WBGO Blog
  • "DIGGIN' THE CLASSICS": DONALD BYRD EDITION

    January 2, 2008. Posted by Stevan Smith.

    What's going on all!

    Welcome to my blog series "DIGGIN' THE CLASSICS"! When new releases in the music world get slow, we all tend to dig into our collections for some vintage pleasure. Join me for my weekly (or whenever I feel like it) quest for soundtrack satisfaction. This is a blog for music lovers! "Walk With Me".

    This edition celebrates: Donald Byrd- Places and Spaces (1975)

    Tracklisting:

    1. Change (Make you wanna Hustle)
    2. Wind Parade
    3. (Fallin' Like) Dominoes
    4. Places and Spaces
    5. You and the Music
    6. Night Whistler
    7. Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)

    I have only one word to describe this album: SEXY

    This is smooth jazz, funky jazz, "clean ya house jazz". I play this when my mood says,"A grown man just got home from work today....and he needs sometime to reflect".

    Here's my favorite track off of the album....Wind Parade:

     

    Recorded in the summer of 1975, Places & Spaces continued the influences of Byrd's prior release Street Lady. Exhibiting elements of Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, and Earth Wind & Fire...let's just say this wouldn't be the darling of a jazz purist. Groovin' guitars, mellow bass, and tantalizing horns makes for a perfect blend of jazz/soul/funk/disco harmony.

    Producer Larry Mizell (One half of the Mizell Brothers)

    Hooking up with the Mizell Brothers, as he did with his last 2 albums, Byrd continued his exploration into jazz-funk. The album was also a hot bed for samples. From acid jazz to hip hop, Places and Spaces also birthed many classics in other genres. For example, Black Moon's "Buck Em Down" Remix. A classic hip hop record of the early 90's that samples Byrd's "Wind Parade."

     

    A part of the Blue Note Records Rare Groove series, Donald Byrd's Places and Spaces demands rotation in your mp3 player. A true classic of the past, present and future.

  • J-Lo is 55!

    December 29, 2007. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Joe Lovano, that is.

    It's Lovano's 55th birthday today, and he's celebrating it with a three-day run with his quintet at the Palazzo del Popolo in Orvieto, Italy. What a way to end a monumental year. Wish I could be there, since Italy's Umbria region is one of my favorite places to be, but I'll be spending my New Year's Eve at Jazz Standard, with Trio da Paz, Kenny Barron, and a great New York crew for NPR's Toast of the Nation (hope you'll be listening!).

    Incidentally, Toast of the Nation is where Lovano's 2007 began, as a member of the McCoy Tyner Quartet (bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts make four) at Yoshi's. You can hear the fruits of that week at Yoshi's on record.

    It's been such a banner year for Joe. Check out the video below. And when you see him again, raise a glass of my favorite Umbrian wine, Paolo Bea's Sagrantino de Montefalco, in honor of him.

    Happy birthday, Joe Lovano. You're a class act.

     

  • Goodbye Oscar Peterson

    December 27, 2007. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Oscar Peterson

    Oscar Peterson 1925-2007

    Sometimes you're just not ready for a particular artist or a piece of music.

    That was my first experience with Oscar Peterson. I wasn't ready for it. The sound was simply overwhelming. Too many notes. Pianistic pyrotechnics, at least to my inexperienced ears. My comfort zone at that time was the lilting sway of Red Garland, the impeccable touch of Wynton Kelly, the lonely lyricism of Bill Evans. Basically, any piano player that Miles Davis endorsed.

    And Miles was less than kind when it came to descriptions of Oscar Peterson. "Nearly everything he plays," said Davis, "he plays with the same degree of force. He leaves no holes for the rhythm section."

    So I ignored Oscar Peterson for too long. But neglecting Oscar wasn't easy, and it didn't last. He was a prolific performer, and he began to creep into my peripheral vision more and more. He was everywhere. Ella and Louis - check. Diz and Getz - check. Prez and Lady Day - yup.

    I kept getting closer to the source. In 2000, I worked on Jazz From Lincoln Center with Ed Bradley. We recorded a "Duet on the Hudson" from the Kaplan Penthouse in New York. Ray Brown and Monty Alexander. I interviewed them both for the eventual radio show. Ray Brown talked about the great duet record with Jimmy Blanton and Duke Ellington. Then the conversation turned into an Oscar ceremony - his admiration for bassist Oscar Pettiford, and his longtime association with pianist Oscar Peterson. Monty Alexander started in about Nat Cole, and eventually landed on Oscar Peterson.

    I remember a moment during Martin Scorsese's THE BLUES series a few years later. During the episode that Clint Easwood directed, "Piano Blues," Ray Charles gave a ringing endorsement to Oscar Peterson's skill, one that I'll allow you to discover for yourself. Let's just say it contained a fairly colorful phrase that the FCC would not consider "family-friendly."

    Anyway, I owe thanks to Brother Ray for redirecting me to the Oscar Peterson Trio. I dug into those classic recordings of Peterson, Ray Brown, and drummer Ed Thigpen. Boy, do they swing (I know that word is highly charged, so I don't use it lightly). I still haven't heard all of those trio records. But the trio recording NIGHT TRAIN, THE SOUND OF THE TRIO, LIVE FROM CHICAGO, WE GET REQUESTS, VERY TALL, TRIO +1, and the bushel of songbook records are a still a joy to visit.

    One session that comes to mind is the date that the trio recorded with the master arranger Nelson Riddle. They sounded so restrained, or better, so composed. All that finger-breaking technique at Oscar Peterson's disposal, yet he plays some of the most unadorned piano I ever heard him play. The B side of the record ends with Benny Goodman's classic signoff - Gordon Jenkins' "Goodbye." Great stuff.

    Oscar Peterson signed off recently. He played music for a living. He played himself, for us. I'm glad I discovered that.

    Goodbye, Oscar Peterson.