Singer Dianne Reeves will receive an honorary doctorate from the Juilliard School of Music at its 110th graduation at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall on Friday, May 22.
"Dianne Reeves is one of the pre-eminent jazz vocalists in the world," Juilliard said in its announcement, citing her "breathtaking virtuosity, improvisational prowess, and unique jazz and R&B stylings."
Juilliard has taught jazz since 2001, in addition to theater, classical music and dance.
A longtime friend of WBGO, Dianne has won five Grammy Awards, including for her most recent album, Beautiful Life, which was featured by WBGO's RADAR. She has also performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and other orchestras worldwide.
The new president and first lady dance as Beyonce sings. Meanwhile, I think about another singer - Etta James.
My third interview with Etta is long overdue, I think, as I watch the White House Inaugural Ball in 2009. Obama and Michelle's first dance will give us plenty to talk about. The tune Beyonce's singing is one that Etta long considered hers.
Our first interview took place in the 80s. Johnny Otis, the late capo of West Coast R&B, introduced the two of us while I was on a national tour interviewing R&B stars of previous generations.
In Los Angeles, Johnny hooked me up with some of R&B's early heavyweights. I spoke with Big Joe Turner, in what would be his last interview; Joe Liggins, whose "Honeydripper" was one of the biggest R&B hits of the 40s; Pee Wee Crayton; Richard Berry, who introduced the song "Louie Louie" to a world eager to cover it.
And Etta, or "Peaches," as Johnny liked to call her.
At the time, Etta was getting herself back on the map, taking advantage of the roots R&B revival.
Soon after our interview, she played a packed blues club in Manhattan, where she sang to an audience of young professionals as well as older people who had bought her 45s when they were on the charts.
The song that got the wildest ovation was "At Last," which she did as part of a medley that dated back to her early years at Chess Records.
By the time we met again in the mid-90s, Etta had released several acclaimed albums and co-written a book with biographer David Ritz.
I had moved my "Classic Soul" operation from Tribeca to a dilapidated Brooklyn brownstone, where I planned to build an interview studio.
The studio faced an enclosed garden. It was to be a place where my R&B, pop and jazz heroes would gather and talk freely - with food grilling, wine pouring, and tapes rolling.
Etta James was my first and only guest in the studio.
Destiny's Child, the group that launched Beyonce, was still unknown on the day a hired limo rolled up 8th Avenue in Brooklyn.
Several minutes after stopping at the house, two large men stepped out of either side, then Etta James. I ignored the bodyguards and waved Etta into the house and back into the studio.
There was small talk. We laughed a lot. Etta James liked to say she didn't "show her teeth" to just anyone, so I felt honored.
She mentioned Ruth Brown, one of her idols, wanting to know how she was doing. Years earlier, Ruth Brown and I had started working together. I watched Ruth emerge from obscurity to a revived singing and acting career.
That led Ruth to a Tony award for Black & Blue and a role as the fast-rappin' disk jockey "Motormouth Maybelle" in John Waters' original Hairspray movie. She was also a national radio hostess and recording artist (again).
I suspected that Etta, who as a teenager, had modeled so much of her sound and look on the Ruth Brown of the 1950's, was studying Ruth's comeback moves.
I offered Etta and her men coffee or cold water and apologies for the lingering smell of fresh paint. Unpacked boxes with records and studio equipment were scattered around the floor. All Etta said was, "You should see some of the places I've played."
We spent most of the session talking about Rage to Survive, the book in which the co-authors tell the stories about the wild child Jamesetta Hawkins (Etta's original name), the drugs, the abuse, the cold-hearted, profit-obsessed music business.
I ended up using about forty of the interview's tamest minutes for a public radio profile. (I tried to get a less trimmed-down version of the Etta interview on commercial radio, but they'd never heard of her.)
We talked a bit about "At Last," an afterthought now that Etta's career was back on track. Her recorded performance came about as a result of a friendship with Harvey Fuqua. Harvey had a singing group called the Moonglows, a popular R&B act of the 50s.
Etta and Harvey had cut some tracks together as Betty & Dupree. (Etta also did some studio work during this period, including a Chuck Berry session where she remembers singing backup harmonies with an up-and-coming youngster named Marvin Gaye.)
Harvey eventually helped get Etta on Chess, the company where the Moonglows recorded their hits. Etta and Harvey recorded some new duets at the label's Chicago studios in May of 1960.
