• Herbie Hancock Keeps the Spotlight

    February 29, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    I don't really care so much about why Herbie Hancock won a Grammy. All of the bloggers from the indie rock camp should get over it, which, I'm sure, they have by now (it's just the Grammys, folks...). I'm just happy that jazz gets any attention from television. On that note, check out CBS Sunday Morning this weekend. Correspondent Rita Braver visits Herbie Hancock at home. What she discovers about Herbie is as interesting as you can imagine from someone as interesting as Herbie Hancock. Jazz people already know this. Now, folks who watch TV before church service can get an insider portrait of the recent GRAMMY Album of The Year winner. And how many of us have ever been inside Herbie's pad, anyway?
    And tomorrow, The Harvard Foundation (for Intercultural and Race Relations) of Harvard University will name Herbie Hancock 2008 Artist of the Year at their annual Cultural Rhythms ceremony. Cool.

  • Digging on Dexter

    February 27, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    It's the birthday of saxophonist Dexter Gordon, who holds a special place in the hearts of many people at WBGO. Perhaps no one here knew him better than our station mother, Dorthaan Kirk. Here's a story she just told me:

    I met Dexter when I was touring Europe with Rahsaan Roland Kirk's band. Rahsaan loved Dexter, so I knew the name and the music before I ever met him. Anyway, we had some time off, so we went to Copenhagen. We saw an early concert at Tivoli Gardens with the Basie Band, then we joined some of Basie's guys and headed for the Club Montmartre. Copenhagen was Dexter's home, and he played that club all the time.
    I remember so much about that evening. Dexter was wearing a blue jean suit. It was definitely the 70s! At the end of the night, it's 3 or 4am, and all of the musicians are at the bar. I'm keeping to myself, mostly, while all the guys are carrying on. Long, tall, and handsome as can be, Dexter walks out of the kitchen, comes right up to me, and says, "Who are you?" I was practically speechless, which you know never happens...
    From that night on, Dexter always called me "Miss Rahsaan." I sure do miss him.

    Here's Dexter playing Sonny Stitt's "Loose Walk" in Amsterdam, with a Swiss trio - George Gruntz piano, Guy Pederson bass and drummer Daniel Humair:


  • The audacity of Jazz

    February 25, 2008

    While we celebrate Jazz every day here for its energy and complexity, and relish in the swing of it, and nod our heads in approval at a monster solo, it can be easy to forget that Jazz has been at the forefront of social change movements and African-American history and culture for more than a century, supporting freedom movements abroad, civil rights struggles at home and fighting against war and racial injustice both here and abroad.

    To celebrate that, we've launched a new podcast series called "We Insist!: Jazz Speaks Out." Over the four half-hour episodes, host Angelika Beener talks to some of the brightest lights in Jazz about how the music influenced them and how they influenced the music. Guests include USC Professor Dr. Robin D. G. Kelly,  pianist Randy Weston; trumpeter Terence Blanchard; saxophonist Marcus Strickland and others.

    Some of the featured music includes: Max Roach's "We Insist;" Miles Davis' "Jack Johnson;" Randy Weston's "Uhuru Afrika;" John Coltrane's "Alabama;" Sonny Rollins' "Freedom Suite;" and many more. The series launched Friday and we'll add epsodes weekly.

    Listen (and subscribe) to the first episode here.  - David Cruz

  • Herbie Wins Highest Grammy Honor

    February 11, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.


    Like many of you, I was home last night watching the Grammys.  I started not to watch it, because often times it's long, tedious, and not very interesting.  At least for someone like me who doesn't listen to a whole lot of mainstream music.  But it was a Sunday night, and I was routing for a few albums, and so I thought...why not?  I ordered up my dinner and plopped in front of the screen.

    As I was watching the red carpet special, the E! host caught up with Herbie Hancock.  Herbie mentioned to the host that it had been 43 years since a Jazz album won the overall Best Album category.  Well, the Grammys have only been around for 50!  That really blew my mind.  I then began to really think about that and frankly, it truly bothered me.  I knew that the lack of well-rounded programming on the Grammys was always frustrating to me and many others, but Herbie's comment really put it into perspective for me.  I mean, think about it...I don't think I've ever just seen a quartet or a quintet just burn out on a Grammy stage.  Jazz is always packaged in some cheesy, or watered-down package on mainstream award shows.  Bad enough that the Jazz categories don't get televised!  Then when they DO show jazz-type performances, they are so "Vaudevilled" out, that it's no wonder that the masses (especially a lot of young folks) don't become necessarily interested in Jazz...the representations are all wrong!

    OK, now that I'm done venting, let's talk about some of the highlights for me, and the things I'm very proud of about this year's Grammys.

    YES!!!! And well deserved.  It was not "stolen" as I've read a couple places in the press this morning.  I thought it was so commendable on the behalf of the academy to recognize Herbie in this way.  I think the young artists - Winehouse, Kanye and the like, needed that.  The music industry at large needed that.  They needed to see where so much of their inspiration comes from.  And that at 67, Herbie is still a giant among giants.  You don't have to check out Maiden Voyage or Empyrean Isles to know just how bad this cat is (though I strongly suggest everyone does).  He is always one to be contended with because he remains ahead of his time.  And River: The Joni Letters, is just a beautiful album.

    Another special highlight for me was Terence Blanchard getting the Grammy for Best Large Ensemble Jazz Album for his
    A Tale of God's Will: A Requiem for Katrina.  This album is truly special, and I'm so glad it was acknowledged in this way.  I was also happy for the late Michael Brecker to be honored.

    I hope that Herbie's high-profile victory will open up the discussion about the importance of Jazz, and spark the programming folks at the Grammy's to consider including more Jazz performances, and exposing the thriving genre to a lot of folks that need to be hipped...and would greatly enjoy appreciate the music.

    Congratulations to everyone!

    Here's a list of all the winners

  • Gary Cleanhead Walker and David Fathead Newman

    January 25, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Cleanhead and Fathead

    David "Fathead" Newman, the legendary Texas-born saxophonist and long-time Ray Charles bandmate, is spending four nights this weekend at Iridium Jazz Club. Many of his good friends will join him onstage for an early celebration of his 75th birthday. Fathead was Paul Schaefer's guest on the David Letterman show earlier this week. And he was Gary Walker's guest on WBGO's Morning Jazz show today.

    Listen to the interview now.