A preeminent violinist stopped by our studios yesterday. The breadth of Mark O'Connor's work is nothing short of astonishing, yet one wonders how he remains so humble and approachable. He leaps from one idiom to another in effortless fashion, as you will encounter after listening to his interview with WBGO's Bill O'Donnell. He's one of the original cross-over musicians, equally adept at playing in classical, country, world, or jazz styles. He talks about his new orchestral work "Americana" being recorded this month by The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with Marin Alsop, his fondness of for bluegrass fiddler Benny Thomasson, and his upcoming performance with his "Hot Swing Trio" at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival this Labor Day Weekend. - Simon Rentner
Let it be said that trumpeter and flugelhorn player Roy Hargrove is still leading the style competition in jazz. Aside from his really fresh Adidas kicks (see above), Roy brought his highly functional quintet (saxophonist Justin Robinson, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Danton Boller, and drummer Montez Coleman) to close the Friday evening festivities in City Hall Park. Listen to this tightly executed set of music, most of it coming from Roy Hargrove's new release, Earfood. My favorite? The ballad "Never Let Me Go." I've heard Roy play this so many times, I'm beginning to think the song belongs to him alone.
Check out the set.
Pianist Aaron Parks opened the day of free music at City Hall Park on Friday. Parks played music from his newly minted Blue Note recording, Invisible Cinema, released earlier in the week. Perhaps you heard our studio session?
Or checked out the Song of the Day on NPR?
Anyway, as Darcy Argue points out, Parks and company (guitarist Mike Moreno, bassist Matt Penman, drummer Kendrick Scott) started promptly at 5pm. Sharp. You can thank or curse me for that (radio is a slave to the clock, folks). Or you can just listen to the full set now, and dig the shape of jazz to come.
Earlier this summer, WBGO launched NPR's first concert series of live jazz webcasts, "Live at the Village Vanguard," which offers monthly shows from the legendary New York City venue. Next weekend, August 9 and 10, WBGO and NPR Music are teaming up to live webcast main stage acts from the JVC Jazz Festival Newport. On the bill are legendary pianist Herbie Hancock; producer, performer and Jazz Festival founder George Wein; guitarist Howard Alden; along with rising jazz stars Esperanza Spalding and Guillermo Klein y Los Guachos. I'll be your host. Should be fun.
Check out one of my favorite performances captured at Newport.
Today is the 87th birthday of a jazz legend - Dr. Billy Taylor. Last night, on the eve of this very special day, Dr. T was one of several featured pianists at the 92nd Street Y in the Jazz in July series. He likes the name of that series because he came up with it himself when he helped to found a summer program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Just this month, Taylor quietly stepped down from his Jazz in July, and U Mass expressed gratitude for many summers on its website. Click to read the story.
Also this summer, Taylor is involved in a development right here in our town. Now we have a Brick City branch of Jazzmobile, the teaching organization he helped found in Harlem. Newark Jazzmobile is named for the late bassist Earl May, who first proposed it but did not live to see it happen. Click here for the Jazzmobile schedule. Houston Person plays tonight at Mildred Helms Park in the South Ward! Click and hear Billy Taylor play "A Night in Tunisia" on WBGO's (then) new Steinway, live on the air in the 1980s. Another Great Live Moment from WBGO.
I have had the good fortune to have been surrounded these past two years at WBGO by some of the greatest players in jazz. That's what you come to expect when you are a part of the world's most significant jazz radio station. But it's the people who have touched me for more than the music that they create who truly are a part of my heart.
I love the Moodys- James and Linda Moody.
Last year we honored Moody at our Champions of Jazz Gala. The honoree's are chosen not just for what they have contributed as artists, but also what they are doing for the future of jazz. James has instituted a scholarship fund at Purchase College to support the training of jazz musicians. Moody's program is not just about teaching "musicianship". Its about forming the whole person. That's Moody. Being a musician is about being a whole person. His scholarship website says "creating opportunities for the next generation of jazz musicians". And to make sure, he is putting his time and his money where his mouth is. No one knows better than Moody about what it takes to be a jazz musician. At 83 years of age, he has earned the title of leader.
Twenty years ago, Moody met a single mom with twin teenaged boys. That was Linda. A great love story. Three months later they got married. I have never asked them, but it couldn't have been easy. Age difference, race difference. Both with kids. Being on the road. But these are two spectacular people and as you can see from the photo, they must have been just about the hippest couple around- Linda with her West Coast good looks and well, Moody is a jazz musician.
Last month, I was with Stefon Harris and out of the blue he told a story about Moody. They were playing a gig far away from home and right before they went out for the first set, Moody said to Stefon "where is your cell phone?". Stefon showed him and Moody told Stefon to call his wife and tell her that he loved her before he played a single note. That's Moody. Don't take anyone for granted, especially when you have found your soul mate. Moody and Linda truly are soul mates. When I heard that story, I called my husband. Then I called Moody and Linda. I had to tell them all that I loved them.
In this past year, I have had the opportunity to get to know them both Moody and Linda. I can say that my world has become richer for my friendship with Linda. Not a day goes by that this woman is not flying somewhere, planning something, getting ready for a host of young students to come visit, asking about my children, organizing, making this world a sweeter place.
So, I love James and Linda Moody. I love to watch them hold hands, finish each other's sentences, tell stories. And how lucky I am to have had the chance to listen to those stories- and laugh with them. As soon as we can, we will post the link to the Moody interview with Rhonda Hamilton the day before he was given the key to his ( and our) hometown of Newark. You will get to hear - if you didn't hear it live- some of Moody's great stories. With Linda sitting right beside him. Bet you will love the Moodys too...
I typically steer clear of superlatives when I write about musicians. My opinion is no less valid than any listener's opinion. That's one reason why I would never consider myself a critic. Just an advocate, really. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me tell you that Roy Haynes is the greatest living jazz drummer. There. I said it. And I'm not just basing this on his accumulated career - you know, the 50+ years of playing with every major innovator since the late 1940s. Truth be told, Roy Haynes is eternally youthful, and he's still a badass. In July 1987, when Roy was a cool 62 years old (retirement age for the lucky few), he brought his quartet to Riverside Park in New York. WBGO recorded it for posterity, including this lovely jam on "All Blues." Donald Harrison is the saxophonist, Dave Kikoski played piano, Ed Howard is the bassist.
And the leader...Roy...(tap tap tap)...Haynes...
Click here to listen.
In 1998, Branford Marsalis was the host of JazzSet. He was also the leader of an amazing jazz quartet. In August of that year, they played a concert at Washington Square Park in New York. WBGO was there to capture the performance.
I remember seeing this band at the Chicago Jazz Festival, just a few weeks after this recording. Branford, along with bassist Eric Revis, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, and the late pianist Kenny Kirkland had the unique ability to pin you to your seat for more than an hour. The music was relentless, whether it was some burnout tune or a ballad. Kenny Kirkland's "Mr. J.C." is a great example of the former. Enjoy the blistering solos from Kenny and Branford. Click here to listen.