WBGO Blog
  • The smell of vinyl in the morning

    January 6, 2008. Posted by .

    joe-newman.jpg(Long ago mp3’s were stored on plastic, circular wafers known as LP’s…)

    I’ve told this story to Rhonda Hamilton on the air and was reminded of it today when I came across my LP copy of “Joe Newman Quintet at Count Basie’s.” This is a terrific album from the great Basie trumpet man (‘43-’47 & ‘52-‘61), recorded live (with a very "live" audience) at the Count’s joint in NYC in 1961. It has smoking performances of “Caravan” and “Midgets” and features Newman, Oliver Nelson on tenor, Ed Shaughnessy on drums, Lloyd Mayers on piano and Art Davis on bass. I bought the record at a flea market about 10 years ago in great condition for maybe $3. $3!

    Joe Newman was the first authentic jazz great I’d ever met. It was at a jam session in Newark’s Terrace Ballroom at Symphony Hall in the late 80’s. I was a kid trying to run a jam session and he was in his mid to late 60’s, I think, like royalty with all the younger players hanging around him. I don’t think he even played much, and if he did, it was very briefly. But I’ve always remembered that encounter for Newman’s easy politeness and overall grand hipness.

    I was thrilled to have a Joe Newman-led live session. I don’t think there are too many on record. Are there? When I got the record home, I immediately threw it on the turntable. As soon as the needle hits the record, the band tears into Juan Tizol’s “Caravan,” and I mean they are cooking. The trumpet, muted, high-pitched and rapid, like if it was Diz or somebody like that. The drums, ripping at a furious pace and the bass strolling like a power walker. “Wow,” I thought. “Joe Newman is on fire!” After about 2:30 of the cut, the pace was still so intense that I thought surely they couldn’t sustain it. It took me another 30 seconds before I realized that the LP was actually playing at 45 rpm. I laughed, thinking how much of a jazz neophyte I was (and really still am.) But it sounded great!

    This is what I do when I should be cleaning the house. – David Cruz

  • My Musical Memories

    December 28, 2007. Posted by David Rosenak.

    I remember it like yesterday, the song still playing in my twelve-year-old mind. (Pardon me, boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?) That Christmas, which as Jews we celebrated secretly, at least in terms of the gifts -- that Christmas, Santa left me a sparkling new green bike with a cool chrome spring over the front wheel, and tassels streaming from the handlebar grips. But right behind the bike, tied up in a big blue bow, was a gray Zenith 45-rpm record player, with automatic changer. And, with it came a steel-blue box set of Glenn Miller records, along with two early Elvis 45s. (Love Me Tender and Heartbreak Hotel.) Somehow my heart opened to that music, somewhere between late swing and early rock and roll, in 1958, in Joplin, Missouri. I listened to those songs over and over again, and anytime I hear them today I'm taken back to that moment, sitting on the floor amid wrapping paper, playing disc jockey for my audience of little sisters.

    Even the mention of a white sport coat and a pink carnation still brings back the sweet fragrance of Sally Burgess' hair as we danced the slow dance cheek to cheek at the junior prom. - Hearing Dave Brubeck's Take Five always returns me to the first moment I heard this great jazz tune as a young disc jockey at KTXR-FM in Springfield, Missouri. - I'm leavin', on a jet plane, don't know if I'll be back again, all I know is I am on my way, takes me back to Vietnam's red mud, and that yearning feeling to rise above the jungle of war and somehow return, intact, to the "world."

    What is it about our music that it grips us so? Perhaps just that it remembers for us all of those things we've lived through, the dreams we've forgotten, the tears we've tried to forget, the loves we still carry in our heart. These are all very personal memories, known only to me, but remembered for me by the music of my time, the music of my life - the score I've lived to, if you will - collected in celebration and sorrow, imbedded into my DNA, an inescapable escape to the past.

    Even the old groups still fulfill our need to relive our own history. The Rolling Stones, who's edges should be somewhat rounded after having rocked and rolled around the earth for so long, are looking more rugged, or is it ragged, forever sticking out their musical tongues for audiences so eager to be taken back to some memorable moment of their youth.

    Not too long ago I read of scientists discovering an event that happened before the Big Bang. They detected - a vibration - the most basic unit of music. (It only takes vibration and rhythm to make music.) I immediately thought of God, all alone in the unformed void, suddenly beginning to hum, some low murmur, the beginning of some cry, some rapture exploding God's heart, and then a universe bursting open into life! A song is born!

    Imagine - the first music each of us ever hears is the song of our own mother's heart! - the vibration of her dreams and the rhythm of her determination - singing to us, so reassuringly, over and over, again and again - "remember," "remember," "remember," "remember." And, then, our own heart, suddenly finding its rhythm, joining in on the refrain - "remember," "remember," "remember."

    May the music we share with you now and into the coming year, serenade your heart through your distant memories, of a life well sung.

    I'm David Rosenak.