• Pledge Poetry on National Limerick Day

    May 12, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Riff

    Ever wonder how we pass the time during these pledge drives? Well, today is a great example of what happens when the pledges are trickling in at a slower pace than we would like. It happens to be National Limerick Day, as well as the birthday of the masterfully nonsensical Edward Lear. Michael Bourne, our resident wordsmith, has crafted the following for your amusement (and co-host Andrew Meyer's chocolate-loving bemusement):

    There once was a fellow named Meyer
    who looked at a funeral pyre,
    said “given a choice, I
    would much rather die
    eating chocolate, not burned in a fire!”

    The fun continued offline, when I challenged Michael Bourne to create a haiku:

    another fund drive -
    gird my verbal loins again,
    blather my ass off

    Which begs the question: Does anyone out there have some WBGO poetry to share?
    It can be fundraiser related or not. We accept haiku, limericks, terza rima, Petrarchan or Shakespearean sonnet style, free verse. Basically anything. Just keep it clean, will ya?

  • Great Live Moments - Al Grey and Buddy Tate

    April 14, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Empty Swing by rein (Flickr)
    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.

  • My New Favorite Blog

    February 29, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Check out my new favorite blog.
    Coming in at #44 - PUBLIC RADIO!
    From the post:
    Summer: Who was that? It sounded like a girl.
    Seth: Did it? Yeah. Well, sure. Because I'm listening to the radio. And This American Life is on. And so there's a girl talking.
    Summer: Is that that show where those hipster know-it-alls talk about how fascinating ordinary people are? God.

    I suppose that deep down inside, I like irreverance. Does that make me white?

  • 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.

  • Love is on the Air

    February 13, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    trane_hartman2.jpgThis Valentine's Day our announcers are celebrating by sharing their favorite love songs with you.
    Let us know if you share their sentiments, or tell us what your must-have CD is on the most romantic day of the year.

    Rhonda Hamilton's Picks

    "Cheek to Cheek" by Irving Berlin. This song has sentimental value for me. I lost my mother when I was 12 years old, but I remember when I was a very little girl she taught me to sing this song. It was one of her favorites and the first song I ever learned.

    "Loving You" by Stephen Sondheim. This song is from Sondheim's musical Passion. The melody is very pretty, but I chose the song for its words. The lyrics express a very passionate, all-consuming, life changing love.

    "Luiza" by Antonio Carlos Jobim. I chose this song for its melody. The lyrics are in Portuguese so I don't understand them, but the melody is so heartbreakingly beautiful, you can sense that it is a song of longing and a very deep and passionate love.

    There are countless versions of "Cheek to Cheek", but one classic is by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
    Nancy Wilson & Peabo Bryson sing "Loving" You on the CD Color and Light - Jazz Sketches on Sondheim
    Michel Camilo plays "Luiza" on his Solo CD.

    Brian Delp's Picks

    "Witchcraft" (Frank Sinatra) Love is truly a spell that ensnares us all...
    "If You Could See Me Now" Love lost sometimes teaches us more than love found...
    "Autumn Nocturne" The best season to find love (not spring!)

    Monifa Brown's Picks

    1. Shirley Horn "Too Late Now"
    To me Shirley Horn is synonymous with the ballad - she is the Queen of the ballad! With the whisper of a single phrase she has the ability to send tingles down your spine. She had the ultimate control of her voice, not to mention she was as sensitive as a piano player. Her phrasing was impeccable and the timbre of her voice was so sweet. I loved the way she could take a line from a song and stretch it out like taffy, bending and twisting new meaning into each word.
    The lyrics to this Burton Lane song really convey what it feels like to be in love:

    Too late now to forget your smile
    The way we cling when we danced awhile
    Too late now to forget and go on to someone new
    Too late now to forget your voice
    The way one word makes my heart rejoice
    Too late now to imagine myself away from you

    It is one of my ultimate favorite love songs and Shirley Horn for me sings the definitive version.

    2. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman - "My One and Only Love"

    This is without a doubt one of the most sophisticated and romantic love songs I know. The balance of John Coltrane's robust yet lyrical, eloquent and tender playing alongside Johnny Hartman's cool, unruffled and warm baritone - is nothing short of sublime.

    It is hard to believe that until this recording, Johnny Hartman was relatively unknown despite his prowess as a singer. And even more shocking is the fact that it was not until three decades later --when his singing was featured in the heart-wrenching "Bridges of Madison County" with Clinton Eastwood and Meryl Streep (love this movie!)-- that he was introduced to an entire new generation of audiences.

