• Toast of the Nation Live at WBGO

    December 31, 2011. Posted by Tim Wilkins.


    WBGO rang in 2012 as we do every year with Toast of the Nation, our eight-hour extravaganza which celebrates the best in live jazz from coast to coast. Broadcast by more than 200 NPR stations across the nation and by NPR Berlin and Armed Forces Radio overseas, you only heard it streaming live right here.

    Miss something, or want to hear it again? Our friends over at NPR Music have archived all of the sets for your listening enjoyment:

    Toast of the Nation 2012 Archive

    Happy New Year from all your friends at WBGO!

    Thanks to listeners who joined in our live chat throughout the evening, which you can still read below, and to our East Coast and West Coast blog teams, and partners in Boston, New York, Washington, Denver, Detroit, and Los Angeles.

    Julian Lage Trio Live from Berklee in Boston

    The Julian Lage Trio, featuring Larry Grenadier and Eric Harland, with special guest Dan Blake, at the Berklee Performance Center.
    The Julian Lage Trio. Photo by Paul Marotta.

    Guitarist Julian Lage has been performing in public since he was six. Trained in both classical music and jazz, his childhood talents were the subject of an Academy Award-nominated documentary, Jules at Eight. Lage graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 2008, and returns to Boston tonight to perform at his alma mater with drummer Eric Harland and bassist Larry Grenadier.


    Berklee actively supports its young graduates, and has partnered with WBGO and NPR to create a series of live broadcasts which showcase their talents. The concerts grew out of WBGO’s weekly showcase of emerging jazz talent, The Checkout.

    “Since we debuted The Checkout on WBGO in 2009, we’ve produced shows featuring dozens of Berklee alumni; in a city of great musicians, you simply can’t help it,” says Josh Jackson, the show's host and producer.

    Our inaugural broadcast from Berklee’s Café 939 in November featured trumpeter Christian Scott, followed by saxophonist Seamus Blake in December. We will host three more live broadcasts from Berklee this spring.

    Highlights from Newport Jazz 2011

    In August, WBGO  joined forces with NPR Music and WGBH to broadcast both days of the Newport Jazz Festival. We captured more than twenty sets of music, and have chosen some highlights for you, which include Regina Carter, Miguel Zenón and Trombone Shorty.

    Trombone Shorty, photo by Jared Herwick of WGBH
    Trombone Shorty, photo by Jared Herwick of WGBH

    Shorty, also known as Troy Andrews, grew up in New Orleans' Tremé neighborhood, and leads Orleans Avenue, an ensemble of funky futurists who like himself are deeply rooted in the Crescent City's musical traditions. Shorty plays trumpet as well as trombone, sings, and ignites a crowd like few others.

    Kennedy Center Tribute to Dr. Billy Taylor

    Dr. Billy Taylor lives on in our hearts and minds at WBGO.  As the originator of jazz broadcasting at NPR, he was our tireless advocate and mentored many of us over the years. The pianist, educator and broadcaster played a unique role in the life of the station from our first broadcast in 1979 until his death late last year.

    "His knowledge and gentle presentation set the tone in how jazz performance was presented," said Thurston Briscoe, WBGO's vice president of programming. "He was one of the most supportive people I ever met."

    Billy Taylor Trio - Photo by Jimmy Katz

    In November, pianist Geri Allen gathered some of Dr. T's many musical friends at the Eisenhower Theater of the Kennedy Center in Washington to play in his memory. These include Toshiko Akiyoshi, Cyrus Chestnut, Danilo Perez and Christian Sands, - just a handful of the hundreds of oustanding jazz musicians Taylor mentored over the years.

    Wynton Marsalis Plays Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver

    Simon Rentner, the producer of WBGO's live broadcast from Jazz at Lincoln Center this evening, contributed this appreciation of Wynton Marsalis's choice of music, which will swing us in to the New Year on the East Coast:

    "To become more serious than I already am," is what Wynton Marsalis says his goal is for 2012.  "To become more of a man."


    To demonstrate his serious and enduring love of jazz, Marsalis will celebrate two very serious – yet often overlooked - jazz pioneers this evening:  Joe “King” Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton, in our live broacast from the intimate setting of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club.

    Most Christmases, Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra perform their annual festive show, Red Hot Holiday Stomp, which gives a New Orleans twist to holiday classics. But this year, there’s no egg nog or holly, just spitfire arrangements of early jazz which convey the power and energy of this music, which admirers of King Oliver’s band at the Lincoln Gardens in Chicago used to call “hotter than a forty-five!”

    Tonight, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will be “hotter than a forty-five,” as you can hear for yourself right here.

