• Warren Wolf's Wolfpack Live From Berklee: Watch Now

    March 19, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Watch video from WBGO's live broadcast of vibraphonist Warren Wolf's Wolfpack at the Berklee College of Music's Cafe 939 in Boston on Wednesday, March 5 at 8 p.m.

    Every month, WBGO brings Berklee alumni back to their alma mater to present the fruits of their labor, with live audio and video broadcasts. Tune in April 4 to hear the Matthew Stevens Quintet!

    This concert features Wolf on vibes and marimba, Tim Green on saxophone, Alex Brown on piano, Kris Funn on bass, and Billy Williams Jr. on drums.

    Wolf has always been something of a wunderkind - he started in music at age three on piano and drums in his native Baltimore, where he attended the Peabody Institute's preparatory program and the Baltimore School For The Arts, where he concentrated on classical music.

    He graduated from Berklee in 2001, and by 2003 was teaching at the school. In addition to leading his own ensembles, he plays in the "Inside Straight" band led by bassist Christian McBride, who first took notice of the talented teenager a jazz camp in Colorado.

  • Pugs And Crows' "Everyone Knows Everyone:" Listen Now

    March 19, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Cat Toren, pianist with the Vancouver band Pugs And Crows, talks with Kyle Eagle about the group's new album Everyone Knows Everyone, which features Cole Schmidt on guitar, Russell Sholberg on bass, Meredith Bates on violin, Ben Brown on drums, and guest guitarist Tony Wilson.

    Pugs And Crows won Canada's 2013 Juno Award in the category of Best Instrumental Album for their CD Fantastic Pictures. Enjoy!


  • Toots Thielemans Hangs Up His Harp

    March 18, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    NEA Jazz Master Toots Thielemans, who turns 92 in April, has decided it's time to retire. After seven decades, the harmonica player and composer of "Bluesette" - who is also a master whistler -  has decided to hang up his harp, at least on the concert stage,  his website says.

    Toots has been a soulful and constant companion to jazz lovers lover over the years, with an unquenchable reserve of musical talent and enthusiasm. He has been frequently featured on WBGO and NPR, as in March, 2011, when we recorded him for JazzSet at the Kennedy Center.

    Listen to Toots' JazzSet here

    After that, he was scheduled to perform at New York's Blue Note, but canceled some of those shows, citing fatigue.

    A year later in May of 2012, Toots was back: he made an multi-city tour of his home country, Belgium, to celebrate his 90th birthday.

    WBGO's Becca Pulliam was lucky enough to visit Dinant and Brussels to take part in Belgium's celebration of their national treasure.  In the bookstore at the museum of musical instruments, she saw this stack of commemorative books.

    Stack of Toots books

    Back in the US, she wrote this appreciation of The Harmonica-Playing Baron of Belgium and the Toots90 concert in Brussels for NPR's A Blog Supreme:

    ". . . four of Toots' first five tunes were recorded by Miles Davis in a short span: 'On Green Dolphin Street' (1958), 'All Blues' (early 1959), 'I Loves You, Porgy' and 'Summertime' (both 1958, for Porgy and Bess). 'Days of Wine and Roses' was the other number. . . .  [T]hough he's streamlined his playing, 30 years later he still sounds tuneful, optimistic, willing to soar.

    "When [pianist Kenny]Werner and [guitarist Oscar] Castro-Neves came to the stage — excitement! embraces! — they brought shades of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Hollywood as they played 'How High the Moon' (a samba, thanks to Castro-Neves), 'All the Way' (Werner on synthesizer, interpolating 'My Way'), and the theme to Midnight Cowboy, an eight-note melody that circles and haunts. Indeed, Thielemans played it on the soundtrack [to the movie]."

    Toots was back in New York later that year to perform at Jazz At Lincoln Center, with his Brazilian friends Oscar Castro-Neves, Eliane Elias and Dori Caymmi, as well as Herbie Hancock, Kenny Werner, and Marc Johnson.

    The center of attention, the heart of the matter - was this wonderfully resilient, determined, and most musical nonagenarian, Toots Thielemans.

    According to his manager, Toots now - on the cusp of his 92nd birthday - "wants to enjoy the rest he deserves."

    Deserved, indeed, and thank you, Toots!