April 29, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Circumstances could have been completely different. Charles Brown was a chemist. He attended college, earned a degree in chemistry, taught high school science, and landed a civil service job in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. That would have been a career track for most. Brown had other ideas. He bristled at the racism he encountered each day. He volunteered to serve in the second world war, but was deemed unfit due to asthma. So Charles Brown packed his bags and headed to California.
Thank goodness. Can you imagine a holiday season without "Merry Christmas Baby?" Or a world without "Drifting Blues?" And who played the piano behind a fellow Texan, Ivory Joe Hunter, on "Blues at Sunrise?" How about "Trouble Blues," or "Black Night?" Mind you, most of those songs were hits before Elvis Presley had ever set foot in Sun Studios.
How about one of my all-time favorite records, Sam Cooke's Night Beat? If you simply listen to the way Cooke sings on that record, you might reach the same conclusion I did - would that record exist were it not for Charles Brown?
Brown celebrated New Year's Eve with WBGO, part of the Toast of the Nation coast-to-coast live music party. He welcomed 1994 from the Sheraton Hotel in Tacoma, Washington. His cool, bluesy ballad style was especially poignant on a song popularized by Lucky Millinder.
© 2008 WBGO
April 26, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Jimmy Giuffre died on Thursday, a few days shy of his 87th birthday. Fans of jazz know Giuffre as the composer of the Woody Herman hit, "Four Brothers." Beyond that, Giuffre had a unique mind for music. As I listened to Sonny Rollins' "A Night at the Village Vanguard" yesterday, a record without piano or chordal instrumentation, I thought about how demanding it is to make music like that. Jimmy Giuffre was among one of the first to try, on his record Tangents in Jazz.
I've always liked "The Train and The River," another Giuffre work that people describe as folk-chamber-jazz. When you listen to this, you might suspect that some musicians today like Bill Frisell owe a lot to Jimmy Giuffre. Yes, they do. Anyway, here are two versions of Giuffre's trio playing "The Train and The River," one from the television program The Sound of Jazz:
Then, the great trio of Giuffre, trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, and guitarist Jim Hall, from the Newport Jazz Festival documentary, Jazz on a Summer's Day.
One of the Jimmy Giuffre Three members, Jim Hall, has undergone back surgery for the last couple of months. He has been rehabilitating, and is expected to be released on Tuesday. WBGO wishes the distinguished guitarist and NEA Jazz Master a speedy recovery. Check out Jim Hall's Great Live Moment while you're here.
© 2008 WBGO
April 22, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Aside from being one of the foremost composers of jazz standards - "I Remember Clifford," "Whisper Not," "Stablemates," and "Killer Joe" immediately come to mind - Benny Golson is one of the real gentlemen of our music. When WBGO approached Mr. Golson for approval to post music from the American Jazz Radio Festival in 1987, here's what he said:
Please use whatever you want in whatever way you choose. WBGO has made a
hero out of me by playing my recordings over the years. Be assured, this
does not go without much appreciation. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
May all that your collective hands find to do continue to meet with certain
Is this cat for real? Yes, absolutely.
Perhaps you'll consider becoming a WBGO member. They make great live moments like this possible. Contribute now.
© 2008 WBGO
April 10, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Saxophonist Jimmy Heath, drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath, and the late bassist/cellist Percy Heath were jazz family long before the Marsalis clan. Separately, the sum of their music making covers the totality of modern jazz - Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, the Modern Jazz Quartet. I could go on and on, but enough already! Together, the Heath Brothers were a cohesive jazz combo that brought their collective experience to the stage to form their own brand of brotherly jazz.
WBGO has recorded a number of Heath Brothers performances. They include a beautiful recording from New Jersey Performing Arts Center's Prudential Hall, as well as a club date at Iridium. And that's just during my seven year tenure at the station! In 1984, WBGO recorded The Heath Brothers on New Year's Eve. December 31, 1984 at Sweet Basil in New York. The pianist was Stanley Cowell.
PS While you're still here, watch this clip from Danny Sherr's award-winning video about the siblings, Brotherly Jazz.
© 2008 WBGO
April 4, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.
Today marks 40 years since one of the greatest civil rights leaders and humanitarians was gunned down and taken away from us.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a march of sanitation workers protesting against low wages and poor working conditions.
I wasn't even born when Dr. King was assassinated, but I can only imagine the heartbreak that people felt upon first getting that worst piece of news.
It breaks my heart to think about it as I write this post. Time flies, and many people I talk to can hardly believe its been 40 years.
For me, it's important to really think about and help others to realize that King was not a man who was a dreamer as the media loves to portray. Yes, he was a man of unparalleled vision, and hope. But he was also a leader through action, and the hardest of hard workers. I would ask that on this day, you would read or listen to Dr. King speak about opposition to war, or why it is important to vote, for example. Not only was he ahead of his time but he is timeless. Take the time to really dig into King - the man, not just the dream.
© 2008 WBGO