Harvey heard something in Etta's voice that transcended rock and roll, so he gave her a book to study. It contained 100 popular standards, including a 1942 Glenn Miller hit called "At Last." The tune had been revived in 1957 by Nat King Cole in a lush arrangement for Capitol Records. "At Last," as recorded by Etta James for Chess' Argo line in October 1960, became one of her best-selling hit singles and, eventually, her signature song.
Almost a half century later, it's the Obama inaugural ball and it's Beyonce, not Peaches, singing "At Last."
I learned from a few scattered reports that what I'd imagined turned out to be true: Etta was furious. As a result, she was "a little down."
I also knew that, for Etta, "a little down" could mean much more. But no one seemed to care, and it was Beyonce's version that the radio kept playing. Beyonce had portrayed Etta James in the film Cadillac Records, very loosely based on the Chess story.
Having been lucky enough to spend hours with Etta James in Los Angeles and Brooklyn, I knew that the wild child, the rowdy teenager who practiced in the high school bathroom and fought through some of life's toughest struggles, would one day laugh about it all, and sing "At Last" to an audience on its feet.
But first, Etta vowed to "whup that girl's ass."
WBGO Travel invites you to hop aboard the bus from either New York City (Jazz at Lincoln Center, 10 Columbus Circle), Brooklyn (BRIC House, 647 Fulton St. at Rockwell Place), New Jersey (NJPAC, 1 Center Street, Newark) or Boston (Berklee School of Music, 1140 Boylston Street) or Old Lyme, CT (The Side Door Jazz Club, 85 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT) for a direct ride to the front gate of the 61st Anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island on Friday, July 31, Saturday, August 1 or Sunday, August 2. This excursion includes: round trip bus travel from departure location directly to the festival gate and general admission ticket to the festival for the full day. Bus will have wifi, restroom and reclining bucket seats.
The full lineup is listed below, and includes exciting artists such as Cassandra Wilson, Dr. John, Chris Botti, Jamie Cullum, Snarky Puppy, Maria Schneider, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Fred Hersch, Billy Childs, Bill Frisell, Arturo Sandoval, Ambrose Akinmusire and More.
Buses have varying departure times, please check below for specific times from your departure location. At the end of each day, buses leave from the front gate of the Newport Jazz Festival. Return times leaving festival are as follows: Friday 6PM, Saturday & Sunday 7PM.
Details of RT New York City (Jazz at Lincoln Center) to Newport trip:
• Friday – board the bus at 6AM at Jazz at Lincoln Center (10 Columbus Circle NY, NY) located at The Time Warner Building at the front circle. Bus will depart promptly at 6:30AM.
• Saturday or Sunday – board the bus at 5AM at Jazz at Lincoln Center (10 Columbus Circle NY, NY) located at The Time Warner Building at the front circle. Bus will depart promptly at 5:30AM.
• This location only will have an extra drop in Harlem on the way back to Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Details of RT Brooklyn (BRIC House) to Newport trip:
• Saturday or Sunday – board the bus at 5AM at BRIC House located at 647 Fulton St. at Rockwell Place. Bus will depart promptly at 5:30AM.
Details of RT New Jersey (NJPAC) to Newport trip:
• Saturday or Sunday – board the bus at 5AM at NJPAC located at 1 Center Street, Newark. Bus will depart promptly at 5:30AM.
• Parking will be available at Military Park Garage.
Details of RT Boston (Berklee) to Newport trip:
• Friday – board the bus at 8:30AM at Berklee School of Music located at 1140 Boylston Street. Bus will depart promptly at 9AM.
• Saturday or Sunday – board the bus at 7:30AM at Berklee School of Music located at 1140 Boylston Street. Bus will depart promptly at 8AM.
Details of RT Old Lyme, CT (The Side Door Jazz Club) to Newport trip:
• Saturday or Sunday – board the bus at 7:30AM at The Side Door Jazz Club located at 85 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT. Bus will depart promptly at 8AM.
Line up for the festival*:
Friday, July 31, 2015, 11:30 am – 6:00 pm
Fort Adams State Park, 90 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, RI 02840
University of Rhode Island Newport Big Band show/hide
Saturday, August 1, 2015, 10:30 am – 7:00 pm
Fort Adams State Park, 90 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, RI 02840
RI Music Educators Association Sr. All-State Jazz Ensemble show/hide
Sunday, August 2, 2015, 10:30 am – 7:00 pm
Fort Adams State Park, 90 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, RI 02840
Massachusetts Music Educators Association All-State Jazz Band show/hide
*Schedule Subject to Change Visit newportjazzfest.org for most up to date listing.
