April 17, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.
Last weekend, Spring (no, more like Summer) peaked at New York City. It was a perfect Saturday afternoon for being out and about. It was especially highlighted by seeing one of my new favorite musicians live in concert. Lionel Loueke is a spectacular artist, and musician. I first heard of the guitarist/vocalist in 2002 when he was recording for Terence Blanchard on the latter's Blue Note debut, Bounce. I had never really heard anything like it. I had obviously heard many African musicians and varying styles of African music. But never in the context that this cat was introducing. Randy Weston pioneered the movement of taking Jazz to Africa in the 60s, and making a purposeful commitment to making the connections blatantly clear in astonishingly beautiful ways. 40 years later, Loueke has boomeranged it back to the States straight from Benin, Africa...and it is KILLIN'.
Loueke previously released a trio of albums on indie labels. You should check them all out - my particular fav is Virgin Forest. I won't say that all have "led up to" per se, but Loueke has certainly been put on the map in a major way with his latest CD for the Blue Note label. It's called Karibu, which means "Welcome" in Swahili. It features Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter (no...seriously) and Lionel's long-time killer trio of Massimo Biolcati and Ferenc Nemeth. It should be noted that Lionel has been working hard building a name for himself long before being signed to the reputable Blue Note Records. He had been in Terence Blanchard's band for 5+ years, and has been touring and recording with Mr. Hancock for about 3 years give or take. Needless to say, he's got the hot hand, and anyone with (or without for that matter) any jazz sensibilities knows that he's definitely one to watch.
We had the honor of hosting and broadcasting Lionel's "CD release" at J&R Music World last week. If you made it out, you know that it was really something. Lionel played tunes from the new CD, and for a special treat, a sweet version of "Body & Soul" in 7/4. He opened the set with the title track, which has a completely infectious Afro-groove. Throughout the set he brought that thing that I have felt is sometimes missing from the scene - fire! Loueke is definitely part of the vibrant jazz movement that is not afraid, conforming, or overly nostalgic.
He's one of those unpredictable and inspiring artists that just has you coming back again and again...that's how it should be.
And by the way, if you missed it...not to worry. Check it out here.
Let us know what you think!
© 2008 WBGO
April 17, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
Fred Hersch has been a friend of WBGO for at least twenty years. He was in Jane Ira Bloom's group when we recorded her at Citicorp Center for a series called Jazz at the Market (host was the Rev. John Garcia Gensel of St. Peter's Church). I remember that Fred and Jane had brought a piano tuner, but the Center didn't want their tuner to touch the piano. I was disappointed, and learning on the job. Fred was .. well, if not incensed, he was at least insulted.
Fred was part of a concert at Town Hall with MC Steve Allen (the TV personality, dating all the way back to the first Tonight Show). As Steve Allen was telling stories and getting into it, he turned to Fred and asked for "a little something underneath this;" on demand, Fred played the perfect "patter" music.
But Fred wasn't born for that role. From his earliest time in New York, he belonged in top groups. He was a sideman for leaders a generation or more his senior, such as Joe Henderson - from Ohio, like Fred.
At the Iowa City Jazz Festival in the 1990s, I remember Fred getting onstage and talking about funding cuts coming to the National Endowment for the Arts. He wanted me to do that with him, and I didn't. His political passion took me by surprise.
Fred studied with Sophia Rosoff (as did Barry Harris, a revered teacher in New York, who shows pianists how to produce sound through the keys by relaxing. Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus was one of Fred's many many students.
The 1986 group must have been one of his first. Dick Oatts was on sax, Randy Brecker on trumpet, although they stepped aside for the ballad "Con Alma."
© 2008 WBGO
April 16, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
WBGO staffers have big love for vibraphonist Milt Jackson. Among the monumental contributions to jazz music, "Bags" turned a set of percussive steel bars into a more versatile jazz instrument. His was an altogether different sound for the vibraharp, sonically more warm and mellow than his predecessors, Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo. Milt Jackson made the vibes sing.
It's no wonder that Milt Jackson was himself a singer, a teenaged tenor in a gospel group, The Evangelist Singers, in his Detroit hometown. He loved the sound of the voice, and he accompanied many singers throughout his career. One of his last records was Sa Va Bella (For Lady Legends), a tribute to the leading ladies of jazz that Milt Jackson loved so much - Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Etta Jones.
WBGO recorded Milt Jackson's Quartet in the summer of 1996. The concert was part of the Oris Spirit of Jazz concert series (of which we are still proudly associated). Mike LeDonne is the pianist, Peter Washington the bassist, and Mickey Roker the drummer.
© 2008 WBGO
April 15, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Thad Jones and Mel Lewis created one of the most enduring rituals in New York. They started a big band in 1966, one that included some of the most gifted composers and improvisers in the city, many of whom were making their living as studio professionals or in Broadway pit bands. Max Gordon at the Village Vanguard booked them for three consecutive Monday evenings, and the rest is history. Both Jones and Lewis are gone, but the spirit of their music (as well as the original compositions and arrangements from their bands) continues with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.
Every February, the VJO plays a weeklong showcase at the Vanguard. On the thirty fourth anniversary of the band, WBGO recorded the group on Monday night, of couse. As it happened, that was Valentine's Day, 2000.
We'll feature "Samba Con Getchu," a composition from Bob Brookmeyer, one of the early members of the Thad Jones - Mel Lewis Orchestra. The VJO included Jay Brandford, Ralph Lalama, Dick Oatts, Rich Perry, Gary Smulyan, Saxophones / Glenn Drewes, Earl Gardner, Joe Mosello, Scott Wendholt, Trumpets / Luis Bonilla, Jason Jackson, John Mosca, Douglas Purviance, Trombones / Ted Rosenthal, Piano / Dennis Irwin, Bass / John Riley, Drums
© 2008 WBGO
April 14, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
When I listen to swing music these days, I love it with a sense of loss, a disconnect. Nearly all of the swing legends are gone. This music has the feeling of a time that no longer exists, not that it ever did for me. I had to find it. Twenty-six years ago, however, swing still had some traction in our culture.
I would like to put myself back in that time. I'd be the coolest eight year old in the world, digging the scene at Sweet Basil. Trombonist Al Grey and saxophonist Buddy Tate are playing "Undecided." I can't believe I'm hearing this.
Chances are, however, I was anticipating the release of Michael Jackson's Thriller, which came out in records stores the week after this recording was made.
As I listen to this performance from the WBGO Archives, I am reminded of the vitality of the swing era, and that the music still had resonance in 1982. Count Basie was still alive. So were a number of his associates. Tate was one of them. Grey another. Tate was the tenor player that had the unenviable task of replacing Herschel Evans in Basie's band. Al Grey joined Basie much later, but he had previous stints with Benny Carter and Lionel Hampton. These were swing men through and through.
So much seems different now. By the end of 1982, Time Magazine declared the computer as Man of the Year, the first-ever distinction for an object. These real men are gone, except for their music. Here I am in 2008, writing a blog entry on my laptop, trying to get closer to an analog era. How do I feel about it? Decidedly Undecided. All I know is that it's easy to get lost in ones and zeros, better to be found alive, and even greater to be swung....Tempus fugit, baby.
PS That amazing photo courtesy of Rein. Check out her photostream.
© 2008 WBGO