Give props to the giants of our music

Memories of Ms. Melba Liston

Melba ListonOn the latest edition of our new podcast "We Insist!: Jazz Speaks Out," the subject is pianist, composer, humanitarian and Brooklynite Randy Weston and his groundbreaking recording Uhuru Afrika. Host Angelika Beener talks with Weston about his music and his love of Africa. They also talk about the first meeting between Weston and Melba Liston, the great trombonist and arranger who became a a 40+ year collaborator.

Randy says Melba was the key component to the success of many of his greatest recordings, including, most dramatically, "Uhuru Afrika." You can hear more about Ms. Liston, Babatunde Olatunji, Langston Hughes, Geoffrey Holder and others in this interesting program which you can listen to on-Demand. Hear a humble genius talk about his great friend and musical partner.

Randy Weston on Africa and Jazz

You can also listen to other conversations with Terence Blanchard, who talks about Miles Davis' "A Tribute to Jack Johnson" and Dr. Robin D.G. Kelly, who talks about jazz and the Civil Rights Movement.

Terence Blanchard on Miles and Jack Johnson

Dr. Robin Kelley on Jazz and Civil Rights

JazzSet in October

JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater is celebrating ten years with Dee Dee as host, and nearing our 20th anniversary on the air with live music every week. You have two chances to catch this week's show on WBGO Jazz 88 - Sundays at 6pm, Wednesdays at 6:30. Miss a show? Listen on demand. We're in Surround Sound. Here's our early fall line-up:

THIS WED, OCT 5, HEAR 2012 NEA Jazz Master Von Freeman, born October 3, 1923

We knew Freeman was born and stayed in Chicago, but until earlier this year, everyone including the man himself thought his birth year was 1922. Howard Reich of The Chicago Tribune suspected it was 1923, and writes here about how he corrected Von Freeman history. On this JazzSet from New Year's Eve, 2010, at the Green Mill, he dukes it out in a mock battle with fellow tenor Ed Petersen .

Freeman by Jimmy Katz
Freeman by Jimmy Katz

Yotam, courtesy of the artist
Yotam courtesy of the artist

SUN, OCT 9, AND WED, OCT 12, DISCOVER Ben Williams & Sound Effect and the Yotam Silberstein Quartet .. two new talents from the KC Jazz Club

Williams from the DC area won the Thelonious Monk International Bass Competition; now he leads a fresh-sounding quintet with Marcus Strickland on sax and Christian Sands on piano, to name just two. Guitarist Yotam from Tel Aviv made a great first impression on Kennedy Center audiences in the sold-out Ella! concert (as broadcast on JazzSet), and in Yotam's quartet you'll hear his boyhood friend from Israel, Roy Assaf on piano.


SUN, OCT 16, AND WED, OCT 19, NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston & African Rhythms
For pianist Weston, jazz is not a genre. It's home, celebrated in music from the opening "African Rhythms" to his long-time theme, "Love, the Mystery Of."

SUN, OCT 23, AND WED, OCT 26, Danilo Perez AND Poncho Sanchez, Back to Back
Danilo from Panama plays emotional, colorful, storytelling music from his album Providencia. Poncho from southern California and his long-running Latin jazz band (two dozen albums, one a year) party with the Newark audience, including some of his own family.

SUN, OCT 30, AND WED, NOV 2, NEA Jazz Master Toots Thielemans and Kenny Werner at the Kennedy Center - broadcast premiere of a concert from March, 2010
Toots holds the harmonica to his lips, the mic to his harmonica, and the music seems to come straight from his heart, with Guggenheim Fellow Kenny Werner on piano. The music comes from Belgium, the US and Brazil.

Toots Thielemans by Jos Knaepen
Thielemans by Jos Knaepen

Hargrove by John Rogers for NPR/
Hargrove by John Rogers for NPR/

SUN, NOV 4, AND WED, NOV 7, The Second Set: Trumpeter Roy Hargrove Quintet at the Village Vanguard

The first set aired Live from the Village Vanguard on WBGO and NPR Music. Here's the second set - all music, not a word from the stage. At the end, the audience claps for three minutes straight for Justin Robinson, alto; Sullivan Fortner, piano; Ameen Saleem, bass; Montez Coleman, drums; and Roy Hargrove. The sweetest tone in town.

