Music

courtesy of the Artist

Robert Palmer, the broadminded music critic, once pegged saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman succinctly: “He lives in a world of clear, endlessly permutating images of global musics, folk and classical and jazz, that interpenetrate.”

The new album by saxophonist Don Braden and bassist Joris Teepe is called Conversations — as good a title as any to describe the results, both musical and colloquial, of their visit to Morning Jazz. They came with drummer Steve Johns, played a few tunes, and spoke with Gary Walker about the origins of the new record.

Conversations, which was released in May, features two drummers, Gene Jackson and Matt Wilson. For their album-release gig, Wednesday night at the Zinc Bar, Braden and Teepe will enlist drummer Jeremy Warren.

Denise Eileen Garrett was only 3 years old when her family moved to Flint, Mich., from Memphis, Tenn. This was long before she became Dee Dee Bridgewater, jazz-vocal superhero — to say nothing of a mother, a Tony- and Grammy-winner or an NEA Jazz Master. But Memphis left an impression on the little girl, subtle but persistent, somewhere in her psyche.

Lawrence Sumulong / Jazz at Lincoln Center

Like any pianist and composer in the jazz idiom, John Beasley owes a substantial debt to Thelonious Monk. Unlike most, he chooses to express that influence in large-canvas terms.

Several years ago he formed the MONK’estra, a Los Angeles-based big band, in order to play Monk’s music with contemporary flair.

It's always exciting when a new composition is unearthed from a behemoth in American art.  In this case, it's a composition by Ornette Coleman, the pioneering saxophonist and iconoclast, who continues to be studied, celebrated and misunderstood. In this Checkout podcast, David Murray debuts the original Ornette Coleman tune called "Perfection," with drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and the late pianist Geri Allen.


Victor Diaz Lamish for FIJM

Especially at the finale of a great concert, an audience can become what I call The Beast. Insatiable.  Ravenous. Wanting more. And more. And more.

Artists often have an encore plotted, often playing the greatest of the greatest hits. But sometimes encores can become anti-climactic.

Rubber duckies whirled through the air. One red. One yellow. One green.

And then she sat the green one on her head. And the yellow one on a little boy's head.

He didn't know what to do with the duck, but he was happy. So was his brother. So was his mother.

Jimmy Katz

The first of many startling reveals in Naked Lunch, the 1991 David Cronenberg film, occurs five seconds into the opening title sequence. An orchestra has just struck its first chords, foreboding and tremulous, when Ornette Coleman’s alto saxophone goes skittering into action, like an errant flashlight beam across a velvet curtain.

Samantha J.

One saxophonist is in his 30s, and recently hit full stride. Another one is 90, still very much in the game. Both players — Terrace Martin is the former, Jimmy Heath the latter — can be found in Take Five this week, with music that belongs to an African-American continuum irrespective of genre or style. And those are just the bookends.

Pianist and composer Helen Sung was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and received rigorous classical training before pivoting to jazz. She has made up for lost time since, working with mentors like bassist Ron Carter, and releasing several well-received albums of her own. 

Sung appears with vocalist Nicole Zuraitis at Mezzrow on Sunday, with the Mingus Big Band at the Jazz Standard on Monday, and at the Caramoor Jazz Festival on July 15. She recently joined host Sheila Anderson in a conversation on Salon Sessions.

The Montreal International Jazz Festival proclaims to be the largest jazz festival in the world, headlined by some of music's biggest names. But the event also takes pride in spotlighting local talent — like Québécois trumpeter Jacques Kuba Séguin, featured in this Checkout podcast.


Courtesy of the artist

Pianist and composer Onaje Allan Gumbs began playing at age seven, inspired in part by Henry Mancini. A former sideman to aritsts including trumpeters Nat Adderley and Woody Shaw, Gumbs released his own debut album, Onaje, 40 years ago. 