    The lyrics to "My One and Only Love" are also beautiful:

    The very thought of you makes
    My heart sing,
    Like an April breeze
    On the wings of spring
    And you come to me all your splendor,
    My one and only love

    The shadow's fall and spread their
    Mystique charms in the hush of night,
    While you're in my arms.
    I feel your lips, so warm and tender,
    My one and only love

    If this is not romance - I don't know what is!

    3. Abbey Lincoln - "Strong Man"

    I love Abbey Lincoln and I love Oscar Brown Jr., who penned the song for Abbey. As the story has been told, Abbey told Oscar that she was tired of singing songs about ‘no good men' and that she wanted to sing a song about a man she could be proud of.

    Abbey recorded "Strong Man' on a 1957 session called "That's Him," alongside an all-star cast that included Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Kenny Dorham, Paul Chambers and Wynton Kelly. I grew up listening to this album...my dad loved it. The song brings back great memories of listening to music with my dad as a kid and now as an adult who is blessed with my own ‘strong man,' the song has taken on an even deeper meaning.

    Abbey Lincoln is a remarkable storyteller and really knows how to get to the heart of a song and enrapture her listeners in anything she sings. Her gifts make her truly unique and there is no one around who sings quite like Abbey (who happens to be a brilliant composer in her own right). Abbey Lincoln is also an incredibly emotive singer who has an unparalleled ability to manipulate time, melody, phrasing and subtle nuances of the music, which allow her to completely own any song she sings.

    Gary Walker's Picks

    Dianne Reeves, "Just A Little Lovin'" from "That Day" on Blue Note Records:

    " Just a little lovin' early in the mornin'
    Beats a cup of coffee for starting out the day
    Just a little lovin' when the world is yawning
    Makes you wake up thinking
    Good things are coming your way"

    Put me down for that day starter kit!

    Sarah Vaughan, "The Island" from "Crazy & Mixed Up" on Pablo Records

    " Make believe we've landed on a desert island
    Bathe me in the waters, warm me in the moonlight
    Taste me with your kisses, find the secret places...."

    By now, that box of chocolates is a melted mess. Replace with wine. Stir. Return.

    Kurt Elling, "Not While I'm Around" from "Flirting With Twilight" on Blue Note Records

    "Nothin's gonna harm you, not while I'm around
    No one's gonna hurt you, no sir, not while I'm around
    Demons are prowling everywhere, nowadays
    I'll send them howling
    I've got ways...."

    One definition of the comfort found in a special relationship. Sound too corny? Consider: one night the two of you are coming out of a great hang at your favorite late night joint. Suddenly you're surrounded by would be evil doers. One of you is a third degree black belt, singing Kurt's song and whuppin' some butt.

    Now that's luv, L....U....V

    Rob Crocker's Picks

    1) Joe Cuba "To Be With You"
    Joe's single swept over Brooklyn. All of us in school thought this was exactly what we were trying to say to our girlfriends.

    2) King Pleasure "This is Always"
    "This isn't Sometime. This is Always". Simple but endearing lyrics about love. From High School till adulthood they've touched me.

    3) Sarah Vaughan "That's All"
    I first heard this as a kid on WCBS-AM, my mother's favorite radio station. "I can only give you love that last forever" or "I can only give you country walks in springtime..." These were some of the lyrics that caught my young mind.

    Michael Bourne's Picks

    I have a personal connection to three love songs. I've actually "performed" all three during the free-wheeling "parlor games" that I host on the last Monday morning of the January jazzfest at Mohonk Mountain House. "Old Devil Moon" because, while I've played the American Popular Songbook for decades on the radio, it's the only standard that I've (more or less) "sung" in public ever. "As Time Goes By" because the fundamental things about love always indeed apply. "I'll Remember April" because my Other Half walked in the door on an April 13th and, after not seeing each other more than 25 years, lovingly walked right into my very cells.

    John Cooper's Picks

    Marcus Roberts "Single Petal Of A Rose".
    Taken from his recording The Truth Is Spoken Here. One of the prettiest versions of this I've ever heard.

    John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman - "Dedicated To You"
    This recording features the classic My One & Only Love, but over the years I've found this song to be my favorite. The power of love to move an artist to create music, paint or write a book is a powerful force indeed.

    Rachel Z - "Iyakutanda"
    Taken from her recording Trust The Universe. The song title is Zulu for I LOVE YOU. Rachel plays this in duet with Gumbi Ortiz. The melody is beautiful while being easy and complex at the same time. Just like love.