Newark, NJ: An "Organ Town" for Over 50 Years

Dr. Lonnie Smith plays in the studio tomorrow at 3 p.m.
Dr. Lonnie Smith plays in the studio on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Recently, WBGO has had the good fortune of acquiring an excellent Hammond C-3 organ (pictured below) that now sits in our studio. On Saturday, the acclaimed organist Dr. Lonnie Smith will make an appearance with his organ trio (featuring drummer Jamire Williams and guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg) to give it a whirl -- and as it turns out, this performance will be part of a long history of the jazz organ entertaining Newark audiences. <!--more-->

The Checkout Interviews Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter will be performing this Wednesday at Town Hall -- for more, check out my preview that ran Friday in the Newark Star-Ledger. He'll also be featured on this week's edition of The Checkout. Producer Josh Jackson caught up with him last week from his home in West Hollywood, and suffered a few technical difficulties along the way. Here's his take on what went down:<!--more-->

WBGO's Love For Moody Week

[caption id="attachment_4393" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="WBGO Executive Director Cephas Bowles (left) shows James Moody some love"]WBGO Executive Director Cephas Bowles (left) showing some love for James Moody[/caption]

WBGO dedicates this week of programming to the memory of Newark native and jazz luminary James Moody, who passed away Thursday, December 9 at the age of 85.

UPDATE: The final segment of our James Moody tribute airs tonight at 8 p.m., 88.3 on your fm dial. Or, have a listen to it here:

As Becca and Brandy have mentioned previously, this week will feature some of our favorite Moody memories as we close out the 2010 broadcasting year (and look forward to Toast of the Nation.)

Tonight at 6:00 p.m., we will air a special edition of JazzSet, recorded for Moody's 80th birthday at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in 2005. It features some other heavy hitters, too, including Slide Hampton, Paquito D'Rivera, Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller. The show will re-air on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Tomorrow at noon (right after the news) we will follow up with Piano Jazz, featuring an interview with Moody and the show's always-lovely host, Marian McPartland.

On Thursday, we close out our special coverage with a compilation of Moody interviews from our extensive archives, edited by Simon Rentner. The hour-long feature begins at 8:00 p.m.

Follow the links below for more WBGO coverage celebrating the life and music of James Moody:

Doug Doyle remembers Moody for the WBGO Journal

Becca Pulliam pulls some Moody music from the WBGO archives

Eulus Cathey interviews Moody in 2009:

Josh Jackson pays homage to Moody on The Checkout

Finally, a video produced by Josh Jackson and Dan Karcher:

WBGO has been truly blessed by Moody's presence for many years -- we're sad to see him go, yet so fortunate to be able to honor his legacy. Join us this week as we celebrate the life of one of one of New Jersey's greatest contributions to jazz history. Please, feel free to share your favorite Moody memories in the comment section below.

Mary Lou Williams Centennial Celebrations Rise Again!

Mary Lou Williams Centennial CelebrationI'm just back from the Mary Lou Williams Centennial Celebration in Madison, WI (where I lived from 1969-82). Mary Lou was briefly an Artist-in-Residence at UW Madison in 1976. Meeting/interviewing her then and immersing myself in her residency put me on my track. Thirty-some years later, it was my honor to participate in this celebration. Madison, by the way, remains one of the all-time hospitable cities - centered on an isthmus between two beautiful lakes - and the home of a dedicated jazz community.

From Fri through Sun, Howard Landsman and his committee hosted events around town, featuring the UW Hiphop Ensemble, The Music of Mary Lou Wms from 1929-78 presented by her mgr and the Director of the MLW Foundation - Fr Peter O'Brien, and a symposium with Profs Sherrie Tucker, Guy Ramsey, Ted Buehrer and Farrah Griffin. Both MLW biographers - Linda Dahl and Dr. Tammy Kernodle - were in town. On Saturday night at the Capitol Theater, the MLW Collective featuring Madison Poet Laureate Fabu, the magnificent Geri Allen on piano, Kenny Davis on bass, Kassa Overall (the nephew of the current WI Gov and his wife!) on drums, and guest vocalist Carmen Lundy. Everyone was great and all hail Geri. In the first half they presented MLW's Zodiac Suite from the 1940s, but what I loved most was "Peter's Blues" in the second half, animated by Geri's elbows.

