Jazz Alive

Live blogging from station events.

Paquito D'Rivera on "Aires Tropicales": Listen Now

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!


WBGO In South Africa 1: Lesedi Cultural Village

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!

5 Fun Facts About Latin Jazz: Get Ready!

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.



“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.


Photo by William Gottlieb, Jr.

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.


latinmannMost “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.



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.



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.

Cephas Bowles Remembered

Cephas Bowles at the Newark Arts Council's Art Parade
Cephas Bowles at the Newark Arts Council's Art Parade

Cephas Bowles, a proud Newark native with a notable reputation in public radio, is being remembered for his 20 years of leadership at WBGO. Cephas passed away on Saturday, February 21, after a lengthy illness. He was 62.

WBGO could have had no better champion for our city and its music. A graduate of Newark’s Barringer High School, Cephas loved his home town, and was born of its culture - especially its tradition of organ music. All of us at WBGO know that it was jazz in all its forms that sustained him, and throughout the week, our announcers have played and will continue to play musical tributes in his honor.

A staunch advocate for public radio both locally and nationally, Cephas’ contributions to the viability and growth of WBGO led to the station becoming the leading jazz radio station in the United States, and arguably the world. Under his leadership, WBGO became the primary jazz content producer for NPR. Cephas led the charge for capital improvements to the station’s headquarters in Newark,  as well as the Signal Improvement Project, which involved installing a new transmitter and antenna atop 4 Times Square in New York City.  He significantly grew WBGO’s financial and human resources, and is remembered by all who worked with him as a consummate professional.

Cephas’ career in radio spanned over 40 years, beginning at CBS News in New York City in 1974 as Assistant Producer for Spectrum.  In 1978, he moved to Tucson, Arizona to work for KUAT, ultimately serving as the Radio Station Manager there from 1983 through 1990, as well as the University of Arizona’s Acting Director of the Division of Media Studies.  Cephas also served on a number of policy and programmatic committees and advisory boards for the City of Tucson, the University of Arizona, NPR, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He was a co-founder of Blacks in Public Broadcasting, and a longstanding committee member of the Tucson Community Foundation. Cephas relocated to Newark in 1993 taking over as General Manager at WBGO, and was named President and CEO in 2009.

Cephas served on the board of directors of National Public Radio, Inc. where he was the Chairman of the Investment and Administration/Finance Committees.  He served as a longstanding member of the Newark Regional Business Partnership Board of Directors, and was a board member of the Syracuse University Jazz Appreciation Society.  Bowles also offered his expertise to various community Boards, including the Newark Arts Council, Dover Zoning Board of Adjustment, State of NJ Martin Luther King Committee and National Jazz Museum of Harlem.

Bowles was the recipient of countless other awards including a Jazz Hero Award from the Jazz Journalists of America (2014); the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Ryan Community Service Award (2013); WBGO Champion of Jazz Award, (2013); Syracuse University Jazz Leadership and Alumni Jazz Appreciation Society awards (2012). Other honors included Recognition Award from NPR (2007); Associates in Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, Inc. Executive Leadership Award (2006); Newark School of the Arts Shining Star Award (2006); Eller MBA Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Arizona's Karl Eller Master of Business Administration Program (2004). The Star-Ledger named him one of New Jersey's most influential arts leaders (1998) and the City News tapped him as one the 100 Most Influential people (1997).

Cephas was never far from a radio. "As we spent our last few hours together, Cephas was comforted by the sounds of jazz wafting throughout the room," said Linda Bowles, his wife of nearly 18 years. "He bobbed his head and tapped out the beats with his finger while his beloved WBGO played to the very end."

Bowles is survived by his wife, Linda Arrington-Bowles, and five siblings: Carey Bowles Jr., Ruth Hall (Jerry), Paul Bowles, Elizabeth Gaskin (Orrett), and Deborah Bowles; and a host of cousins, nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. He was preceded in death by his father, Carey C. Bowles, Sr., mother, Sarah Rosa Bowles and sister Sarah Wilson.

Visitation will be held at Fountain Baptist Church, 116 Glenside Avenue, Summit, NJ, on Thursday, February 26, from 4:00 - 8:00 p.m. Funeral services will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, February 27, at Fountain Baptist Church with internment immediately following at Evergreen Cemetery, 1137 N. Broad St., Hillside, NJ.

WBGO Travel: Newport Jazz Festival 2015 Day Trips

photo by Doug Mason

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) 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.

