April 17, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
Fred Hersch has been a friend of WBGO for at least twenty years. He was in Jane Ira Bloom's group when we recorded her at Citicorp Center for a series called Jazz at the Market (host was the Rev. John Garcia Gensel of St. Peter's Church). I remember that Fred and Jane had brought a piano tuner, but the Center didn't want their tuner to touch the piano. I was disappointed, and learning on the job. Fred was .. well, if not incensed, he was at least insulted.
Fred was part of a concert at Town Hall with MC Steve Allen (the TV personality, dating all the way back to the first Tonight Show). As Steve Allen was telling stories and getting into it, he turned to Fred and asked for "a little something underneath this;" on demand, Fred played the perfect "patter" music.
But Fred wasn't born for that role. From his earliest time in New York, he belonged in top groups. He was a sideman for leaders a generation or more his senior, such as Joe Henderson - from Ohio, like Fred.
At the Iowa City Jazz Festival in the 1990s, I remember Fred getting onstage and talking about funding cuts coming to the National Endowment for the Arts. He wanted me to do that with him, and I didn't. His political passion took me by surprise.
Fred studied with Sophia Rosoff (as did Barry Harris, a revered teacher in New York, who shows pianists how to produce sound through the keys by relaxing. Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus was one of Fred's many many students.
The 1986 group must have been one of his first. Dick Oatts was on sax, Randy Brecker on trumpet, although they stepped aside for the ballad "Con Alma."
© 2008 WBGO
April 9, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
The group Steps Ahead came together in 1979, but their debut album did not arrive until 1983. By that time, Steps had created a potent form of fusion. WBGO recorded an early version of the band in the summer of 1982, during the now-defunct Kool Jazz Festival. Vibraphonist Mike Maineri (photographed above) was the leader, and the lineup included some heavy hitters - drummer Peter Erskine, bassist Eddie Gomez, pianist Don Grolnick, and saxophonist Michael Brecker. Brecker was already a star, even though he had not yet recorded a solo effort (and would not for nearly five more years...strange but true...). Steps Ahead became a group that people in and out of jazz noticed, and a lot of young talent got an early lift from being in the band
(pianist Eliane Elias comes to mind).
Check out Steps Ahead playing "Islands," from the WBGO Archives.
© 2008 WBGO
April 8, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Abbey Lincoln is proof that a rose by any other name smells as sweet. The reigning diva of jazz has had more than a few names over the years. She was born Anna Marie Wooldridge. Her earliest professional names include Gaby Wooldridge and Gaby Lee. For eight years, she was legally Mrs. Max Roach. The cultural minister of Zaire bestowed the name Aminata Moseka.
Abbey Lincoln has certainly earned the right of the great singers in our music, those who need only one name. Billie. Sarah. Ella. Carmen. Betty. Abbey.
For decades, Ms. Lincoln has also been the poet laureate of jazz. Her songs have expressed the essential components of a life unfolding, the sum of our strengths and vulnerabilities. That which makes us human. What's right and what's wrong with us. What we have done. What we can do better.
WBGO recorded Abbey Lincoln at Iridium in New York, October 1996. Marc Cary is the pianist, Michael Bowie the bassist, Aaron Walker the drummer.
© 2008 WBGO
April 7, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
It's a Memphis Monday, courtesy of Harold Mabern. WBGO has recorded pianist Harold Mabern as a member of George Coleman's quartet. We've also recorded Mabern's own quartet at American Museum of Natural History.
Check out this version of Harold Mabern's trio, recorded in 1984 at Citicorp Center in New York. Bassist Jamil Nasser (like Mabern, a Memphis native) and drummer Frank Gant, two veteran trio performers (check out those Ahmad Jamal records!) make the trio. They play "Ray's Idea," a song composed by bassist Ray Brown and Walter "Gil" Fuller during the heyday of Dizzy Gillespie's big band.
© 2008 WBGO
April 4, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Happy birthday today to pianist Michel Camilo.
WBGO recorded Michel's trio at Iridium on April 24, 1997.
Michel Camilo, Bassist Lincoln Goines and drummer Cliff Almond had a killer piano trio sound. Listen to "A Night in Tunisia" from the WBGO Archives.
And do you know what inspired Michel Camilo to play jazz? Hearing Art Tatum play "Tea for Two." When Camilo was 14, he heard that jazz record in his native Dominican Republic. Since you cannot see Art Tatum magic on a record, and you can no longer see him play, you'll have to check out this re-performance of "Tea For Two."
© 2008 WBGO