On Sunday morning 8am at Mt Zion Baptist Church, the awesome Leotha Stanley (a committee member) conducted Mary Lou's Mass - a Catholic mass in a Baptist church. After briefly noting that slight mismatch, Stanley launched the choir into an excellent performance, not one bit less stunning than the celebratory May 2010 pfmnces at St. Francis Xavier in Greenwich Village and The Kennedy Center. WOW. Carmen Lundy's singing of the Lazarus story makes time stop for me. Professor George Shirley from the U of MI was the baritone soloist. Sitting in the balcony of this med sized, straightforward sanctuary and facing the choir and a single, modern stained glass window behind it, I had a slightly elevated perspective and felt the joy rising.

Prof Jimmy Cheatham of the UW Experimental Black Music Ensemble (1972-77) brought MLW to campus in '76. He has passed away, but his wife Jeannie Cheatham came from San Diego to enjoy and be honored by the City of Madison. On Sat night, some of the musicians (older now, like me) gathered to jam in Jimmy and Jeannie's honor. (That link leads you to the Jimmy & Jeannie Cheatham Collection, now online from the Marr Sound Archive at  Univ of Missouri in Kansas City.) It was small with a lot of love. You could not ask for more.

David "Fathead" Newman: 2/24/33-1/20/09

Saxophonist David Newman
photo by John Rogers

David "Fathead" Newman died yesterday, January 20 @ 6:00pm. He had suffered from pancreatic cancer for over a year but tried to keep his music alive to the very end. His widow Karen would like to thank everybody that supported his music over the years. Donations can be made in his honor to The Jazz Foundation. A memorial service will be announced in the very near future.

Last year, David Newman joined WBGO's Gary Walker on Morning Jazz. You can hear the interview:


Jazz Forum Arts: Barry Harris at WBGO

Watch the archived video.

See photos from the performance and interview:

Piano notes

10 06 10 Queen to MarianNote #1: On June 8, the Queen's official birthday, at a reception at Her Majesty's Consul General's Residence (near the UN), the Queen (not present) bestowed the honour of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire upon Margaret Marian McPartland, who was present and seated under a good-sized Andy Warhol portrait of the Queen. Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz was noted in the presentation.

Note #2: Sunday June13 at 6pm and Wednesday June 16 at 6:30 in a broadcast premiere on JazzSet, pianist Edward Simon - now a Guggenheim Fellow and member of the SF JAZZ Collective - presents his piece Sorrows and Triumphs . The performance by the septet Afinidad comes from the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, AR. David Binney is co-leader. The entire concert is really neat! Mystical and musical.

David Binney at Afinidad rehearsal in Fayetteville
David Binney at Afinidad rehearsal in Fayetteville

The web extra piece at is Simon's "Impossible Dream." Here's an excerpt with Gretchen Parlato vocals, Adam Rogers guitar, Scott Colley bass, Antonio Sanchez drums, Rogerio Boccato pc.

Scott Colley
Scott Colley

Sorrows and Triumphs was created with support from Chamber Music America’s New Works: Creation & Presentation Program, funded generously through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Mary Lou Williams Centennial Is May 8

This weekend marks 100 years since the birth in Atlanta of Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981), one of the greatest musicians and first women in jazz. Creative, profound, productive from her teens in Kansas City through her teaching at Duke University, her life inspired Duke Ellington to write “Mary Lou Williams is perpetually contemporary. Her music retains a standard of quality that is timeless. She is like Soul on Soul.”

10 05 06 MLW lioness27
Photo courtesy Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers Newark

The Institute of Jazz Studies website is your quickest way to learn about her, just a click away. The online exhibit is thorough and beautifully done. Plan to spend at least 15 minutes with this multimedia biography. It comes from material in the Mary Lou Williams Collection (she was a saver and left everything to the IJS).

