• The NYC Winter JazzFest 2016

    January 2, 2016. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    WBGO is once again partnering with The NYC Winter JazzFest in 2016. In the current issue of WBGO's program guide, Upbeat, there was a partial interview with one of the festival's producers, Brice Rosenbloom. The full interview plus artist interviews and more follow.

    Manfred Eichner, founder and owner of ECM Records

    Vijay Iyer

    Pianist Vijay Iyer talks with Simon Rentner about his latest ECM album and inspirations from Billy Strayhorn and Detroit techno producer DJ Robert Hood.

    Gilad Hekselman
    Gilad Hekselman

    Guitarist Gilad Hekselman on The Checkout

    Dr. Lonnie Smith

    Dr. Lonnie Smith recorded live at WBGO


    The Winter Jazz Festival, which turns 12 this year, runs in various venues around Greenwich Village in Manhattan, January 13-17. WBGO will once again partner with the festival, and Simon Rentner, host of The Checkout (Tuesdays at 6:30PM on 88.3FM WBGO and wbgo.org), sat down with the festival’s creator, Brice Rosenbloom, to discuss this year’s event.
    Simon: So how big can this festival really get?

    Brice: The audience that comes out every year …and the amount of talent that’s out there tell us that we can continue to see it grow every year. This year will be five days long [with more than] a hundred and twenty groups, over 650 musicians performing [in] 14 different venues across the Village. Last year we were in a beautiful venue, the Minetta Theatre, which we don’t have access to this year. [That] propelled us to start a conversation with the New School, and we’ve been able to secure four different stages at the school this year, in what we hope will become a long standing partnership. On the Friday and Saturday ECM records will be showcasing thirteen different groups of homegrown talent at the Tishman auditorium on 14th street and 5th Avenue. That showcase will feature artists like Vijay Iyer and Avishai Cohen, David Torn, Craig Taborn, Michael Formanek, Chris Potter and many others.

    Simon: I hear ECM records founder Manfred Eicher is making a special trip for this series.

    Brice: Yes, we understand that as well. We’re thrilled that he’s going to be in the room.

    Simon: It’s funny that you have all these venues in Greenwich Village which obviously holds great, storied history in jazz music in the United States where you’re presenting this festival. However, none of your acts are featured in any of these sort of jazz club mainstays in Greenwich Village itself like Smalls jazz club isn’t involved, Fat Cat isn’t involved or the Village Vanguard; all of these Greenwich Village jazz clubs. Was that calculated or it just didn’t work out that way?

    Brice: You know it’s somewhat calculated, but not fully. We do include the Zinc Bar, we have included the Zinc Bar almost…every year but for the past seven or eight years of our twelve year history. We choose, though, to offer opportunities to experience the music in non-traditional jazz settings for audience and presenters who are in town for the Arts Presenters Conference. So yes, we will offer a couple jazz clubs, but a lot of the venues feel more like rock clubs or big open theatres; the kind of spaces that a presenter might come in and experience the music in a vibrant setting that might lend, or remind themselves of how they might want to present that artist. So we’re using Le Poisson Rouge as one of our central larger venues, right on Bleecker Street. [Other venues include] the Judson church, which is a historic space right near [the] NYU campus, and …Sub Culture, a little further east of the Village, which is kind of a basement smaller theatre space. So, the goal is to not just be in concert halls and jazz clubs but to offer a varied way to experience the music.

    Simon: How would you say the Winter Jazz Festival is most unlike these other major jazz festivals that is now being compared to the Montreal Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, etc.

    Brice: One of the unique things that we’re proud of is that we’re presenting so much young talent and new projects. [In] almost everything we present, the goal is that it’s a new project. It’s a project that we feel our colleagues, presenters from around the country, are going to be interested in booking. Partly it’s because we’re excited about the project and partly it’s because we are just proving the point that the future is in the youth and there [is] so much great young talent on the scene right now that we’re thrilled to be able to showcase.

    Simon: Take off your promoter cap for a second. What are the acts, the musicians, the shows you are most looking forward to hearing?

    Brice: It’s hard to take off the promoter hat because for me it’s one in the same - my passion for these artists and what I’m specifically interested in seeing - but we’ll …just start from the top. Artists; it’s no surprise that I’m always excited to see [Kamasi Washington]. I had a chance to see him three times within the past few months and we’re going to be presenting him at the Webster Hall on January 14th. Washington will be performing again with the same group of L.A. musicians plus special guests that we’ve not yet announced. Vijay Iyer is going to close out the night on the ECM stage with his trio. His record release earlier this year Break Stuff is one of my picks of the year. Chicago drummer McCaya McCraven is performing at the Bitter End as part of the Revive Stage. His record In the Moment is also one of my top picks of the year. [I’m] excited to see him. There’s a vocalist performing the music of Gil Scott Heron and Brian Jackson, Charanee Wade and her group, signed to Motema records; they are performing at the New School, [I’m] excited to see that group. I actually have not seen that group live I’ve only heard the music.

    Simon: Shout out to Mark Ruffin who produced that record.

    Brice: Nice. That’s right. Another group that I have not seen live yet, but I’ve heard the record and [I’m] excited to see them when they come over state side from Manchester: Go Go Penguin; newly signed to Blue Note Records. They’re going to be performing at Le Poisson Rouge on the Saturday night January 15 as a part of the Winter Jazz Fest Marathon. So there you have it.

    Simon: Go Go Penguin received some great prize in Europe right? What did they win recently?

    Brice: They’re nominated for the Mercury Prize.