During a recent conversation with Sheila Anderson on Salon Sessions, he reflected on his broad career, his so-called "return" — and the first Bob Cranshaw Community Achievement Award, which he recently received from the Jazz Foundation of America.

UZEB Play FIJM
Victor Diaz Lamich for FIJM

25 years ago, I first came to Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal.

25 years ago, the jazz/rock trio UZEB played the first Grande Evenement.


The relationship between jazz and boxing goes back to the pre-civil rights era, when entertainment and sports were some of only professions in which African Americans could excel. Miles Davis paid tribute to the first African-American world heavyweight champion on his 1971 album, Jack Johnson. Now Steve Coleman has released his own musical tribute to boxing: an album called Morphogenesis.

After Sarah Vaughan moved back to her hometown of Newark, New Jersey in the mid-1960s, she could often be found, on a night off, at the Key Club. She loved to hang out with owner Jean Dawkins, catching up on gossip about mutual friends. There were no pretenses about her; she just wanted to be “one of the guys.”

Riccardo Schwamenthal / CTSIMAGES/Courtesy of Resonance Records

Sarah Vaughan means something special to WBGO. And it's not that she was born and raised in Newark — though that certainly doesn't hurt. Simply put, her magnificent voice has been a beacon on our air, and a steadfast point of agreement. This week sees the publication of a new biography of Vaughan, and we're taking the opportunity to showcase five favorite performances from across her career.

Water sprinklers in streed
David Tallacksen

"Je reviendrai a Montreal"  is a popular song of Montreal-born artist/icon Robert Charlebois. 

"I will return to Montreal," he sang, and I have said (have sung) the same every year as I've headed back after Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal.   Except ...

I don't ever leave.  Not really.  Not in my head.  Not in my heart.  After 25 years, being in Montreal for me is like being with friends you have not seen in years, or like going home to be with your family.  They're a constant,  a presence in your life.  You're always home.

Carla Bley, the wily and iconoclastic American composer, has a natural aversion to hearing other people interpret her music. But she didn't seem to have that problem with Riverside, a band jointly led by trumpeter Dave Douglas and multi-reedist Chet Doxas. In fact, she'll be joining Riverside, on piano, for a pair of upcoming Canadian concerts — in Quebec City on July 5 and at the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 6.

Her receptivity to Riverside's album The New National Anthem, which celebrates her work, may have something to do with the cajoling of her life partner, Steve Swallow, who plays electric bass in the band. But it could also be a reflection of the sincerity and sense of play brought to the table by Douglas and Doxas, who joined me in conversation for this episode of The Checkout.


Pianist Ahmad Jamal started his career as a child prodigy, moving on to quartets and then trios as his main voice for expression. The world would know about Ahmad with the 1958 LP Live At The Pershing, featuring the runaway jukebox hit "Poinciana." At 86, Ahmad Jamal is still expressing a vibrancy — this time with a love letter to an iconic city in Southern France, pulled together with longtime bassist James Cammack, drummer Herlin Riley and worldly percussionist Manolo Badrena.

WBGO Evening Jazz Host Awilda Rivera has been filling our airwaves with great music for the last 18 years. Today Rivera celebrates her birthday, and tomorrow we'll celebrate her final show as Evening Jazz Host with a star-studded live broadcast. Rivera is retiring from her post as host of weekday evening on WBGO, but will continue as host of the Latin Jazz Cruise.

Sheila Anderson and Rivera have shared a long-time camaraderie - apparent if you've heard the pair asking for your support during a WBGO pledge drive. On this edition of Salon Sessions, the two go back all the way to Rivera's first introduction to WBGO (as a volunteer in 1983!), and her history in broadcasting since.

The great pianist, composer and educator Geri Allen passed away yesterday from cancer. In 2010, Allen sat down at our Steinway B for an intimate solo studio session and conversation with former host of The Checkout, Josh Jackson.


