August 7, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.
OK. One of the highlights of my live-performance-attending-life happened last night. I got to see the man himself, saxophone colossus, tenor titan - Sonny Rollins! Sonny is one of my all-time favorite tenor players, and this was my FIRST time actually seeing him live. It was really an experience. I love seeing all my favorites perform but this had a different thing to it. Well...because he's Sonny. His body of work, what he means to the history of this music, his contribution as an inventor, a trailblazer and artist...all that. Growing up, my mom would play "Tenor Madness" incessantly. And she and my step-dad would have very interesting debates about who "won" the tenor madness battle. Sonny or the newer kid on the block - John Coltrane. My mom always voted Trane and my stepdad would say "are you crazy?" listen to Sonny's toooone. They would trade lines, singing what they thought supported their vote and well...it was a lot of fun to watch. I always voted Trane myself, being the Trane-junkie I am. But I gotta tell you...one day, I picked those traded solos apart bit by bit for a whole afternoon and well...I really gained a new appreciation for Sonny. My appreciation for Trane was instant and almost innate. But Sonny...it took some maturing for me to really get it like I got it now. I always LOVED Sonny's playing, but there was something about living a little more life, and then listening to Sonny that made me appreciate him so much more. But that was my introduction to the artist that would become such a staple in my life (and CD rotation). Next was the Way Out West recording. I wore that OUT! One of my favorite vamps of all time is his on "I'm an Old Cowhand." So pretty.
But I digress :)
Seeing Sonny yesterday was somewhat surreal. Sonny represents an era; a moment in history that very few artists can demostrate with just their presence alone, like he can. He opened the show with a calypso-feel tune, and was just so warm toward the audience and his band and was clearly having a lot of fun. Then it happened. I was standing at the edge of the stage with my camera, and he walked RIGHT up to me, bent down toward me and posed for my camera (the photo above - that's the one!) Almost like saying "hello!" with his horn. Man...that was a feeling.
He performed his classics like "St. Thomas" and "In a Sentimental Mood" (Yes, when he recorded the Duke Ellington classic, he definitely made it his own). But he also performed newer originals. When he went into "St. Thomas," I thought, "the show's over?" Tisk, tisk...how very cliche of me. I should have known that Sonny wasn't going out so predictably. He played another hour, LOL! He played this one tune that had this dope backbeat...not your typical "I'm a jazz musician playing a back-beat now." No, this had some different stuff sprinkled on it. Almost how I would imagine Tony Williams' version of a back beat...a little behind the beat...a little gritty. And I was thinking man, Sonny is so hip. He's so current, past and future. That's what makes Sonny the man. Well, one of the things. All I can say is "Sonny, thank you." You made my night, and gave me a memory that is one for the books.
© 2008 WBGO
August 5, 2008. Posted by Alice Stockton Rossini.
Freddy and me after the gig
The house lights flicker at a low-level dim while the stage lights illuminate the tinting instruments on stage. The crowd cheers as the great Freddie Cole walks to center stage and counts off the band. 1...2...3...4! BAM! The saxophone section hits the opening line with vigor and attitude as Freddy sings the opening lyrics to "It's only a Paper Moon."
On July 23rd, Freddy Cole--Nat King Cole's younger brother--came to William Paterson university to play with some amazing young musicians. Among them was yours truly. It was an honor to play with a cat like Freddy Cole. Freddy reminds young musicians where the music comes from by primarily performing repertoire from the great American Songbook. Freddy's approach to music contains simplicity, but he accomplishes something that musician strives for- expressing his emotions to the audience through music. That kind of connection had the audience tapping their feet and clapping their hands. After the last number, the audience pleaded for one more number. Cole sat down at the piano and closed the concert with a beautiful ballad. The audience roared as Freddy exited the stage to a standing ovation. It was a humbling experience to play in Freddy Cole's band that night. It reminded me, that at the the end of the day, music comes down to one thing, emotion. No matter the complexity of a Bebop line or accuracy of intonation, if emotion is not present, a musician has nothing.
I thank Freddy Cole for the opportunity to join him on the bandstand and am indebted to him for reminding me why I started playing music in the first place...Simply put, it's just really fun!
© 2008 WBGO
July 31, 2008. Posted by Andrew Meyer.
However, only a fraction of the island is open to the public.
The vast hospital complex which covers the south side of Ellis Island has been abandonned for about 50 years and is off-limits to the public, but that's going to be changing.
Efforts are underway to stabilize and restore these buildings.
After an initial trip with a group of Jersey lawmakers six years ago, I had a chance to go back recently to check on the progress that's been made in preserving not only the buildings but the history that goes with them. What I found can be heard in the next feature in WBGO News' Lost Jersey series, which airs on our next WBGO Journal, Friday, August 1 at 7:30pm.
© 2008 WBGO