    Sing the Truth! in Detroit with Reeves, Wright and Kidjo

    Three women, three unique voices, and musical choices with superb musicians - that's what inspired WBGO and fifteen other NPR affiliates to broadcast Sing the Truth! live from the Detroit Jazz Festival this Labor Day.

    The show is a tribute by three of today's most powerful women in song - Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves, and Lizz Wright, to three of their heroes, Miriam Makeba, Odetta, and Abbey Lincoln,, all of whom recently passed away.


    The three singers are joined by Geri Allen, Romero Lubambo, James Genus, Munyungo Jackson, and musical director Terri Lyne Carrington. Sean's band is Brian Hogans, Orrin Evans, Luques Curtis, and Obed Calvaire.

    WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton, who is hosting Toast this evening, also presented that broadcast, and contributed this appreciation of Sing The Truth!:

    "Fireworks lit the sky and on the stage, the voices of Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo and Lizz Wright rang out into the night and captivated the opening night crowd at the Detroit Jazz Festival.

    With near record breaking heat and high humidity in the Motor City over the last few days, the word perspiration doesn’t fit the bill.  We have all been sweating but within the first few seconds of Sing The Truth!, I literally felt chills. These three incredibly gifted artists, each with her own distinctive style, put on a show that energized the audience and made us glad to be alive.

    Dianne Reeves sings with the clarity, confidence and passion of an artist who has earned diva status. In complete command of her instrument, she knows how to weave a spell, create drama and take the music higher.

    Dianne Reeves .. Photo by Jeff Forman
    Dianne Reeves .. Photo by Jeff Forman

    "Angelique Kidjo carries the spirit of Mother Africa within her soul. Her voice, her dance, her exuberance have the power to make you scream.

    Angelique Kidjo in motion .. Photo by Jeff Forman
    Angelique Kidjo in motion .. Photo by Jeff Forman

    "Lizz Wright embodies youth and beauty and grace.  Despite her young years she has the heart of a woman and the wisdom to match.  With a voice like warm honey she digs deep and brings up a well of emotion with each performance."

    The Junior Mance Quintet from Denver

    Pianist Junior Mance is a walking treasure trove of jazz, having played with everyone from Charlie Parker to Louis Armstrong. He anchored the groups of Lester Young and Dizzy Gillespie in the 1950s, and was singer Sarah Vaughan’s accompanist of choice for many years.


    NPR's JazzSet and KUVO teamed up to record Mance in Denver earlier this year. The setting was unique: Balistreri Vineyards winery,  just 10 minutes from downtown Denver, is family owned and produces award-winning wines from Colorado grapes grown on the premises.

    At 83, Mance remains spry and soulful at the keyboard, and plays in a bluesy style reminiscent of one of his closest collaborators and friends, hard bop saxophonist Cannonball Adderley.

    Like fellow jazz octogenarians McCoy Tyner and Roy Haynes, Mance spurs his imagination by playing with young musicians, and can often be heard on Sunday nights at the Café Loup in Manhattan. The joyful and spontaneous spirit of these sessions is captured here, with Hidé Tanaka on bass, Ryan Anselmi and Andrew Hadro on saxophones, and Kim Garey on the drums.

    The Billy Childs Quartet Live from Los Angeles

    Pianist Billy Childs has three Grammy Awards – suitable honors for a musician who has been called a “triple threat” – an accomplished arranger and composer as well as instrumentalist. Known to pop audiences for his work with trumpeter Chris Botti, Childs is equally at home composing for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the American Brass Quintet.


    Born in Los Angeles, Childs returns to his hometown this evening for our live broadcast of his Quartet from the Blue Whale, a small club in downtown L.A. While Childs regularly plays at vensuch such as L.A.’s Disney Hall – he’ll be there on March 11 – we felt the intimate setting of the Blue Whale, which seats 130, was the best place to take in his exceptional talents.

    The Blue Whale is in a third floor corner of a small, poured concrete shopping mall of Japanese shops including a noodle place with long lines all the time and a big, busy bookstore.

    It was opened two years ago by Joon Lee, who has been known to sing occasionally at the club, and is booked by Rocco Somazzi, who also books the BW and the upstart Angel City Jazz Festival.

    Miguel Zenón from the 2011 Newport Jazz Festival

    Our final highlight from this year's Newport Jazz Festival was the set played by Miguel Zenón. The alto saxophonist, who just turned 35, is the recipient of both Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, as well as three Grammy awards.

    Miguel Zenon

    At Newport, Zenón played selections from his latest project, "Ama Adentro," which celebrates what he calls "The Puerto Rican Songbook," composed nor only of traditional genres, such as bomba and plena, but also boleros -- the carefully constructed romantic ballads now commonly referred to as "The American Songbook."

    Gracias, Miguel y Feliz Año Nuevo!

    Happy New Year from all of your friends at WBGO!

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