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

Snarky Puppy
Christian McBride Trio w Christian Sands & Ulysses Owens
John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble
Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet
Steve Lehman Octet
Gerald Clayton Quintet w Ambrose Akinmusire, Ben Wendel, Joe Sanders & Justin Brown
Bria Skonberg Quintet
Herlin Riley Quintet
Lucky Peterson – Singin' The Blues
Matana Roberts' Coin Coin
Johnathan Blake Quartet
Peter Evans Quinte
The Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra w special guest soloist Sean Jones

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

Cassandra Wilson celebrates Billie Holiday
Jon Batiste and Stay Human
Maria Schneider Orchestra
Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
Cécile McLorin Salvant
José James
Pat Martino Organ Trio
Conrad Herwig's Latin Side of Horace Silver fea. guest Michel Camilo
Jack DeJohnette's Made in Chicago
Hiromi: The Trio Project w Anthony Jackson & Simon Phillips
Kenny Garrett Quintet
Wycliffe Gordon & Friends
Tom Harrell Quintet w Wayne Escoffery, Danny Grissett, Ugonna Okegwo & Johnathan Blake
Introducing Joey Alexander

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

Jamie Cullum
Arturo Sandoval
Dr. John and The Nite Trippers
Michel Camilo/Hiromi Piano Duets
Mike Stern/Bill Evans Band
Arturo O'Farrill's Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra w special guest Rudresh Mahanthappa
Bill Frisell Trio w Tony Scherr & Kenny Wollesen
Billy Childs’ Jazz-Chamber Ensemble
Jon Faddis: Triumph of Trumpets w Marquis Hill, Sean Jones, David Hazeltine, Kiyoshi Kitagawa & Dion Parsons
James Carter Sextet - Living My Life: The Music of Don Byas
Fred Hersch Trio w John Hebert & Eric McPherson
Lou Donaldson Quartet
Scott Robinson’s Doctette
Jason Lindner Now vs. Now

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)

NYC Packages
Enter Code/Select Member Rate

Brooklyn Packages
Enter Code/Select Member Rate

NJ Packages
Enter Code/Select Member Rate

Round Trip from Boston
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)

Boston Packages
Enter Code/Select Member Rate

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 events@wbgo.org. Please indicate departure city.

Folding Chairs

Get your WBGO Folding Chair
If you do not have a chair that meets the regulations of the Festival, we will have some onsite for purchase. If you advise us by reply email or phone that you are interested we will have it for you when you arrive for $30. Should you purchase it onsite it will be $40.
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!
Date / Location

Bourne's Mohonk 2015: Better Than Ever

This is the first of several highlights from this year's Jazz On The Mountain festival.

I was afraid I was jinxing myself, as I got ready for this year's JOTM at the Mohonk Mountain House.


This year's line-up looked to be one of the best I've emceed, performed at, and "curated" - more like "fantasized" - at Mohonk in 16 years. Almost too good to be true.

But this year’s JOTM turned out to be, indeed, one of the best.

L-R: Amy Niles, Michael Bourne, Guy Davis. Photo: Cynthia Lewis & Byron Smith

This year’s Jazz On The Mountain was enjoyed by more WBGO’ers than ever before.

About half of Mohonk’s enormous castle on the lake was filled with folks who'd come on the WBGO trip package, and something like 140 folks attended the Saturday evening dinner with the artists.

L-R: WBGO Dinner with Terry Dawson, Rita Annan-Brady & drummer Dennis Mackrel

Kudos to the indefatigable WBGO travel troupe: Amy Niles, John Newcott, Carmen Balentine, and Jennifer Spiegler.

WBGO's Jen Spiegler

My mantra about the artists I invite to Mohonk is that "they don't come to play a gig, they come to play!"

The Butler-Bernstein Hot Nine On Parade

And the artists who get into the spirit of the jazzfest, in their own shows and often joining in other shows, while also enjoying being with their loved ones in the  Mountain House - we call these artists "Mohonk-y."

L-R: Scott Robinson, Martin Wind, Helen Sung, Dennis Mackrel

And about that Mountain House… it was built in 1869, and it always looks beautiful!

Photo: Carmen Balentine

Coming up: more on our favorite Mohonk-y moments and musicians, including Dave Stryker, Martin Wind, Scott Robinson and Catherine Russell, so stay tuned!

Newport Jazz Festival 2015

Images from the Newport Jazz Festival

WBGO Travel invites you to enjoy the sun, fun and music at the Newport Jazz Festival, July 31- August 3, 2015.

Arrive at the Newport Hotel & Marina on Thursday night, rested and ready for the Friday start of the Newport Jazz Festival.

