WBGO Blog
  • Soul Singer Sharon Jones Dies At 60

    November 18, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    Updated at 4:59 p.m. ET

    Soul singer Sharon Jones, lead singer of the group The Dap-Kings, has died, her publicist announced late Friday. She was 60.

    She'd been fighting pancreatic cancer since 2013, when she took a break from touring to undergo extensive surgery and chemotherapy, Fresh Air wrote earlier this year. The cancer went into remission, but returned this year.

    She told Terry Gross about the difficulty of her treatment:

    "I couldn't sing. I couldn't get air because, people didn't realize, I was cut across the diaphragm, all the way up from right under the center under my breasts, all the way down to the top of my navel, almost."

    Even after she returned to the stage, she told Terry, she didn't feel like the band's dynamic performances were the same.

    "That energy, I mean, everyone said my energy was great, but I didn't feel it at all. Even now, the days on the stage I'm just not myself, I don't have that energy. The legs doesn't lift up like I want to with the pain, the neuropathy from certain chemo. It's a hinder, but I do the shows, but it's not the same."

    Jones went through treatment again this year while continuing to perform, but the band had to cancel a European tour this past summer because of a medical procedure Jones needed.

    Jones grew up the youngest of six children in Jim Crow-era Georgia, NPR's Mandalit Del Barco reports on All Things Considered. And even after she moved to Brooklyn, she continued to confront prejudice while trying to make it in the music business. She was told she was "too short," "too black" and "too fat," she told Terry.

    In the meantime, Jones supported herself by working as an armored car guard for Wells Fargo and a corrections officer at Rikers Island. It wasn't until she was 40 that she finally made her debut.

    Even then, it took some time before Jones and the Dap-Kings to break through: "Jones was in her 50s when she finally began to enjoy international recognition," Mandalit reports.

    But when they did, they made a big impact.

    "Her music was termed neo-soul, or retro-soul, but she and her band did this long enough to where there was nothing neo- or retro- about it," freelance music journalist Matt Rogers told Mandalit. "It was just as original as the music that inspired her and the band in the first place."

    Jones, who recalled first being inspired to become a singer while performing as a child in a church nativity play, performed a set of holiday songs for NPR's Tiny Desk last year. You can watch it below.

    Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

  • Sarah Vaughan Competition 2016 Finalist Deelee Dube with Nicole Sweeney

    November 17, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    UK native Deelee Dube, finalist for the 2016 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, talks to Nicole Sweeney about grouping up as part of a pair of musical twins and what the divine Sarah Vaughan means to her.

    DEELEE-portrait

  • Celebrated Jazz Musician Mose Allison Dies At 89

    November 15, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    image
    Mose Allison, circa 2000. The celebrated pianist and composer died in Hilton Head, S.C. this week. (Image Credit: David Redfern/Redferns)

    Mose Allison had a sharp eye for the way the world works, and doesn't. The pianist, singer and composer's acerbic lyrics, syncopated piano playing and distinctive southern drawl were beloved by jazz fans — and by the British rockers who covered his songs, from The Who to The Clash to Van Morrison.

    Allison died Tuesday morning at his home in Hilton Head, S.C., of natural causes. He had just had a birthday, his 89th, last week.

    Allison was born on his grandfather's farm outside Tippo, Miss. He told NPR in 2004 that he began learning piano from a teacher in Tippo when he was 5 years old, but quickly grew tired of lessons. "As soon as I found out I could pick things out by ear, I lost interest in learning to read music and all," he said.

    Allison was inspired by the blues musicians he heard around him, as well as by Nat King Cole, and combined those influences to create something distinctive. He wound up in New York City, playing with jazz stars like Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. When people heard him sing, they thought he was African-American.

    "It doesn't matter whether you're black or white," he would say in response. "What matters is whether you're good."

    He was good enough to record some 50 albums. But Allison said he never knew what to call his music, which is perhaps surprising for an English major. In that 2004 NPR interview, he chose to quote a novelist named Ishmael Reed.

    "He wrote a book called Mumbo Jumbo," Allison says. "And he said that in New Orleans in the '20s, there was a virus that started out and it made you wanted to shake your behind and snap your fingers. and it just spread all over the world. And it just grew, so they called it 'just grew.'"

    Allison had a hand — or two — in spreading it, too.

    Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

  • Sarah Vaughan Competition 2016 Finalist Lauren Scales with Nicole Sweeney

    November 15, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    Lauren Scales, finalist for the 2016 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition talks to Nicole Sweeney about her Detroit roots and what she has learned from listening to masters like Clifford Brown.

    lauren scales

  • Legendary singer-songwriter-pianist Mose Allison has died

    November 15, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.

    Legendary singer-songwriter and pianist Mose Allison has died. He was 89.

    Allison was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2013.

    Here's an excerpt from his performance that evening, featuring his daughter, Amy Allison.