career extends well beyond that time. His credits include Muddy Waters, Dinah Washington, Max Roach, Bo Diddley and Lionel Hampton, not to mention his own work as a bandleader. In all those contexts, he stands out for both his quality and versatility, according to McBride.

    "I was thinking of a basketball phrase," McBride says. "He's like a utility player, like a great sixth man. If you need somebody to score you some three-pointers, you always know he's there. You always know you have one of the greatest players in your band — not because he's a virtuoso, but he's just really one of the greatest solid musicians on any instrument throughout the years."

    'The Mark Of A True Musician'

    That adaptability links the two musicians beyond their geographic roots.

    "I've always thought the mark of a true musician was being able to adapt to any style," McBride says. "Any changes that happen, you're able to ride with it but still maintain your musical integrity and identity, while still being flexible enough to change with the times."

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

  • Steve Turre On "Spiritman": Listen Now

    March 12, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Trombonist Steve Turre talks with Gary Walker about his new CD "Spiritman," and experiences performing with Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner and in the Saturday Night Live band. Turre performs at New York's Smoke Jazz Club March 13-15. Enjoy!

    turre669

  • 5 Fun Facts About Latin Jazz: Get Ready!

    March 11, 2015. Posted by Steve Williams.

    Add new comment | Filed under: 92Y, Jazz Alive

    WBGO celebrates Latin jazz at the 92Y's “Latin On Lex” festival March 12-14.

    To get ready,  we’re brushing up on our Latin - and  invite you to join us. Here are five fun facts we found!

    The festival features Eddie Palmieri, Pedrito Martinez, Phil Woods and many others, and is curated by trumpeter Brian Lynch.

    1. WHAT WAS THE FIRST LATIN JAZZ COMPOSITION?

    Tanga_piano_guajeo

    “Tanga” was written by Cuban trumpeter Mario Bauzá and first recorded in 1943.

    In the 1930s, Bauzá played in the top New York bands of Chick Webb and Cab Calloway, and wanted to combine the feel of Cuban “descarga” jam sessions with the swing feel and harmonies of North American jazz.

    Bauzá mentored the young Dizzy Gillespie and sparked Dizzy's lifelong love of Latin rhythms. “Tanga” combines the “clave” rhythmic pattern common in Cuban dance music with space for jazz solos.

    The "clave" cycle combines three long beats with two short beats in a repeating pattern, or two short beats followed by three long, over two measures. In "Tanga," the pattern is 2-3.

    2. WHO IS MACHITO?

    Machito_and_his_sister_Graciella_Grillo
    Photo by William Gottlieb, Jr.

    Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo was the son of a Havana cigar manufacturer who became a bandleader and singer. He was nicknamed "Macho" as a child because he was the first son born after three daughters. He switched to "Machito" out of respect for his new bride.

    “Machito” was also the brother-in-law of Mario Bauzá, and was the first to record Bauzá’s “Tanga” with his band, the Afro-Cubans.

    This band, which he led until 1976, was the first to consistently explore ways to combine Cuban rhythms with the harmonies and solos found in North American jazz.

    3. WHAT ARE THE BRANCHES OF LATIN JAZZ?

    latinmannMost “Latin” jazz since the 1940s falls into two categories: Afro-Cuban, often based on the “clave” and ostinato patterns of Cuban dance music, and Afro-Brazilian, which gained popularity worldwide through the success of Bossa Nova in the 1960s.

    Jazz musicians also draw from the African musical traditions of countries such as Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico and Peru, and Argentina’s tango and Brazil’s maxixe were internationally popular before jazz spread around the world in 1917.

    4. WHAT FAMOUS LATIN JAZZ INSTRUMENTS ARE AT THE SMITHSONIAN?

    Puente_timbales

    The timbales or shallow metal-shelled drums played by Tito Puente at the closing ceremonies at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics are on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.

    The Harlem-born Puente, known as the “King of the Timbales,” graduated from Juilliard, was awarded the National Medal of the Arts and has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

    5. WHO WAS THE FIRST LATIN JAZZ ARTIST ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS?

    ray-barretto-el-watusi-tico

    Percussionist Ray Barretto scored a hit in 1963 with “El Watusi,” which was was on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart for nine weeks and sold more than half a million copies.

    While the song was not Latin jazz, Barretto was, for nearly fifty years, one of its most eloquent players.

    In the 1960s, he was – simultaneously – the house percussionist for the era’s top three jazz labels: Blue Note, Prestige, and Riverside, and at the same time he recorded for the top Latin dance label, Tico. Barretto recorded with Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Freddie Hubbard, and many others.

    Barretto was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006, the nation’s highest honor for a jazz musician.