If a Friday arrival works better for your schedule, join us then. We will greet all our guests on Friday night at a welcome reception at the hotel,  then hop aboard the trolley to take you to/from the concert at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Saturday and Sunday mornings, take a short walk to the ferry dock where you will be jetted to a full day of a variety of musical enjoyment at the legendary outdoor Festival inside historic Fort Adams State Park. Before departing back to reality on Monday, join us for a bon voyage breakfast and take in the view from the marina. WBGO will provide you with an insider’s list of the best places to visit when the music isn’t playing, but when it is, you will hear:

  • Christian McBride Trio
  • Cassandra Wilson celebrates Billie Holiday
  • Jon Batiste & Stay Human
  • Chris Botti
  • Dr. John & The Nite Trippers
  • Jamie Cullum
  • Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
  • Jon Faddis: Triumph of Trumpets
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant
  • José James

Details of Newport weekend package:

• 3 [or 4] night hotel stay at the recently updated Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina.
• Welcome Reception at the hotel on Friday evening
• Two reserved seat concert tickets for Friday night, 8pm at The International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino, , plus round trip ground transportation to/from venue and hotel
• Two general admission festival tickets for both Saturday & Sunday
• Bon Voyage Breakfast at the marina on Monday morning
• Parking at the hotel for 3 [or 4] nights

Festival Gates open at 10am, Saturday Festival Music Program: 10:45am-7pm, Sunday Festival Music Program: 11am-6:45 pm. Ferry passes to festival site not included. Parking at festival not included.

Rates & Reservations:
Double Occupancy:
3 Night Price: $2,390 includes above detailed package for two people
4 Night Price: $2,875 includes above detailed package for two people, plus Thursday night stay with Friday day time festival tickets
Single Occupancy:
3 Night Price: $1,965 includes above detailed package for one person
4 Night Price: $2,375 includes above detailed package for one person, plus Thursday night stay with Friday day time festival tickets
Inquire about family rates. Read our Cancellation Policy.
To make your reservation call 973-624-8880 x269 or email events@wbgo.org


Highlights from 2014 on WBGO
Highlights from 2014 on WBGO

2014 has been an exciting year at WBGO, launching a new program, and, of course, continuing to present our music to listeners on air, online and on the WBGO mobile app.

Perhaps you have tuned in on Wednesday or Sunday evenings to hear our newest show. The program, Jazz Night in America, is hosted by internationally renowned New Jersey resident Christian McBride. What makes this show even more special is that it was born from a collaboration between WBGO, NPR Music and Jazz at Lincoln Center. And public radio audiences- some of them new to our music- are embracing it. It shows that our music is relevant. The stories behind our music are compelling. And the music is wonderful.

Maybe you are a regular listener to The Checkout. Our new host is Simon Rentner who has been contributing to the show since its inception. The show features iconic artists, jazz stars from half a world away and artists who are on the rise, but always current. Speaking of current, log on to www.WBGO.org/Radar to hear hand selected jazz releases before they are available to the public. We recently celebrated the 100th recording available through this unique service to our listeners.

If you are a member of our Jazz Leadership Society, you may have joined us for our annual get together. The divine Barbara Carroll was our headliner and we surprised her with fellow JLS member Tony Bennett who joined her onstage for a song. This was a moment that many of us will never forget. Speaking of Tony, if you missed Michael Bourne’s interview with him and Lady Gaga, you can find it on our website, or the cover of the November issue of Downbeat!  The very same week Michael’s interview aired on WBGO, we had Hugh Masekela and Quincy Jones on the air! If you missed any of them on the radio, you can find these and other exclusive interviews and specials on the WBGO blog.

Did you travel with us this year? We took trips to Montreal, and Brazil, The Newport Jazz Festival and the Mohonk Mountain House. We produced special events such as Our Point of View in partnership with Blue Note Records, and special nights of music at Yamaha, and in our very own studios.

Maybe you attended one of our Kids Jazz Concerts and watched a child hear our music for the very first time.

And Rhythm Revue. And Gary and Doug in the morning. And Rhonda and Michael, Awilda, Brian, Rob, Bill, Sheila, Bob, Monifa, Daniel, Eulis.

Thank you for being a part of this great public radio station. As long as we can count on your support, we can continue to share these experiences with you.

Saxophonist Jimmy Greene: Listen Now

Saxophonist Jimmy Greene talks with Rhonda Hamilton about his new CD "Beautiful Life," which honors his daughter Ana Grace, who passed away in Newtown, CT on Dec. 14, 2012.

Greene performs at New York's Jazz Standard. Dec. 11-13 with Sachal Vasandani & Jean Baylor on  vocals, Renee Rosnes and Orrin Evans on piano, Luke Sellick, bass, Jimmy MacBride, drums, and other special guests.


Organist Radam Schwartz: Listen Now

Organist Radam Schwartz talks with Gary Walker about his CD "Swingin' The Holidays" and free concert at Newark's Gateway 2 on Wednesday, Dec. 3 at noon. Enjoy!