Rates & Reservations:
Same Day Round Trip from NYC, NJ & Brooklyn
WBGO Member price per person: Friday - $185, Saturday/Sunday - $225
Non-Member price per person: Friday - $205, Saturday/Sunday - $245
Student price per person: Friday - $145, Saturday/Sunday - $165
(must show valid student ID at festival gate)
Round Trip from Boston & Old Lyme, CT
WBGO Member price per person: Friday - $145, Saturday/Sunday - $185
Non-Member price per person: Friday - $165, Saturday/Sunday - $205
Student price per person: Friday - $120, Saturday/Sunday - $140
(must show valid student ID at festival gate)
Bus cancellation policy:
Until May 15 – guest will receive a full refund, less a $25 processing fee.
Until June 20 – guest will receive a 50% refund.
Until July 14 – guest can transfer their package to another guest, no refund after this date.
For questions or reservations call 973-624-8880 x269 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate departure city.
Dimensions are : 29”H x 19” W x 19” L. Seat to floor is approx. 18” H. Weight limit – approx. 250 lbs. It folds and fits into a carrying case with a strap, they are lightweight and easy to move about. Available in red or blue. There is limited availability!
There’s something about Ella. “I sing like I feel,” she once confessed.
This candor and transparency are why Ella’s voice transcends age and race, and has earned followers around the world.
It’s close to twenty years since Ella left the physical realm, and nearly eighty since she first wowed audiences at the Apollo Theatre’s famed ‘Amateur Hour’ as a teenager in Harlem.
She entered the contest as a dancer - luckily for us, at the last minute, she decided to sing instead. But her irrepressible sense of swing probably came in part from the fact that she knew how to dance.
Ella’s voice embodies girlish charm and endearing wit. Her exuberance is contagious.
She was a tour-de-force on an up-tempo swinger, then could turn around and deliver a ballad with the same great sense of drive.
Few, for my money, can take a lyric, whether by Berlin, Porter, Arlen, or Rodgers and Hart, and make you hear it in a new light like Ella.
Even Ira Gershwin once declared, "I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them.”
Ella had amazing chops. She could – and did - hang with the best of them: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Flip Phillips, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.
She was also prolific – she recorded over 200 albums. From her early dates with Chick Webb to Jazz At The Philharmonic and her Pablo sessions with Joe Pass, she shows her ability to evolve as an artist, the true mark of a creative genius.
Pianist Jimmy Rowles, her accompanist and one of those who knew her best, spoke of her magical presence in this way.
"Music comes out of her,” he said. “When she walks down the street, she leaves notes.”
Her Grammy-winning album Mack The Knife is one of my favorites. It’s a classic example of her onstage brilliance, charisma and ingenuity.
The album was recorded live in Berlin, with pianist Paul Smith, guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Wilfred Middlebrooks and drummer Gus Johnson.
It showcases her technical proficiency, the agility of her instrument, and often-humorous approach to improvisations.
Her scatting on the title track, where she forgets the lyrics and doesn’t miss a beat, are priceless.
As a kid in the 70s, I was star-struck when I first saw Ella in a Memorex commercial.
I used to borrow my dad’s Memorex cassettes to record my favorite songs off the radio and create my own mix tapes.
In the commercial, Ella’s voice shatters a crystal glass. I’d never seen that before. I thought she was some sort of super hero.
Rightfully dubbed “The First Lady of Song,” Ella’s ability to deliver a lyric without gimmicks, and with clarity and potency, is unrivaled.
Billy Strayhorn sums it up best. "Ella is the boss lady. That's all.”
Cape Town, South Africa’s “Mother City,” is a photographer’s paradise.
It’s breathtakingly beautiful – from the top of Table Mountain, you can see miles of white sandy beaches that rim the coastline, and crystal clear ocean, in every shade of blue.
More spectacular vistas can be seen from the Upper Lighthouse at the Cape Of Good Hope.
Looking out from Table Mountain, you see a small land mass in the ocean.
That’s Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and hundreds of other political prisoners were incarcerated under Apartheid.
I always assumed the island was named after a person, but “Robben” is the Dutch word for seal. Today, it's home to over 20 species of mammals and is a bird sanctuary with a large African penguin population.
We were privileged to have a former inmate, Jama Mbatyoti, as one of our guides.
He was arrested in 1976 for planning a march in his hometown of Port Elizabeth, and was confined for five years.
