WBGO Blog
  • Johnny Griffin: April 24, 1928 - July 25, 2008

    July 25, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Saxophonist Johnny Griffin
    WBGO bids farewell to Johnny Griffin, a master jazz musician. Many jazz people referred to Griffin as "The Little Giant," no doubt because of his dimunitive stature (he was a shade below 5 and a half feet tall). The consensus, however, was that Griffin's true stature loomed large in the music. Johnny Griffin could easily fall under the category of "hard bop saxophonist," but to do so would be an injustice. When you listen to the raw muscular sound of early Johnny Griffin records, you can hear a combination of saxophone legend Coleman Hawkins, the rough-and-tumble rhythm and blues of Griffin's Chicago hometown, and some definitive gospel wails. It was a big, combustible sound. One that will be missed.

    Read the New York Times obit.

    If you're looking for good music from Griffin, you have plenty of options.
    Some suggestions after the jump.
    Read more

  • John Ellis and Double-Wide...Brooklyn Style

    July 24, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

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    If there were a roof on the Brooklyn Museum's Sculpture Garden, saxophonist John Ellis would have surely "blew it off!" His performance at the Brooklyn Museum with his band Double Wide was explosive! As part of Heart of Brooklyn and WBGO's Jazz: Brooklyn's Beat, Ellis brought his North Carolina and NOLA roots to New York's greatest borough (OK, that's one Brooklynites opinion, but whatever). Folks waited in the heat this past Saturday, posting up their prime-positioned seating to check out Ellis perform music from his latest CD Dance Like There's No Tomorrow (Hyena Records). He definitely had some genuine fans in the house, as when host Gary Walker introduced Michael Rojas as "on the tuba" a sizable amount of folks yelled out "SOUSAPHONE!" Walker was correct...it was the tuba on this day, but these audience members clearly had the CD because Ellis does indeed enlist the talented Matt Perrine on the lesser-known, low brass instrument on Dance Like There's No Tomorrow.

    The band, which was made up of Ellis, Michael Rojas on tuba, Brian Charette on the organ, and Jason Marsalis on drums, opened with the church-happy "All Up in the Aisles." As John would say, it's a "sanctified" tune.  It's definitely a get-up-and-move celebratory piece.  You can definitely feel those southern influences.
    The sets were infused with mosh, waltz, and soulful groove all in between.  Ellis' beautiful tone and gorgeous hefty floating lines made this performance really stand out for me.  Going to check out a lot of music, as I do, it's sometimes easy to let it become routine, but I love when an artist snaps me out of my trance.  Ellis is definitely one of those artists, and this is definitely one of those records.

  • Great Live Moments: Dr. Billy Taylor/Jazzmobile in Newark

    July 24, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Billy Taylor Trio - Photo by Jimmy Katz

    Today is the 87th birthday of a jazz legend - Dr. Billy Taylor. Last night, on the eve of this very special day, Dr. T was one of several featured pianists at the 92nd Street Y in the Jazz in July series. He likes the name of that series because he came up with it himself when he helped to found a summer program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Just this month, Taylor quietly stepped down from his Jazz in July, and U Mass expressed gratitude for many summers on its website. Click to read the story.

    Also this summer, Taylor is involved in a development right here in our town. Now we have a Brick City branch of Jazzmobile, the teaching organization he helped found in Harlem.  Newark Jazzmobile is named for the late bassist Earl May, who first proposed it but did not live to see it happen. Click here for the Jazzmobile schedule. Houston Person plays tonight at Mildred Helms Park in the South Ward! Click and hear Billy Taylor play "A Night in Tunisia" on WBGO's (then) new Steinway, live on the air in the 1980s. Another Great Live Moment from WBGO.

    Becca