WBGO Playdate

WBGO's Playdate: Kenny Washington on Art Blakey

Music by Jazz Messengers Cedar Walton and Freddie Hubbard airs on this Playdate.

This is bonus audio from Playdate #7. Stream all our shows and extras here.

by Becca Pulliam

The Jazz Messengers were an education on the bandstand. Led for thirty years by master drummer Art Blakey  (1919-1990), the evolving sextet shaped more than ninety Messengers to become truly great players.

One of these was trumpeter Freddie Hubbard (1938-2008). On New Year's Eve, 1990, WBGO's evening host James Browne and I broadcast Hubbard's sextet live from Hollywood's Catalina Bar & Grill, on WBGO and NPR.

The Phil Edwards Recording truck drove down from the Bay Area and set up in an alley next to Catalina's. NPR sent two people, and I believe there was a California-based assistant from KLON (now KKJZ) to complete the team.

The weather was warm, the club was small. When you opened the door, you were in. James set up in his own booth (displacing patrons) with a microphone and anchored the segment.

In the band, Bob Sheppard brought saxes and flute. Freddie invited a trombonist from Indianapolis, Phil Ranelin. John Beasley played piano, and John Leftwich, bass.

Freddie gave drummer Ralph Penland a huge compliment on the air, saying he was one of the best up-and-coming players of the day. Just this week, we learned that Ralph passed away on March 14, 2014, at age 61.

For an intermission feature, we asked drummer Kenny Washington, who hosted a weekend show on WBGO, to reflect on Blakey's legacy. We put some Blakey music behind Kenny's comments and observations, brought the feature to California, and played it on the air during intermission.

Freddie listened and commented during the broadcast. I wish we had a complete air-check.

But I think the feature is a fine piece of WBGO history. Kenny Washington tells good stories, and wraps up by saying it all:

"Blakey was a spirit; there won't be another like him."


Listen to additional tracks:

Support comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, New Jersey State Council on the Arts and WBGO.

Playdate funders

Produced for WBGO by Alexander Ariff,
with Becca Pulliam and Duke Markos, Executive Producer Josh Jackson.

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