• Great Live Moments: Dr. Billy Taylor/Jazzmobile in Newark

    July 24, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Billy Taylor Trio - Photo by Jimmy Katz

    Today is the 87th birthday of a jazz legend - Dr. Billy Taylor. Last night, on the eve of this very special day, Dr. T was one of several featured pianists at the 92nd Street Y in the Jazz in July series. He likes the name of that series because he came up with it himself when he helped to found a summer program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Just this month, Taylor quietly stepped down from his Jazz in July, and U Mass expressed gratitude for many summers on its website. Click to read the story.

    Also this summer, Taylor is involved in a development right here in our town. Now we have a Brick City branch of Jazzmobile, the teaching organization he helped found in Harlem.  Newark Jazzmobile is named for the late bassist Earl May, who first proposed it but did not live to see it happen. Click here for the Jazzmobile schedule. Houston Person plays tonight at Mildred Helms Park in the South Ward! Click and hear Billy Taylor play "A Night in Tunisia" on WBGO's (then) new Steinway, live on the air in the 1980s. Another Great Live Moment from WBGO.


  • JoAnne Brackeen - Great Live Moments

    July 21, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Joanne Brackeen Photo by Lafiya Watson
    Pianist JoAnne Brackeen is having a birthday, and every Monday this month, she's celebrating at Jazz Standard in New York. She's calling tonight's show "The Big Three" -- music from Art Blakey, Stan Getz and Joe Henderson, all of whom hired her.

    JazzSet is recording! We hope to present the show in Fall 08.

    On Great Live Moments, Brackeen plays "Manha de Carnaval." We don't know where this took place - a club named Harvie's, but we don't know where that was or is. I'll bet Jae Sinnett, the drummer, would know if he's reading along!


  • Great Live Moments - Andy Narell plays a pan by Ellie Manette

    July 18, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    "The Hammer" comes from 1988, the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, live on "New Year's Eve Coast to Coast." That night on WBGO and NPR, Carmen McRae sang with the Mel Lewis Orchestra at the Vista Hotel (destroyed 9/11/01) with intermission music by the late Patti Bown, and Moore by Four opened for Harry Connick Jr. at the Dakota in St. Paul, MN. Andy was on a double bill with Queen Ida's band from Louisiana. Pans & zydeco!

    Andy Narell always wants to tell you the history of his instrument, the steelpan. In the late 1930s, Trinidadian drummers of African descent began to fabricate tuneful instruments from the heads of 55-gallon oil barrels. In 1946, Elliott "Ellie" Manette (or Mannette) made a concave drumhead, the first steelpan. Andy Narell told WBGO's JazzSet that in 1947, Manette made history hammering the Brahms Lullaby on it, on Port au Spain radio. Pans on radio!

    For a short Andy Narell solo on a pan made by Ellie Manette, as played live on WBGO in 1980, click here.

    In 2000, when Manette received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the West Indies, he said that no one person invented the pan. It took a group and was an evolutionary process. Today, Manette continues to improve his pan making and, as Artist-in-Residence at West Virginia University, coordinates Pan Studies. Has anyone reading along ever seen him play?

    Narell - born in New York City in 1954 - became passionate about steelpan music as a young man. The day he came to WBGO for an on-air interview with host Al Pryor, he was promoting his first LP, Hidden Treasure (now on CD). As mentioned, Andy brought a pan made by Manette and played a solo. In the free-flowing interview, Andy talked about working in a summer camp in redwood forest in California, teaching kids to play the pans. Hear a clip here.

    Especially when it' s hot, the hammering of even one note on a steelpan opens your heart and lets the colors in. Pans are the sound of sunshine!