WBGO Blog
  • WBGO Says Farewell to Marian McPartland

    August 21, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: RIP

    Marian McPartland passed away last night at her home in Long Island. She was beloved to all of us, especially to fans of her Piano Jazz show, which aired on WBGO and other NPR stations for more than three decades.

    A master musician in her own right, Marian invited generations of listeners to sit with her at the piano  and share the fun of what happens on the bandstand.

    At WBGO, she was first and foremost a friend, and a mentor. We'd like to offer our thanks and share some memories with you, so read on.

    We will also honor her this evening at 6:30 with a broadcast of her trio, with Gary Mazzaroppi on bass and Glenn Davis on drums, at the Kennedy Center in 2005, followed by a NPR tribute to her at 7:30.

    Farewell, dear Marian!

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    JazzSet senior producer Becca Pulliam writes:

    I met Marian in Milwaukee in the latest 1970s or early 80s: she was playing outdoors, opening for Sarah Vaughan.


    I had a series called Woman-Made Music on Wisconsin Public Radio, and that evening I interviewed Marian. She had her own label then - Halcyon Records. I remember looking "halcyon" up in the dictionary.

    Skip ahead to my arrival in New York: I was invited to a party, and Marian was there. She remembered me; she offered friendship.

    I was editing a piano magazine then, and transcribed a piece of Marian's with an interview. This provided more chances to enjoy her company. Marian was good company. And her insights on music came freely. She shared; she did not hoard.

    In January of 1992, WBGO launched a new series, "JazzSet with Branford Marsalis," There wasn't any time to pilot the new show, so we went straight to air.

    After a few shows, Marian called me at home. "What is this new show?" she asked. She was well into hosting "Piano Jazz" at the time. And she didn't think the music in the first month of JazzSet was up to her standards. I remember specifically what she complained about -- an artist who played standards incorrectly!

    Marian knew more than a thousand songs - I think that's what she told me. In any case, she knew lots of songs,  and she knew them RIGHT. She took liberties with her wonderful fresh harmonies and personal melodic improvisations, but Marian knew her repertoire.

    When I visited her at home, I loved her rooms full of books, books, books, mementos, photos and drawings on the walls and shelves. She told me she'd run her record company from her garage.

    In her sunny kitchen, she had an impromptu office. The phone rang and rang, and an answering machine took  messages. Her calendar was full of gigs (Marian was 87 at the time). In her sunken living room, the grand piano.

    This memory stays with me. As I wrote later in a script, "Truth is, wherever Marian sits down at a piano, the space around her becomes her living room."

    It's the friendship I will probably most treasure.

    Portraits in Blue host and record producer Bob Porter writes:

    When I was doing Savoy reissues in the 1970s, I called her when we got to her material. She not only assisted with the compilation, but had a new cover photo taken! I ‘m certain this was not vanity, but a desire to have the best looking product on the market. And she bought copies of the album to sell on her gigs, a rarity at the time.

    She would call on occasion at WBGO when I was doing mid-days, usually to ask about someone new she heard. I remember an occasion where she felt she was running out of talent to present on Piano Jazz. I suggested she try Sam Price and some of the older blues specialists, and I think she did a show with Sam. Later, she flipped when she heard the young Ragtime composer Reginald Robinson.

    I think the Piano Jazz show she did with Oscar Peterson should be required listening for musicians and fans alike.

  • WBGO Says Farewell to Cedar Walton

    August 19, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    WBGO says farewell to our friend Cedar Walton, who passed away at his home in Brooklyn early this morning. Long before he was an NEA Jazz Master, Cedar's piano was the sound of jazz for many of us, from his early years with the likes of John Coltrane, J.J. Johnson and Benny Golson, then as both pianist and arranger for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and in his own trios.

    WBGO shared many great moments with Cedar: we interviewed him many times, most recently in June when he stopped by with fellow pianist Barry Harris for this conversation with Michael Bourne.

    Cedar was a favorite performer at the Village Vanguard, and we chose his trio to be one of of the first of our live broadcasts from the famed East Village nightclub in 2008. We also brought the Cedar Walton Combo from New Jersey City University to our studios every April during Jazz Appreciation Month.

    We would like to share some of these interviews and concerts again with you now: follow the links below to hear audio. Thank you, Cedar, we will miss you!