This Sunday at 6pm, JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater features MLW in performances from more than 30 years ago, as she rocked the houses at the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin. She tells and plays the history of jazz from spirituals through ragtime, blues, the “swingin left hand” a/k/a stride, and modern sounds. Only MLW could say "This music doesn't have anything to do with New Orleans or Africa. It's American music." And then she chuckles. Ronnie Boykins (1935-1980, veteran of the Sun Ra Arkestra) is on bass, Charli Persip on drums. (At Jazz Standard Tues night, when Mulgrew Miller played “Ev'ry Day I Have the Blues,” he paralleled MLW's Basie-like treatment of “Bag’s Groove” that closes the JazzSet.) Rebroadcast Wednesday at 6:30 or on demand any time.


<!--more-->10 05 06 MLW lioness29Here in New York to mark the centennial, Dizzy’s Club at JALC is presenting the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra with guests Kenny Barron and, over the weekend, Lew Tabackin in Music of MLW. Sounds like a must-see.

A major centennial event is a performance of Mary Lou’s Mass, her long form, religious composition. WBGO's Rob Crocker is MC. The modest ticket price ($20) goes to help people in trouble (which also happens to be the name of one of the movements of the piece). Here is an excerpt from the press release:
The newly restored Church of St. Francis Xavier and the Mary Lou Williams Foundation will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the First Lady of Jazz with a concert to benefit Xavier Mission outreach programs including the homeless shelter and soup kitchen. The celebration takes place on Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 7:30pm. The lineup will include the renowned jazz accompanist Aaron Diehl with his trio of special guest Victor Goines on saxophone and clarinet, Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Marion Felder on drums; Laurel Massé, founding member of the vocal group Manhattan Transfer and a 40-voice choir directed by John Uehlein, Music Director at the Church of St. Francis Xavier.
Advance tickets ($40 Premium, $20 General, $10 Student with ID) may be purchased at a reduced rate online at Tickets will also be available at the door that evening.

(Fr O'Brien was MLW's manager for the last decade, directs the MLW Foundation, and is encyclopedic on her career and milieu.)

In Boston,
The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra with Special Guest Geri Allen, pianist, and Father Peter F. O’Brien, guest narrator, present a Mary Lou Williams Centennial Celebration: From Swing to Sacred Music, a Journey of Faith on Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 8pm at Boston College, Robsham Theatre, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA. Box Office: 617-552-4002 Information: 617-776-8778

Alvin Ailey choreographed Mary Lou’s Mass, and the Ailey dancers will perform it at BAM in Brooklyn in July. In the “Ailey Spirit” program, BAM audiences will be the first in 35 years to see Ailey’s joyous ballet Mary Lou’s Mass. This new production coincides with the centennial celebration of jazz pioneer Mary Lou Williams, whose music inspired a work “perfect for Ailey” that is “a celebration of life, jazz and gospel” (The New York Times).
Jun 10, 15, 18 & 19 at 7:30pm .. Jun 13 & 20 at 3pm ..

The 15th annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival takes place at the Kennedy Center from May 20-22, featuring Howard University's jazz vocal ensemble, Afro Blue, opens each night's concert with a Williams vocal work arranged by Howard University's own Connaitre Miller, Afro Blue Music Director.

The opening night concert on Thursday, May 20, features an extended performance by an all-star quintet of Dee Dee Bridgewater, Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington, Esperanza Spalding and Grace Kelly, plus a set by 2009 Women in Jazz Competition–winning pianist Carmen Staaf.

On Friday, May 21, vocalist Catherine Russell returns to the Terrace Theater. Plus, Kennedy Center big band favorite Sherrie Maricle and DIVA take on some of Williams' heartiest charts.

On Saturday, May 22, California-based Ann Patterson's Maiden Voyage big band performs several charts arranged by Mary Lou Williams for the Ellington Orchestra. Saxophonist Virginia Mayhew returns to the Festival with a small ensemble salute to the divine Ms. Williams. The climax is the Mary Lou Williams Collective with pianist Geri Allen, Music Director, vocalist Carmen Lundy, and Afro Blue performing Mary Lou's Mass.

In Madison, WI, a full weekend festival is planned in October. (Music from MLW's 1976 residency at UW is featured on the JazzSet. She made an impression, still revered in that city 34 years later.) More is at

MLW was teaching at Duke University when she died. Today the African-American student center is named for her. The website shows no events in her honor, but bears this celebratory headline: “The Mary Lou is hiring new student positions.”

Mary Lou grew up in Pittsburgh. WDUQ offers this feature:

If you know something else that’s going on, please add to the list!