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This week on ‘Judy Carmichael’s Jazz Inspired’: Alonzo Bodden, Rickie Lee Jones, Betty Bryant, Hannah Gill and Jeff Goldblum

Comedian Alonzo Bodden hosts a stage at the Montclair Jazz Festival
Jonathan Chimene
Comedian Alonzo Bodden hosts a stage at the Montclair Jazz Festival

Comedian Alonzo Bodden’s wit and social commentary is well-known to his stand-up fans and to listeners of NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, where he is a regular panel member. Alonzo is also an enthusiastic jazz fan and has been host to many jazz concerts and interviews as part of various jazz-themed cruises, which has given him a chance to not only hear his beloved music but to become friends with many jazz musicians, a happy circumstance he mentioned throughout our conversation. Alonzo feels there is a deep connection between jazz and comedy and talked to me about his passion for both.

Singer/songwriter Rickie Lee Jones has been hard to pin down-- stylistically, geographically and in most other ways--as her fascinating memoir, Last Chance Texaco, makes clear. While Time Magazine dubbed Rickie the “Duchess of Coolsville” this is a woman who has stormed through a life of challenges that would have felled most people, making her cool mien even more impressive.

Rickie Lee Jones
Astor Morgan
Rickie Lee Jones

While Rickie has always thought of herself as a jazz singer—and was voted best jazz singer in Playboy and Rolling Stone polls two years in a row—she has not always been embraced by the jazz community. And while some of her past CDs have included jazz, her latest, Pieces of Treasure, is her first focusing completely on jazz as she celebrates some of her favorite standards from the Great American Songbook.

Vocalist, pianist, songwriter and positive spirit, Betty Bryant is having a ball and can’t wait to dive into the next adventure.  At 94, Betty is an inspiration on so many levels that her age, which would be the first thing one would mention with anyone else, seems almost beside the point.  

Betty Bryant
Courtesy of the artist
Betty Bryant

Betty Bryant grew up in Kansas City and throughout our conversation expressed her gratitude for the opportunities she’s had to know great musicians along the way, like her friend and early supporter, pianist Jay McShann.  Betty’s latest CD, Lotta Livin’ produced by her longtime friend and collaborator Robert Kyle, showcases Betty’s blues roots, soulful sound, and cheeky sense of humor.

Vocalist Hannah Gill, unlike most twenty-something jazz musicians on the scene, doesn’t have a music degree or any of the usual notions of how one pursues a jazz career. I found Hannah delightfully open to doing just about anything in show business and realistic about her goals, with none of the “I’m going to get famous and conquer the world” aspirations one expects from someone starting out, but rather, as she told me, she’d like to continue making music for the rest of her life, be able to pay her rent and go out to dinner a couple times a month. She’s already done much more than that, having toured world-wide with Post Modern Jukebox and performed widely with her own band, Hannah Gill and the Hours.

Hannah Gill
c/o the artist
Hannah Gill

Her debut album, Everybody Loves a Lover, features swing-era songs from the 1920s through the ‘50s and reflects Hannah’s deep love for Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day and Blossom Dearie, her biggest inspirations.

Jeff Goldblum and Judy Carmichael
Jeff Goldblum and Judy Carmichael

Actor Jeff Goldblum is a distinctive presence in every role he plays, from his early portrayals in The Fly, Jurassic Park and The Big Chill, to recent turns in Law and Order:  Criminal Intent and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Now Jeff brings his unique character, curiosity and enthusiasm to his newest adventure, as a jazz pianist and singer, releasing his second CD, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This. This is one of my favorite shows!

This week’s schedule:

6/24   Alonzo Bodden
6/25   Rickie Lee Jones
6/26   Betty Bryant
6/27   Hannah Gill
6/28   Jeff Goldblum

Listen each morning on WBGO, from 6 to 8 am ET.

Jazz pianist Judy Carmichael, whom critics have called “astounding, flawless and captivating” (New York Times), is one of the leading interpreters of classic jazz piano. Ms. Carmichael has written two books on stride piano and numerous articles on the subject of jazz.