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    Here is Cedar's trio at the Village Vanguard from, with Lewis Nash on drums and David Williams on bass, on December 17, 2008:

    Cedar Walton Trio Sign at Village Vanguard

    And here's Josh Jackson's conversation with Cedar, at his home in Brooklyn, the day before the Vanguard show:

    Cedar Wlaton Vanguard Hallway

    Here's NJCU's Cedar Walton Combo performing live at WBGO on April 1, 2013:

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    Michael Bourne spoke with Cedar and trumpeter Roy Hargrove in 2009,

    and

    Gary Walker spoke with Cedar in August of 2004.

  • Happy Birthday Moseka! WBGO Honors Abbey Lincoln

    August 6, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    It's Abbey Lincoln's birthday. A truly great singer and fearless jazz spirit, WBGO had the good fortune to share many moments with her over the years, and we honored her as a Champion of Jazz in 2006. We would like to share some of these with you as we honor her again today.

    Some knew her as Aminata Moseka, names she was given in Africa, or Anna Maria Woolridge, the name she was given at birth.

    Most jazz lovers know her as Abbey. Just as Ella was simply Ella, and Sarah was Sarah, Abbey needs no introduction or explanation: she's Abbey.

    Here are highlights from a 2002 interview at her home with WBGO's Josh Jackson:

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    Photo by Scott Sternberg, courtesy of Enja

    Here is an unedited version of that 45-minute interview:

    On this recent edition of Jackson's weekly new-music program The Checkout, Lincoln's longtime pianist Marc Cary speaks about her influence and plays music from his recent solo record on Motema, For the Love of Abbey. Pyeng Threadgill is the singer.

    Cary reflects more on his time with Lincoln here, which includes this 1996 at New York's "Iridium" club, along with Michael Bowie on bass and Aaron Walker on drums, when she sang her composition "Bird Alone":

    Here is a video of Lincoln performing her composition "Down Here Below" with Cary:

    Abbey was featured several times on our nationally syndicated program JazzSet: Click here to hear a recording we made of Abbey in 1984 at the Peppermint Lounge in Orange, New Jersey with pianist James Weidman, and brothers Billy and Mark Johnson on bass and drums, respectively. Weidman also shares recollections of Abbey in this edition of JazzSet, which aired in 2011, three years after her death.

    Also in 2011, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson explored the Abbey Lincoln Songbook in this tribute to Abbey at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

    Bridgewater, Musical Director Terri Lyne Carrington, Wilson and Reeves
    Bridgewater, Musical Director Terri Lyne Carrington, Wilson and Reeves

    Also for JazzSet, Abbey performed at the Detroit International Jazz Festival in 2000, with Brandon McCune on piano, John Ormond on bass and Jaz Sawyer on drums.

    In 2010, WBGO's Michael Bourne hosted a special two-hour tribute and retrospective of Abbey's greatest recordings on our show Singers Unlimited.

    First hour:

    Second hour:

    Finally, Monifa Brown, the host of WBGO's Saturday Afternoon Jazz, contributes this poem to the singer.

    Happy birthday and thank you, Abbey, from all your friends at WBGO!

    ABBEY LINCOLN

    By Monifa Brown

    © 2013

    Abbey Lincoln sings the songs of me and you

    Oh yeah, She could write it for a song

    Molding time and space into the here and now

    Unearthing encrypted tales risen from the dusty embers of Mother Earth

    AMINATA MOSEKA, AMINATA MOSEKA, AMINATA MOSEKA

    Crocheting Indigo and Fuchsia singed lines with golden stroked wishes

    Weaving yesterdays with tomorrows into a patchwork of Turtle Dreams

    Shifting the continental plates with pure invention and intention…

    making our world seem wondrously small

    connecting you and I to he and she and him and her and them and us….

    ‘I Got Some People In Me.’  ‘I Got Some People In Me.’

    Abbey Lincoln sings the songs of me and you

    Oh yeah, She could write it for a song

    Cascading vowels that gather like kaleidoscopic images in the darkness of light

    Abbey was like the rainbow out the window amidst the fallen rain when the storm had cleared -

    A Bird Alone.

    When The World Is Falling Down – hold tight to her words

    Keep your hands wide open, let the sun shine through, you can never lose something if it belongs to you.”

    “Throw it Away! Throw It Away!”

    AMINATA MOSEKA, AMINATA MOSEKA, AMINATA MOSEKA

    She IS the Nomo, the power of the spoken word

    A goddess whose muse is the magic of the secret world

    Freeing stunted spirits Who Used To Dance

    Abbey Lincoln sings the songs of me and you

    Oh yeah, She could write it for a song.

    Abbey Lincoln