WBGO Blog
  • Paquito D'Rivera on "Aires Tropicales": Listen Now

    March 24, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Paquito D'Rivera talks with Gary Walker about his "Around The Americas" concerts March 27-28 at Jazz At Lincoln Center, and forthcoming CD "Aires Tropicales," both of which which explore the legacy of African music across the hemisphere. Enjoy!

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  • WBGO In South Africa 1: Lesedi Cultural Village

    March 22, 2015. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    We did it! Rhonda Hamilton, twenty-five lucky WBGO members and I are super-excited to be in the Rainbow Nation, South Africa.

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    This is the first peek at our adventures, so buckle in and enjoy the ride!

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    Our first stop: Lesedi Cultural Village. "Lesedi" means "place of light" in Basotho, one of South Africa's main tribal languages.

    This UNESCO World Heritage Site is in the heart of South Africa's characteristic bushveld and rocky hills, about 50 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg. It offers a peek into the lifestyles of the Basotho, Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, and Ndebele tribes.

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    Our charismatic tour guide gives us a quick lesson in Zulu, the dominant ethnic group in South Africa - about 80 percent of the population.

    He also explains that in some tribes, a man is allowed more than one wife - depending on how many cows he owns.  Our WBGO group is more women than men, but we all scoff when our guide says one powerful Zulu leader had sixty wives.

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    One of the highlights, or should I say, “high sights” of our tour is this tall gentleman, who stands guard in front of Lesedi's Zulu village. On cue, we collectively chant a request for entry, in the Zulu tongue.  He grants our request.

    Some of the ladies linger and repeat this exercise; I hear one of them say, “That fine man can guard my village any day of the week.”

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    Our guide offers us a staple dish, which may surprise many Westerners.  Caterpillars!   Yes, these creepy crawlers are very high in protein, rooty, and can be delicious when sautéed with onions and peppers.

    Most in our group decide to pass on this culinary adventure - but I can say these salty, chewy treats can be good - as long as you erase the image of a creepy crawler from your mind.

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    Our first adventure ends with a thunderous bang – a show-stopping performance of rhythm, song, and dance by the village's folkloric dance troupe. To watch a video of this, click on the image above.

    The Lesedi Village shows us “the light” of how our recent, and maybe even our ancient, ancestors lived, in the Cradle of Humankind. It should be noted that this locale has produced some of the oldest hominid fossils ever found, some dating back as far as 3.5 million years.

    Yes, we’ve arrived in The Motherland, indeed.  And we can’t wait to see more!

  • 5 Fun Facts About Latin Jazz: Get Ready!

    March 11, 2015. Posted by Steve Williams.

    Add new comment | Filed under: 92Y, Jazz Alive

    WBGO celebrates Latin jazz at the 92Y's “Latin On Lex” festival March 12-14.

    To get ready,  we’re brushing up on our Latin - and  invite you to join us. Here are five fun facts we found!

    The festival features Eddie Palmieri, Pedrito Martinez, Phil Woods and many others, and is curated by trumpeter Brian Lynch.

    1. WHAT WAS THE FIRST LATIN JAZZ COMPOSITION?

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    “Tanga” was written by Cuban trumpeter Mario Bauzá and first recorded in 1943.

    In the 1930s, Bauzá played in the top New York bands of Chick Webb and Cab Calloway, and wanted to combine the feel of Cuban “descarga” jam sessions with the swing feel and harmonies of North American jazz.

    Bauzá mentored the young Dizzy Gillespie and sparked Dizzy's lifelong love of Latin rhythms. “Tanga” combines the “clave” rhythmic pattern common in Cuban dance music with space for jazz solos.

    The "clave" cycle combines three long beats with two short beats in a repeating pattern, or two short beats followed by three long, over two measures. In "Tanga," the pattern is 2-3.

    2. WHO IS MACHITO?

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    Photo by William Gottlieb, Jr.

    Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo was the son of a Havana cigar manufacturer who became a bandleader and singer. He was nicknamed "Macho" as a child because he was the first son born after three daughters. He switched to "Machito" out of respect for his new bride.

    “Machito” was also the brother-in-law of Mario Bauzá, and was the first to record Bauzá’s “Tanga” with his band, the Afro-Cubans.

    This band, which he led until 1976, was the first to consistently explore ways to combine Cuban rhythms with the harmonies and solos found in North American jazz.

    3. WHAT ARE THE BRANCHES OF LATIN JAZZ?

    latinmannMost “Latin” jazz since the 1940s falls into two categories: Afro-Cuban, often based on the “clave” and ostinato patterns of Cuban dance music, and Afro-Brazilian, which gained popularity worldwide through the success of Bossa Nova in the 1960s.

    Jazz musicians also draw from the African musical traditions of countries such as Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico and Peru, and Argentina’s tango and Brazil’s maxixe were internationally popular before jazz spread around the world in 1917.

    4. WHAT FAMOUS LATIN JAZZ INSTRUMENTS ARE AT THE SMITHSONIAN?

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    The timbales or shallow metal-shelled drums played by Tito Puente at the closing ceremonies at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics are on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.

    The Harlem-born Puente, known as the “King of the Timbales,” graduated from Juilliard, was awarded the National Medal of the Arts and has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

    5. WHO WAS THE FIRST LATIN JAZZ ARTIST ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS?

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    Percussionist Ray Barretto scored a hit in 1963 with “El Watusi,” which was was on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart for nine weeks and sold more than half a million copies.

    While the song was not Latin jazz, Barretto was, for nearly fifty years, one of its most eloquent players.

    In the 1960s, he was – simultaneously – the house percussionist for the era’s top three jazz labels: Blue Note, Prestige, and Riverside, and at the same time he recorded for the top Latin dance label, Tico. Barretto recorded with Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Freddie Hubbard, and many others.

    Barretto was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006, the nation’s highest honor for a jazz musician.