Rob Davidson

“Erroll Garner had so much spirit when he played, so much joy, so much groove,” Michael Wolff recently told Michael Bourne. “That’s why I think he was such a successful pianist. No matter what he did — and he played really, for his day, very sophisticated outside harmonies — but everything he played swung.”

Wolff was at our Yamaha Salon Concert on what would have been Erroll Garner's 94th birthday. He played both in a solo stride vein and with a swinging trio, and both performances were filmed.

John Rogers for WBGO and NPR / johnrogersnyc.com

Geri Allen, a widely influential jazz pianist, composer and educator who defied classification while steadfastly affirming her roots in the hard-bop tradition of her native Detroit, died on Tuesday in Philadelphia. She was 60, and lived for the last four years in Pittsburgh.

The cause was cancer, said Ora Harris, her manager of 30 years. The news shocked Allen’s devoted listeners as well as her peers, and the many pianists she directly influenced.

Francois Bisi

The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal kicks off with a major debut featuring one of its local artists. Rising star and Montrealer Malika Tirolien, formerly from the French Caribbean, is the frontwoman for Michael League's new project Bokanté, which is attracting a lot of buzz as of late. In this Checkout podcast, Tirolien talks about Strange Circles, the band's recording debut, and how League discovered her while he was on tour with his primary band Snarky Puppy.


Awilda Rivera has been the host of Evening Jazz on WBGO for the last 18 years. This Friday, June 30, will mark her final shift of the show. We'll celebrate with an on-air jam session from 8 to 11 p.m., featuring musicians including clarinetist and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, percussionist Bobby Sanabria and guitarist Russell Malone. The festivities will be broadcast live on WBGO 88.3 FM and here at wbgo.org.

The WBGO News Team won seven national and four state awards over the weekend!  

WBGO won a total of seven awards, including four first place, in PRNDI's (Public Radio News Directors Incorporated) Division "C" category for newsrooms with 3 full-timers or less. The goal of the PRNDI awards is to honor the best in local public radio. This year's annual PRNDI Awards Banquet was held in Florida Saturday night.  More than 200 journalists attended the conference in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. 

courtesy of the Artist

Roscoe Mitchell, “EP 7849”

The composer, multi-instrumentalist and educator Roscoe Mitchell has been a profound force in American experimental music for more than half a century – since the earliest stirrings of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, in the mid-1960s. His new double album is Bells For the South Side, recorded at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and just out on ECM.

Rob Davidson

Erroll Garner, the irrepressibly ebullient pianist, left an influence that runs deep but often diffuse: it isn't often that you hear someone who sounds just like him, but there's an awful lot of him in the language. Consider an exchange at our recent Yamaha Salon Concert between Kenny Werner and Andy Milne — a pair of super-literate, restlessly imaginative pianists, a generation apart. Their performance conjured Garner in spirit, without resorting to imitative devices, and set a high bar for responsive duologue.

When Steve Slagle named his new album Alto Manhattan, he had two connotations in mind. The first, of course, refers to his instrument, alto saxophone. But he was also thinking of the neighborhood where he lives, known to its Latino residents as "Alto Manhattan," or "The Heights." 

The album features a special guest, saxophonist Joe Lovano, as well as the percussionist Román Díaz, the drummer Bill Stewart, the bassist Gerald Cannon and the pianist Lawrence Fields. Slagle came into our studio to talk about the album, and play some music with Fields. The full band (sans Lovano) performs tonight at the Jazz Standard.

Metin Oner

The Microscopic Septet, a mid-size jazz combo with orchestral ambitions, has lived through many eras of jazz, beginning in New York City in the early 1980s. Back then, the band became a centerpiece in the city's downtown scene with John Zorn (an original member), Wayne Horwitz, and The Jazz Passengers. 

Its co-leader, Phillip Johnston, said he wanted to create music "too smooth for the avant-garde yet too knotty for the masses." In this Checkout studio session, they play the blues — as on their latest album, Been Up So Long, It Looks Like Down To Me.

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