WBGO Blog
  • About Last Night - SF Jazz Collective at SOPAC

    March 12, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    SF Jazz Collective - Live at SOPAC

    I am a city dweller, plagued by the New Yorker bias. That is, I very rarely go to New Jersey for anything other than to work at WBGO. However, I am not so entrenched that I won't shake my preconceptions for the right set of circumstances. So last night, I ventured to SOPAC for a performance from the SF Jazz Collective, a pride of eight musicians of the highest caliber.

    Each year, the collective features original commissions, as well as arrangements of a noted modern jazz composer. This season, the band turns their all-seeing eye on composer and saxophonist (and Newark native) Wayne Shorter.
    The end of time was the beginning of the set. Saxophonist Miguel Zenon's arrangement of Shorter's "Armegeddon" set us on the trailhead.
    Here's what followed:
    This That and the Other - a Joe Lovano original
    The Angel's Share - penned by Matt Penman, a New Zealand import
    Diana - from Shorter's Native Dancer, arranged by Renee Rosnes
    Go - Stefon Harris arranged this Shorter composition with some backbeat boom bap. Great way to end the first half.

    The second set pushed ahead into the abstract, modern aesthetic that makes the collective such a great band to hear. Drummer Eric Harland's "The Year 2008" set the tone, a composition built around a recorded vocal chant, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Rosnes' "Aurora Borealis" followed. Trumpeter Dave Douglas contributed "Secrets of the Code," an original work that used snippets of Wayne Shorter's music as source code embedded as a thread throughout the composition. Great stuff. The newest member of the collective, trombonist Robin Eubanks, ended the evening with his arrangement of Shorter's "Black Nile."

    Only two complaints. The piano monitor levels in the house made the trombone articulation inaudible. That's just the music nerd in me. The other issue is this: I could not hear all of the band's repertoire in a single night. The SF Jazz Collective had more music in the kitty, but I'll have to see them again to hear the rest. Will do.
    -Josh

  • Jazz on the Brain

    March 5, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Improvising Brain

    People who know me will tell you I always have jazz on the brain. Guilty as charged. Recently, scientists studied improvising musicians, hoping to unlock the underlying neurological functions of high and low level musical improvisation. A summation of the study is here.
    Turns out all you have to do is turn off your prefrontal cortex (can an Idiot's Guide to Turning Off Your Prefrontal Cortex be far behind?).
    This study reminds me of a conversation I had with the New Orleans writer, performer, and creator Kalamu Ya Salaam. One night on Rampart Street, at a club called The Funky Butt, I watched in awe as Kalamu performed an original poem in a style similar to the way that pianist Cecil Taylor played his music. Kalamu and I worked together at WWOZ in New Orleans. One night, during his Thursday evening Kitchen Sink show, I asked him how he could do such things.
    He said, "There's an invisible button located on your forehead. It controls the part of your brain that says you cannot do something. Turn it off."
    -Josh

  • 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: