Live at the Village Vanguard continues on Wednesday, October 8th at 9pm. Pianist Bill Charlap leads his versatile trio featuring Peter Washington on bass and drummer Kenny Washington. They've played together for more than a decade now, which basically means two things - 1) They must like each other 2) They have created a trio sound akin to a Vulcan mind meld.
So join us on the air, on line, or in the club. Wednesday, October 8th.
Meanwhile, watch the trio performing at the Vanguard in 2004.
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Day Three Saturday June 28th
Rainy but not raining, what Michele says folks in the Northwest call "spitting." Were it not wet I might've enjoyed the first group to be judged, a generic quartet fronted by saxist Jerrold Dubyk. All of these groups are good enough to be up for the prize, but only a few have that unique "thing" (tunes, grooves, presence, a character or sound) that elevates them into a winner. Dubyk's group was more or less the same as about half the groups in the competition -- except for the electric bass player's solo, which was only notes up and down the scale. "I don't want to be prejudicial," I said to some of the other judges, "but that was the worst bass solo I've ever heard." And they expressed consensus.
Group #5 is a contender: WAZA, a trio with electric keys, electric bass, and an electrifying drummer. They played solid and quite compositional grooves, especially from the drummer. They were fun to listen to, as if listening to really hip toys. After a thunderstorm of funk from the bassist, Nancy, one of the judges, said "Now that was a bass solo!"
Hank Jones was joined for duets by Brad Mehldau, and the interplay was wonderful. Hank played melodies or only changes elegantly while Brad danced around and through -- danced like Barishnykov.
"Night in Tunisia" they played at first fragmented, but then Dizzy's tune blossomed. Hank's solo of "The Very Thought of You" was so deeply beautiful that Brad mostly listened, enraptured. Hank was again whimsically witty about which song they'd play next, or which piano they'd play. "Just One of Those Things" was a joyful finale, and I could hear the lyric: "it was great fun!"
Drummer and composer Brian Blade brings the Fellowship Band to the Village
Vanguard this week. We are presenting them live on WBGO and NPR Music,
tomorrow night at 9pm. Don't miss this.
It's never an easy interview when your guest is a quiet, introspective person.
But Brian and I share a passion for music made intently and intensely. I
suppose that's why I love listening to The Fellowship Band. Especially when
they play at the Village Vanguard.
Anyway, listen to Brian Blade talk about music. My favorite story? One night,
just before midnight, Brian biked through the French Quarter in New Orleans.
He absolutely had to buy a Blind Willie Johnson record before the store closed.
So Brian gets home, plays the music, and cannot go to bed. The bare sound
of Johnson and his guitar was haunting. One of many stories you'll find when
you listen to the interview here.
On the way home from the Jazz Gallery, walking up Seventh Avenue,
used-to-be WBGO night man James Browne pulled me into his club Sweet
Rhythm to see Lezlie Harrison sing. A long time ago, Lezlie hosted the
jazz party on Saturday evenings on WBGO. She's never stopped using that
fine voice, and moved me with her singing and the solos by Luca Tozzi on
guitar and Greg Lewis on organ on "A Lover is Forever," once recorded by
Etta James. I'm going to download Etta right now. Lezlie's drummer is
Luca Santaniello. As I was leaving, Greg was rolling his Hammond out the
door. Musicians work hard and give much! Wish I had photos.
Fred Hersch has been a friend of WBGO for at least twenty years. He was in Jane Ira Bloom's group when we recorded her at Citicorp Center for a series called Jazz at the Market (host was the Rev. John Garcia Gensel of St. Peter's Church). I remember that Fred and Jane had brought a piano tuner, but the Center didn't want their tuner to touch the piano. I was disappointed, and learning on the job. Fred was .. well, if not incensed, he was at least insulted.
Fred was part of a concert at Town Hall with MC Steve Allen (the TV personality, dating all the way back to the first Tonight Show). As Steve Allen was telling stories and getting into it, he turned to Fred and asked for "a little something underneath this;" on demand, Fred played the perfect "patter" music.
But Fred wasn't born for that role. From his earliest time in New York, he belonged in top groups. He was a sideman for leaders a generation or more his senior, such as Joe Henderson - from Ohio, like Fred.
At the Iowa City Jazz Festival in the 1990s, I remember Fred getting onstage and talking about funding cuts coming to the National Endowment for the Arts. He wanted me to do that with him, and I didn't. His political passion took me by surprise.
Fred studied with Sophia Rosoff (as did Barry Harris, a revered teacher in New York, who shows pianists how to produce sound through the keys by relaxing. Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus was one of Fred's many many students.
The 1986 group must have been one of his first. Dick Oatts was on sax, Randy Brecker on trumpet, although they stepped aside for the ballad "Con Alma."
The group Steps Ahead came together in 1979, but their debut album did not arrive until 1983. By that time, Steps had created a potent form of fusion. WBGO recorded an early version of the band in the summer of 1982, during the now-defunct Kool Jazz Festival. Vibraphonist Mike Maineri (photographed above) was the leader, and the lineup included some heavy hitters - drummer Peter Erskine, bassist Eddie Gomez, pianist Don Grolnick, and saxophonist Michael Brecker. Brecker was already a star, even though he had not yet recorded a solo effort (and would not for nearly five more years...strange but true...). Steps Ahead became a group that people in and out of jazz noticed, and a lot of young talent got an early lift from being in the band
(pianist Eliane Elias comes to mind).
Check out Steps Ahead playing "Islands," from the WBGO Archives.
Abbey Lincoln is proof that a rose by any other name smells as sweet. The reigning diva of jazz has had more than a few names over the years. She was born Anna Marie Wooldridge. Her earliest professional names include Gaby Wooldridge and Gaby Lee. For eight years, she was legally Mrs. Max Roach. The cultural minister of Zaire bestowed the name Aminata Moseka.
Abbey Lincoln has certainly earned the right of the great singers in our music, those who need only one name. Billie. Sarah. Ella. Carmen. Betty. Abbey.
For decades, Ms. Lincoln has also been the poet laureate of jazz. Her songs have expressed the essential components of a life unfolding, the sum of our strengths and vulnerabilities. That which makes us human. What's right and what's wrong with us. What we have done. What we can do better.
WBGO recorded Abbey Lincoln at Iridium in New York, October 1996. Marc Cary is the pianist, Michael Bowie the bassist, Aaron Walker the drummer.
It's a Memphis Monday, courtesy of Harold Mabern. WBGO has recorded pianist Harold Mabern as a member of George Coleman's quartet. We've also recorded Mabern's own quartet at American Museum of Natural History.
Check out this version of Harold Mabern's trio, recorded in 1984 at Citicorp Center in New York. Bassist Jamil Nasser (like Mabern, a Memphis native) and drummer Frank Gant, two veteran trio performers (check out those Ahmad Jamal records!) make the trio. They play "Ray's Idea," a song composed by bassist Ray Brown and Walter "Gil" Fuller during the heyday of Dizzy Gillespie's big band.
Happy birthday today to pianist Michel Camilo.
WBGO recorded Michel's trio at Iridium on April 24, 1997.
Michel Camilo, Bassist Lincoln Goines and drummer Cliff Almond had a killer piano trio sound. Listen to "A Night in Tunisia" from the WBGO Archives.
And do you know what inspired Michel Camilo to play jazz? Hearing Art Tatum play "Tea for Two." When Camilo was 14, he heard that jazz record in his native Dominican Republic. Since you cannot see Art Tatum magic on a record, and you can no longer see him play, you'll have to check out this re-performance of "Tea For Two."