Jazz Osmosis

How to learn about this music by being surrounded by fanatics.

JD Allen Trio - "Son House"

"I didn't know I loved her 'til they laid her down..."
When I heard saxophonist JD Allen say those words from the stage during soundcheck today, I knew exactly what he was talking about. That's a line from "Death Letter," by Son House. It is an iconic blues song, and a favorite of mine.

The JD Allen trio played a set of music from J&R Music World, one that drew heavily from their most recent release, I Am I Am. Except for "Son House," a song the band just recorded for a future release called Shine. Check it out:

 

And just because you can, watch Son House perform "Death Letter:"

 

"I didn't know I loved her 'til they laid her down..."
-Josh

Don't Mess With Mr. T

I pity the fool who tries to play like Stanley Turrentine. His sound is so thoroughly drenched in soul. That's why I miss Mr. T, an alias of saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. Today would be Stanley's burthday. I highly encourage you to dig through some of Stanley's Blue Note records, especially the stuff with Horace Parlan's trio or Jimmy Smith. In many ways, Stanley's big sound reminds me of the soulful tenor player from Newark, Ike Quebec.

Check out this live performance of "Don't Mess With Mr. T." Fans of Marvin Gaye will recognize the music from Marvin's soundtrack to the film, Trouble Man. I love Marvin's lyrics, which are partly autobiographical - I come up hard/I come up, gettin' down/There's only three things/That's for sho'/Taxes, death and trouble...

 

Nat King Cole Born Today

As the luck of the Irish would have it, Nathaniel Adams Cole , aka Nat King Cole, was born on this date. Most people know him more as the singer of "Nature Boy" than of "Danny Boy."
I think I love Nat Cole's piano playing as much as, if not more than, I love his smoky voice. Years ago, I spent college scholarship money on the 18-CD set on Mosaic Records, The Complete Capitol Recordings of the Nat King Cole Trio. 349 songs from 1942-1961. Now out of print...
I suppose that technically counted as an education expense, right?
Anyway, here's a video of Nat Cole playing "Tea for Two." Listen for the "Foggy Day" quote in his introduction, and to his "Rhapsody in Blue" reference in his solo. - Josh

 

The Physically Fit Don Braden

Doug Doyle and Don Braden

Two guys who never formally met before sat down for an interview...and could have chatted for hours...that's what happened when saxophonist and composer Don Braden came in for the latest SportsJam session. Even though Don had been at Jazz 88 many times, I've never had a chance to talk to him. It's amazing how jazz, sports and kids can create bonds. Don brought his gorgeous sax and thrilled us with his jazzy rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and an original tune he composed for his daughter. Don's strict fitness and nutrition program inspired this overweight anchor to hit the gym!
Check out our conversation.
-Doug Doyle

Jazz on the Brain

Improvising Brain

People who know me will tell you I always have jazz on the brain. Guilty as charged. Recently, scientists studied improvising musicians, hoping to unlock the underlying neurological functions of high and low level musical improvisation. A summation of the study is here.
Turns out all you have to do is turn off your prefrontal cortex (can an Idiot's Guide to Turning Off Your Prefrontal Cortex be far behind?).
This study reminds me of a conversation I had with the New Orleans writer, performer, and creator Kalamu Ya Salaam. One night on Rampart Street, at a club called The Funky Butt, I watched in awe as Kalamu performed an original poem in a style similar to the way that pianist Cecil Taylor played his music. Kalamu and I worked together at WWOZ in New Orleans. One night, during his Thursday evening Kitchen Sink show, I asked him how he could do such things.
He said, "There's an invisible button located on your forehead. It controls the part of your brain that says you cannot do something. Turn it off."
-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

Goodbye Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson 1925-2007

Sometimes you're just not ready for a particular artist or a piece of music.

That was my first experience with Oscar Peterson. I wasn't ready for it. The sound was simply overwhelming. Too many notes. Pianistic pyrotechnics, at least to my inexperienced ears. My comfort zone at that time was the lilting sway of Red Garland, the impeccable touch of Wynton Kelly, the lonely lyricism of Bill Evans. Basically, any piano player that Miles Davis endorsed.

And Miles was less than kind when it came to descriptions of Oscar Peterson. "Nearly everything he plays," said Davis, "he plays with the same degree of force. He leaves no holes for the rhythm section."

So I ignored Oscar Peterson for too long. But neglecting Oscar wasn't easy, and it didn't last. He was a prolific performer, and he began to creep into my peripheral vision more and more. He was everywhere. Ella and Louis - check. Diz and Getz - check. Prez and Lady Day - yup.

I kept getting closer to the source. In 2000, I worked on Jazz From Lincoln Center with Ed Bradley. We recorded a "Duet on the Hudson" from the Kaplan Penthouse in New York. Ray Brown and Monty Alexander. I interviewed them both for the eventual radio show. Ray Brown talked about the great duet record with Jimmy Blanton and Duke Ellington. Then the conversation turned into an Oscar ceremony - his admiration for bassist Oscar Pettiford, and his longtime association with pianist Oscar Peterson. Monty Alexander started in about Nat Cole, and eventually landed on Oscar Peterson.

I remember a moment during Martin Scorsese's THE BLUES series a few years later. During the episode that Clint Easwood directed, "Piano Blues," Ray Charles gave a ringing endorsement to Oscar Peterson's skill, one that I'll allow you to discover for yourself. Let's just say it contained a fairly colorful phrase that the FCC would not consider "family-friendly."

Anyway, I owe thanks to Brother Ray for redirecting me to the Oscar Peterson Trio. I dug into those classic recordings of Peterson, Ray Brown, and drummer Ed Thigpen. Boy, do they swing (I know that word is highly charged, so I don't use it lightly). I still haven't heard all of those trio records. But the trio recording NIGHT TRAIN, THE SOUND OF THE TRIO, LIVE FROM CHICAGO, WE GET REQUESTS, VERY TALL, TRIO +1, and the bushel of songbook records are a still a joy to visit.

One session that comes to mind is the date that the trio recorded with the master arranger Nelson Riddle. They sounded so restrained, or better, so composed. All that finger-breaking technique at Oscar Peterson's disposal, yet he plays some of the most unadorned piano I ever heard him play. The B side of the record ends with Benny Goodman's classic signoff - Gordon Jenkins' "Goodbye." Great stuff.

Oscar Peterson signed off recently. He played music for a living. He played himself, for us. I'm glad I discovered that.

Goodbye, Oscar Peterson.

 


A few thoughts on Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson's passing this week got me to thinking about one of my first exposures to jazz...

I wasn't always a news guy.

As some of you might know, in a previous life, I did tech work in theater, both Off-Broadway and summer stock in Vermont. One summer in the early 90's, I was involved with a production of a new Doug Carter Beene play (which eventually moved to New York) called The Country Club. I wouldn't necessarily call it the most memorable of Beene's plays (who has had great success on the New York stage), but one of the things I remember the best from that production is the music selected for scene changes: Oscar Peterson Plays The Cole Porter Songbook.

Album Cover

I didn't know nearly as much then about jazz as I do now (you can't work at a place like 'BGO and not at least soak it in through osmosis), but I did recognize that this was a special album and a tremendous talent. I ended picking up a copy of this for my own cd collection. It was one of my first brushes with jazz, a good place to start. Thank you, Oscar.

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