You could hear the pain in his words, and see it permanently etched in his face, as he spoke of the indignities he and his fellow prisoners suffered.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-seven years. He spent eighteen on Robben Island.
Mandela’s cell was in section B, where the leaders of political organizations were held, in isolation from the rest of the prison community.
Mr. Mbatyoti told us that Mandela liked to garden, and worked this small patch of land whenever he had the opportunity.
The Rutgers University Jazz Ensemble I performs live at WBGO for Jazz Appreciation Month with vocalist Champian Fulton. Click below to hear this concert, and tune in to 88.3 FM to hear this group featured on air during the first week of April. A full set list is below.
Every week in April, WBGO-FM will showcase a different student ensemble with vocalists who performed live in our studios for Jazz Appreciation Month. All of these full sets will be available online. Enjoy!
The Rutgers University Jazz Ensemble I
live at WBGO 3/6/15
Conrad Herwig, director
"Deed I Do" (by Fred Rose with lyrics by Walter Hirsch, arranged by Ernie Wilkins)
"Let’s Do It" (by Cole Porter)
"Easy Living" (by Ranger & Robin, arranged by Marc Stasio)
"The Song Is You" (by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, arranged by Gerald Wilson)
"They Didn’t Believe Me" (by Jerome Kern and Herbert Reynolds, arranged by Dave Burger)
Vocals on all songs by Champian Fulton
Jimmy Merchant, Sax-Alto
Oliver Santana Rivera, Sax-Alto
Sam Tobias, Sax-Bari
Abraham Burton, Sax-Tenor
John Donathan, Sax-Tenor
Guest sax on “The Song Is You” and “They Didn’t Believe Me” by Stephen Fulton
Gregory DeAngelis, Trombone
Matthew Echols, Trombone
Timothy Rechen, Trombone
Ben Weisiger, Trombone
Devenny Bennett, Trumpet
Shawn Edmonds, Trumpet
Anthony Fazio, Trumpet
Yi-JIUN Kao, Trumpet
Joshua Orr, Trumpet
John Morrison, Guitar
John Nunez, Guitar
Michael Bernabe, Piano
Luciano Minetti, Piano
Ross Garlow, Bass
Christopher Smith, Bass
Kyle Duppstadt, Drums
Daniel Giannone, Drums
When we first arrived in South Africa, everyone in our WBGO group was excited – but I don’t know if we realized that what awaited us was a profound and potentially life-changing experience.
Our visit to the Lesedi Cultural Village was a great introduction - a lighthearted and entertaining historical perspective on traits and traditions of the region’s tribes or ethnic groups.
As we took in the sights, sounds and tastes of Soweto, we were able to get some sense of the challenges of everyday life in the present time.
The Apartheid Museum took us on an emotional roller coaster - down into the depths of man’s inhumanity to man, and back up again, to see how the spirit of one man – Nelson Mandela – could illuminate that darkness, and bring people into the light of a “Rainbow Nation.”
South Africa’s beautiful landscape contains vast mineral resources, which has created enormous wealth for some and unimaginable poverty and misery for others.
On the bus ride to the Pilanesburg Game Reserve, we passed near some of the world’s largest platinum mines.
What astounds me is that miners must travel two hours down into the mines to begin their work. After their long shift, it’s another two hours back up to the surface.
Getting up close and personal with South Africa’s wildlife was another highlight of our trip. It’s an unforgettable thrill to see these beautiful creatures roaming free, right in front of you.
In some cases, like this wildebeest, beautiful may not be the most appropriate word.
Our safari guide told us the story that after God created all the animals, he had some spare parts – so he gave the wildebeest the tail of a horse, the horns of a cow and the beard of a goat!
Paquito D'Rivera talks with Gary Walker about his "Around The Americas" concerts March 27-28 at Jazz At Lincoln Center, and forthcoming CD "Aires Tropicales," both of which which explore the legacy of African music across the hemisphere. Enjoy!
We did it! Rhonda Hamilton, twenty-five lucky WBGO members and I are super-excited to be in the Rainbow Nation, South Africa.
This is the first peek at our adventures, so buckle in and enjoy the ride!
Our first stop: Lesedi Cultural Village. "Lesedi" means "place of light" in Basotho, one of South Africa's main tribal languages.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is in the heart of South Africa's characteristic bushveld and rocky hills, about 50 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg. It offers a peek into the lifestyles of the Basotho, Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, and Ndebele tribes.
