WBGO Blog
  • Hank Jones (1918-2010)

    May 17, 2010. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    Photo by David Tallacksen

    The death of Hank Jones was sad news to wake up to this morning.  Here is the New York Times obituary.

    Last year when the Jazz Journalists Association named him Pianist of the Year, Jones said the honor was an inspiration to work even harder. That comment summed up his rare dedication. Indeed at the age of 90, he was still practicing, two to three hours a day when he could. And his playing was sublime.

    At the end of the summer, he was honored by the Detroit International Jazz Festival. WBGO blogged excerpts of his Jazz Talk.

    As always, he graciously answers familiar questions and shares a little of himself. With his music he shares much more. - Becca Pulliam

    Click "read more" to view Hank Jones photo gallery.

    Read more

  • Postscripts from Detroit

    September 10, 2009. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    As recently as July, Detroit suffered 28.9% unemployment. That’s a disastrous figure, and makes the ambitions and success of the 2009 Fest all the more remarkable. Gratitude and respect to Terri Pontremoli, her dedicated team and swarm of volunteers. For the Monday night finale, the Festival commissioned a John Clayton concerto grosso for the Clayton Brothers quintet and the Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra, conjuring the spirits of Thad, Hank and Elvin Jones and entitled "T.H.E. Family, Detroit." Dorthaan Kirk and I were perched above and behind the stage, so we saw it as the musicians saw it – looking out at hundreds or maybe 1,000 die-hard fans who braved some rain and stayed to the end, just to hear a new composition! “T.H.E” opened with a fanfare for the flamboyant Guardian Building (see photos earlier in our blog), then became a dance between the composer and each of the Joneses – one movement per brother, the quintet and the orchestra. As Mark Stryker wrote in his detailed review in the Detroit FreePress, “Hearing the piece was like holding up a mirror and always seeing a reflection of Clayton and whichever brother he was channeling at the moment.” A double drum cadenza for Elvin led to the huge closing cadence that John conducted with every bit of his body, limbs fully extended. That’s a vision and sound I hope I never forget! Don’t you forget: the great Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra will perform at a gala benefit concert for WBGO in New York on November 3. Watch wbgo.org for more information.

    Bob Porter & Ashley Kahn, jazz talking
    Bob Porter & Ashley Kahn, jazz talking
    The festival is over but two points stay with me. One: Detroit Public Schools’ music education in the 1940s and 50s was strong enough to prepare talented students for lifelong jazz careers. Some of those students became our musical heroes. Two: Detroit became THE feeder city for the national labels. At a Jazz Talk on the Detroit-NY Connection, WBGO host Bob Porter and historian Ashley Kahn singled out trombonist Curtis Fuller and trumpeter Thad Jones. Here's an excerpt.
    Shanetta and her keepsake from Detroit
    Shanetta and her keepsake from Detroit

    When I said goodbye to Shanetta Dorsey, winner of the WBGO Vacation Package to Detroit, I told her she was the perfect winner! She took the opportunity and ran with it. Click on the link below to hear her impressions. Thanks for listening! To SEE all the photos, visit flickr.com/wbgo.

  • Listen: Pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, Detroit Jazz Festival

    September 10, 2009. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    The young pianist Alfredo Rodriguez was detained while trying to defect to the US from his native Cuba. He just wanted to play music, he pleaded with his guards. They sympathized, and Rodriguez was on his way. At the Detroit Jazz Festival, Rodriguez played a powerful set that swung from showing his technical prowess to a more tender, quiet side. We only had time to feature a short excerpt on our broadcast show, but here you can listen to the entire performance:

  • Listen: Five Hours from the Detroit Jazz Festival

    September 7, 2009. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    Steve Wilson with Christian McBride & Inside Straight
    Steve Wilson playing with Christian McBride & Inside Straight

    Ted Nash (from the 2008 Detroit Jazz Festival):

    The Brubeck Brothers, and Alfredo Rodriguez:

    Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the Carl Allen/Rodney Whitaker Project:

    Juilliard Jazz Quartet, and Bennie Maupin's Dolphyana:

    Christian Bride and Inside Straight:

    See photos from Detroit.

  • Rhonda's Detroit Journal - Sunday 9.6.09

    September 6, 2009. Posted by Rhonda Hamilton.

    We’ve had another beautiful day at the Detroit Jazz Festival. I caught an early afternoon set by the Julliard Jazz Quartet. Even before I reached the stage, I was impressed by what I heard. I thought, “That pianist is very strong.” It turned out to be Donald Vega, a gifted player and composer from Nicaragua. The band began the set with two of his compositions, the energetic “Wake Up” followed by the lilting “Butterfly Waltz”. Then they segued into Monk’s “I Mean You.” Jeremy Biner’s tenor saxophone had shades of Joe Henderson and George Coleman. Bassist Yasushi Nakamura was solid as was drummer, Brian Carter

    Hear for yourself on Monday’s Detroit Jazz Festival Special at 2pm on 88.3FM and online at wbgo.org


    Alfredo Rodriguez

    My next stop was the Mack Avenue Pyramid Stage where pianist Alfredo Rodriguez was giving a solo recital. There was a buzz about Alfredo at the festival, so I was anxious to hear him perform. Playing with the fire and passion of his Cuban homeland, Rodriguez elicited whoops and hollers from his new found fans. Just as handily, he laid a hush over the crowd with an introspective rendition of “Body and Soul.” Rodriguez has been championed by producer Quincy Jones so you can expect to hear a lot more from him in the near future.   Alfredo Rodriguez is also featured on our Labor Day Special.

    One of the memories of the 2009 Detroit International Jazz Festival that I will cherish forever is Gerald Wilson leading his orchestra in the premiere of his suite “Detroit.” The festival commissioned this work to commemorate its 30th anniversary. Gerald Wilson grew up in Detroit and attended Cass Tech High School. He said, “They taught me all I know. I wouldn’t be here today without them.” The suite includes a movement for his alma mater along with tributes to the Detroit River, Belle Isle and Gretchen Valade who is the major benefactor of the festival and the owner of Wilson’s label Mack Avenue Records.

    Wilson clearly has great affection for Detroit. As the orchestra played the soaring melody of the suite’s main theme, he recited these words:

    Detroit

    It’s beautiful… Detroit

    It’s magnificent…Detroit

    Love is here

    Freedom is here

    In this great city of Detroit