    Simon: Nominated for the Mercury Prize, which is like what-the Grammy of Europe?

    Brice: Every year they give the Mercury Prize to the best up and coming UK artists. So they’re nominated, I think, among another eight or nine different groups. It’s special that for them, being nominated as a jazz group, [as] it’s mostly been given to a pop group.

    Simon: And if you were to describe Go Go Penguin’s sound, I would say they’re sort of like a cross between EST and the Bad Plus; one of these sort of minimalist rock jazz enterprises.

    Brice: Yea, power trio. Exactly. Lots of energy.

    Simon: Power trio. Power jazz. Power to the people. The Winter Jazz Festival continues in its 12th year. I thank Brice Rosenbloom for joining us to talk about it. And we’ll see you this year in the winter time in Greenwich Village.

    Brice: Thank you Simon.

  • Singer Natalie Cole Dead At 65

    January 1, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    Natalie Cole performs at WBGO's Champions of Jazz Gala, 2011, by Fran Kaufman

    Natalie Cole, the Grammy-award winning singer and daughter legendary entertainer Nat King Cole has died. She was 65.

    According to a statement from her family, Cole passed away Thursday night at a Los Angeles hospital "due to complications from ongoing medical issues."

    (from NPR.org)

    "It is with heavy hearts that we bring to you all the news of our Mother and sister's passing. Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived..with dignity, strength and honor. Our beloved Mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain UNFORGETTABLE in our hearts forever."

    Cole's longtime collaborator Tony Bennett confirmed the news to NPR Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon after speaking with Cole's family:

    ‎"I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Natalie Cole as I have cherished the long friendship I had with her, her father Nat and the family over the years. Natalie was an exceptional jazz singer and it was an honor to have recorded and performed with her on several occasions. She was a lovely and generous person who will be greatly missed."

    Cole recorded her first album in 1975 and quickly found success. That album included one of her biggest hits, "This Will Be," which earned her her first Grammy award.

    Cole struggled with substance abuse and a series of health problems, but re-emerged to deliver the 1991 album Unforgettable ... with Love. The hit song "Unforgettable" blended together recordings of her father and her own tracks, making it sound like the two were singing a duet.

    In a 2013 interview with Scott Simon on Weekend Edition, she spoke about the experience of starting out in the music industry:

    "When I first started to sing, the last thing I wanted to do was sing my dad's music. ... It took 15 years into my career before I felt comfortable and confident enough to even attempt it, singing my father's music."

    -Merrit Kennedy

    WBGO will feature musical tributes to Cole all weekend.

    WBGO's Sheila Anderson remembers Natalie Cole on NBC NY.

  • WBGO's Gary Walker talks about pianist Joey Alexander on CBS' 60 Minutes

    December 29, 2015. Posted by Nicole Sweeney.

    Anderson Cooper & WBGO's Gary Walker
    Anderson Cooper & WBGO's Gary Walker

    A proud moment in jazz is when our music is acknowledged and celebrated in mainstream media. This year, 12 year old jazz pianist Joey Alexander has had the world listening to and watching him closely.  CBS's 60 Minutes followed Joey for several months and the results aired on the program's first episode of the new year, featuring a conversation between Anderson Cooper and our own Gary Walker, host of Morning Jazz. Check out the video here.

    Gary Walker & Joey Alexander
    Gary Walker & Joey Alexander

    Eventbrite - Newport Jazz Festival: 2016 Day Trips

  • Celebrate the New Year with WBGO!

    December 29, 2015. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    Celebrate with WBGO all New Year's Eve and into New Year's Day with three specials!

    Thursday 12/31, 6PM & Friday 1/1, 5AMThe Best of 2015

    Join WBGO hosts Gary Walker, Rhonda Hamilton and Michael Bourne as they discuss and play excerpts from their favorite jazz releases of 2015.

    Gary Walker, Rhonda Hamilton, Michael Bourne

    Thursday 12/31, 7PM The WBGO New Year’s Eve Swing Party with Bob Porter

    Bob Porter’s big appetite for rhythm and blues is world renowned. But you may be surprised to find out he also has a sweet tooth for swing; he’ll ring in the new year with a foot tapping mix of his favorites and music influenced by the swing era.

    Thursday 12/31, 9PM & Friday 1/1, 6AM Toast of the Nation;

    A WBGO and NPR tradition every New Year's Eve, Toast of the Nation is the perfect sound track for the occasion. Hosted by our own Rhonda Hamilton, Toast of the Nation brings you jazz that you will party to all night long with countdowns to midnight in all four continental time zones. Spirited, improvised, grooving and swinging, each segment is a stop in a sequence of celebrations, contributing something new to the musical feast. 8 hours of music will start at 9pm EST and continue throughout the night until 5am. Featuring recorded performances by Allan Toussaint, Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Snarky Puppy, Wycliffe Gordon, and more.

    Toast of the Nation kicks off with Anat Cohen!

    Anat Cohen
    Anat Cohen

    From all of us here at WBGO, we thank you for a great 2015 and wish you a happy, healthy & prosperous New Year!!

  • Happy Holidays from WBGO

    December 18, 2015. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    On December 24 and 25, WBGO will air holiday music with limited interruption, so you can enjoy the season with the music you love.

    In anticipation, we decided to gather some of great holiday jazz content in one place so you can enjoy it whenever you wish. Bookmark the page, as we will add music as it becomes available.

    courtesy SC Public Radio

    Pink Martini, Photo Credit: Chris Hornbecker
    Pink Martini, Photo Credit: Chris Hornbecker