Our charismatic tour guide gives us a quick lesson in Zulu, the dominant ethnic group in South Africa - about 80 percent of the population.
He also explains that in some tribes, a man is allowed more than one wife - depending on how many cows he owns. Our WBGO group is more women than men, but we all scoff when our guide says one powerful Zulu leader had sixty wives.
One of the highlights, or should I say, “high sights” of our tour is this tall gentleman, who stands guard in front of Lesedi's Zulu village. On cue, we collectively chant a request for entry, in the Zulu tongue. He grants our request.
Some of the ladies linger and repeat this exercise; I hear one of them say, “That fine man can guard my village any day of the week.”
Our guide offers us a staple dish, which may surprise many Westerners. Caterpillars! Yes, these creepy crawlers are very high in protein, rooty, and can be delicious when sautéed with onions and peppers.
Most in our group decide to pass on this culinary adventure - but I can say these salty, chewy treats can be good - as long as you erase the image of a creepy crawler from your mind.
Our first adventure ends with a thunderous bang – a show-stopping performance of rhythm, song, and dance by the village's folkloric dance troupe. To watch a video of this, click on the image above.
The Lesedi Village shows us “the light” of how our recent, and maybe even our ancient, ancestors lived, in the Cradle of Humankind. It should be noted that this locale has produced some of the oldest hominid fossils ever found, some dating back as far as 3.5 million years.
Yes, we’ve arrived in The Motherland, indeed. And we can’t wait to see more!
WBGO celebrates Latin jazz at the 92Y's “Latin On Lex” festival March 12-14.
To get ready, we’re brushing up on our Latin - and invite you to join us. Here are five fun facts we found!
The festival features Eddie Palmieri, Pedrito Martinez, Phil Woods and many others, and is curated by trumpeter Brian Lynch.
1. WHAT WAS THE FIRST LATIN JAZZ COMPOSITION?
“Tanga” was written by Cuban trumpeter Mario Bauzá and first recorded in 1943.
In the 1930s, Bauzá played in the top New York bands of Chick Webb and Cab Calloway, and wanted to combine the feel of Cuban “descarga” jam sessions with the swing feel and harmonies of North American jazz.
Bauzá mentored the young Dizzy Gillespie and sparked Dizzy's lifelong love of Latin rhythms. “Tanga” combines the “clave” rhythmic pattern common in Cuban dance music with space for jazz solos.
The "clave" cycle combines three long beats with two short beats in a repeating pattern, or two short beats followed by three long, over two measures. In "Tanga," the pattern is 2-3.
2. WHO IS MACHITO?
Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo was the son of a Havana cigar manufacturer who became a bandleader and singer. He was nicknamed "Macho" as a child because he was the first son born after three daughters. He switched to "Machito" out of respect for his new bride.
“Machito” was also the brother-in-law of Mario Bauzá, and was the first to record Bauzá’s “Tanga” with his band, the Afro-Cubans.
This band, which he led until 1976, was the first to consistently explore ways to combine Cuban rhythms with the harmonies and solos found in North American jazz.
3. WHAT ARE THE BRANCHES OF LATIN JAZZ?
Most “Latin” jazz since the 1940s falls into two categories: Afro-Cuban, often based on the “clave” and ostinato patterns of Cuban dance music, and Afro-Brazilian, which gained popularity worldwide through the success of Bossa Nova in the 1960s.
Jazz musicians also draw from the African musical traditions of countries such as Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico and Peru, and Argentina’s tango and Brazil’s maxixe were internationally popular before jazz spread around the world in 1917.
4. WHAT FAMOUS LATIN JAZZ INSTRUMENTS ARE AT THE SMITHSONIAN?
The timbales or shallow metal-shelled drums played by Tito Puente at the closing ceremonies at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics are on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.
The Harlem-born Puente, known as the “King of the Timbales,” graduated from Juilliard, was awarded the National Medal of the Arts and has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
5. WHO WAS THE FIRST LATIN JAZZ ARTIST ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS?
Percussionist Ray Barretto scored a hit in 1963 with “El Watusi,” which was was on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart for nine weeks and sold more than half a million copies.
While the song was not Latin jazz, Barretto was, for nearly fifty years, one of its most eloquent players.
In the 1960s, he was – simultaneously – the house percussionist for the era’s top three jazz labels: Blue Note, Prestige, and Riverside, and at the same time he recorded for the top Latin dance label, Tico. Barretto recorded with Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Freddie Hubbard, and many others.
Barretto was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006, the nation’s highest honor for a jazz musician.