Digital Life

Digital technology in our lives.

WBGO wins Avaya Communications Makeover!

Avaya Communications truck in front of WBGO in Newark, NJ
WBGO President and CEO, Cehpas Bowles, had the following to say about this exciting opportunity for WBGO, "Owing to Vice President for Operations and Engineering David Tallacksen’s awareness and personal initiative, WBGO will receive a brand new digital telephone system free of charge from Avaya.  In late summer 2009, the phone giant ran an online “communications makeover contest” asking businesses and non-profit organizations to tell them via video why they deserved a new telephone system.  David prepared a wonderful video, which was shot in one of our production studios, and laid out the rationale for a new station system.  Avaya liked what they saw and rewarded David’s work with one of 20 free phone systems.  I understand that there were almost 2,000 entrants nationwide.  The Avaya team traveled to WBGO on Friday, October 23 to make the announcement."

Watch David's video entry here.

Congratulations, big time, to David Tallacksen and to WBGO.

Kenny Barron - Interview and Shuffle

Kenny Barron Photo by Carol Friedman

We're presenting pianist Kenny Barron tonight at the Village Vanguard. Barron's new recording, The Traveler, released yesterday. We talk about living with music, something that Kenny Barron has done for most of his life. Hear the honesty, humility, and everything else that makes Kenny Barron one of today's most well-regarded jazz musicians. It's all in this interview.

Now seems as good a time as any to tell you about an idea that has been germinating in my mind. I have been building a Frankenstein in WBGO's covert ops laboratory. It's a radio show/new media platform/chimera called Living With Music, and you will be hearing more about this in the coming months. One of the features is called Shuffle, where I invite a musician into the studio, ask them to bring their digital music player, set it to access their playlist randomly, and we improvise from there. I always thought it was a perfect vehicle for the broad listening habits of jazz musicians. Jazz covers of Sting and Radiohead, a string quartet playing a famous jazz tune, an original composition... that's just some of the stuff on Kenny Barron's iPod. So here's a sample of the feature, before it gets edited into a finely-crafted production for Living With Music. Let's call it a rough edit, if you care about the nitty gritty details of production terminology.
Check it out.

-Josh

JAZZ IN...GRAND THEFT AUTO 4!?!?

It seems like every month we hear a story about a jazz station switching formats for various reasons. Be it a lapse in listenership, funding, and/or general interest. Traditional Jazz, in particular, has slowly fallen off of the airwaves nationwide. Some stations have turned to such formats as Rock, Top 40, and News and Information, leaving a jazz enthusiast in these markets with nothing but their mp3 players, cds and vinyl.

Now, like the good "company man" I am, I would say that one can hear an exceptional jazz playlist at WBGO.org. But for some, there is no reason why such an influential American art form isn't available on a radio station in every town and city. I agree 100%. Unfortunately, politics and business tend to supersede our love for quality music. I just find it ironic that jazz radio stations are being abandoned in the "real world", while a jazz radio station was recently added to a "virtual world".

Huh?! Virtual world!?

Yes! The controversial, yet commercially successful, Grand Theft Auto video game series added a jazz radio station with its latest installment Grand Theft Auto 4. Now, this is by no means an endorsement of the video game and its mature content, but the irony is killing me. No pun intended.

The GTA series is probably more popular in the media for its violence, than it is for its immersive & often sarcastic world. The video game series, in recent years, has included radio stations that you turn on when you enter a vehicle, and you can listen to them as you drive around the games virtual city. These radio stations come equip with host, playlist, imaging, and even commercials. In the past, the formats largely consisted of Rock, Soul, Hip Hop, R&B, Talk, and even Classical. The series has gained much notoriety for its authentic soundtracks.

What makes this inclusion so interesting to me (and maybe you too), is the fact that it is a "traditional" jazz station - hosted by none other than jazz icon Roy Haynes! The station is titled JNR 108.5: Jazz Nation Radio. Their tag line is "Jazz from a time before it became elevator music." The playlist consists of such jazz legends as Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Count Basie. Other notable djs in the game include Roy Ayers- host of Fusion FM- a jazz fusion station, and DJ Premiere- host of the old school hip hop station The Classics.
Image
DJ : Roy Haynes
Genre : Jazz
Tracklist :* Count Basie - "April in Paris"
* John Coltrane - "Giant Steps"
* Chet Baker - "Let's Get Lost"
* Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers - "Moanin'"
* Miles Davis - "Move"
* Charlie Parker - "Night and Day"
* Roy Haynes - "Snap Crackle"
* Sonny Rollins - "St. Thomas"
* Duke Ellington - "Take the 'A' Train"
* Dizzy Gillespie - "Whisper Not (Big Band)"

This isn't a ploy to exploit an art form because it's scaling the billboard charts. This is respect. This is a declaration to the importance and validity of straight ahead jazz. This is a nod from a "video game company" that grossed a record breaking 500 million dollars in its first week of sales. This is, though unconventional, an exposure of traditional jazz music to a broader demographic than you could find in the real world.

Now I know some may say, "...well you still have to tune in to hear it". Well I believe that, like the dynamics of the video game...it's all about the choice. Keep Jazz alive in your "real world"! Support...

WBGO Widget

WBGO Widget Grab

Attention Mac users. While I was trolling on the interwebs tonight, I saw something that took me by surprise.  Gary Von Schilling (someone I don't know, but he's clearly a fan of WBGO) created a widget that directs you to our web stream.
Find it here.
-Josh

The audacity of Jazz

While we celebrate Jazz every day here for its energy and complexity, and relish in the swing of it, and nod our heads in approval at a monster solo, it can be easy to forget that Jazz has been at the forefront of social change movements and African-American history and culture for more than a century, supporting freedom movements abroad, civil rights struggles at home and fighting against war and racial injustice both here and abroad.

To celebrate that, we've launched a new podcast series called "We Insist!: Jazz Speaks Out." Over the four half-hour episodes, host Angelika Beener talks to some of the brightest lights in Jazz about how the music influenced them and how they influenced the music. Guests include USC Professor Dr. Robin D. G. Kelly,  pianist Randy Weston; trumpeter Terence Blanchard; saxophonist Marcus Strickland and others.

Some of the featured music includes: Max Roach's "We Insist;" Miles Davis' "Jack Johnson;" Randy Weston's "Uhuru Afrika;" John Coltrane's "Alabama;" Sonny Rollins' "Freedom Suite;" and many more. The series launched Friday and we'll add epsodes weekly.

Listen (and subscribe) to the first episode here.  - David Cruz

Studio Session - Big Pump Song

We had a great session with Now vs. Now.
You'll have to wait next month for the complete results, but here's a teaser.
Josh

 

Welcome

Welcome to WBGO's newest addition - our very own blog. We were planning to start this project on January 1st, but frankly, we're just too excited. So why wait?

Keep visiting this space to learn more about the people that drive this broadcast bus each and every day. We'll talk jazz, culture, and whatever else comes to mind. And if you like what you see, you can subscribe to the blog, as you would a magazine. Best part? It's free.

We're very excited to present this new way of communicating to our listeners, our friends, our members, and to those of you who are none of the above.

Whatever your status, we simply say "Welcome," just like one of my favorite Coltrane pieces...

Josh Jackson