Attention Mac users. While I was trolling on the interwebs tonight, I saw something that took me by surprise. Gary Von Schilling (someone I don't know, but he's clearly a fan of WBGO) created a widget that directs you to our web stream.
Find it here.
This photo of B.B. King and Clarence Gatemouth Brown was taken at the 2005 New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival. It's from "Last Days of Fame," a powerful piece of photojournalism by Jennifer Zdon.
Gatemouth and I shared a birthday, though we were separated by half a century. I first met him at WWOZ in New Orleans. He sat in our tiny on-air studio, his head buried beneath a black Stetson, his hands wrapped around a small pipe. The occasional waft of an illicit substance. This must explain the fact that, as Michael Bourne once discovered, Gatemouth Brown loves to eat grape jelly on everything...including steak. Strange things happen.
In 1999, I attended the Public Radio Program Directors conference in Memphis, Tennessee. The Peabody Hotel, as I recall, where mallard ducks marched through the hotel hallway (led by a man in a tuxedo, suggesting penguin not duck) and climbed a flight of custom-made steps into the lobby fountain. This was part of the hotel's daily schedule. Strange things happen.
I went to BB King's Blues Club on Beale street one night. Gatemouth Brown was performing live. WBGO and JazzSet were broadcasting the show. NPR's Bettina Owens threw a huge party to celebrate the fact that this concert was NPR's first live webstream! I had no relationship whatsoever with any of this, other than kid spectator. One year later, however, I was working on an NPR show. And the next year, I started working at WBGO. Strange things happen.
Those are actually the lyrics to "I Remember Clifford," one of the enduring jazz ballads by Benny Golson. With one modification. The name.
It should not go unnoticed that nearly two years ago, Hilton Ruiz lay unconscious on Bourbon Street in my hometown. What particularly stings me is that he was in New Orleans working on a benefit CD for and video about Hurricane Katrina victims.
It reminds me of a quote attributed to Dizzy Gillespie:
“Men have died for this music. You can’t get more serious than that.”
In 1986, Hilton Ruiz played the Steinway B in our performance studio.
Listen to "I Remember Clifford" from the WBGO Archives.
Circumstances could have been completely different. Charles Brown was a chemist. He attended college, earned a degree in chemistry, taught high school science, and landed a civil service job in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. That would have been a career track for most. Brown had other ideas. He bristled at the racism he encountered each day. He volunteered to serve in the second world war, but was deemed unfit due to asthma. So Charles Brown packed his bags and headed to California.
Thank goodness. Can you imagine a holiday season without "Merry Christmas Baby?" Or a world without "Drifting Blues?" And who played the piano behind a fellow Texan, Ivory Joe Hunter, on "Blues at Sunrise?" How about "Trouble Blues," or "Black Night?" Mind you, most of those songs were hits before Elvis Presley had ever set foot in Sun Studios.
How about one of my all-time favorite records, Sam Cooke's Night Beat? If you simply listen to the way Cooke sings on that record, you might reach the same conclusion I did - would that record exist were it not for Charles Brown?
Brown celebrated New Year's Eve with WBGO, part of the Toast of the Nation coast-to-coast live music party. He welcomed 1994 from the Sheraton Hotel in Tacoma, Washington. His cool, bluesy ballad style was especially poignant on a song popularized by Lucky Millinder.
Jimmy Giuffre died on Thursday, a few days shy of his 87th birthday. Fans of jazz know Giuffre as the composer of the Woody Herman hit, "Four Brothers." Beyond that, Giuffre had a unique mind for music. As I listened to Sonny Rollins' "A Night at the Village Vanguard" yesterday, a record without piano or chordal instrumentation, I thought about how demanding it is to make music like that. Jimmy Giuffre was among one of the first to try, on his record Tangents in Jazz.
I've always liked "The Train and The River," another Giuffre work that people describe as folk-chamber-jazz. When you listen to this, you might suspect that some musicians today like Bill Frisell owe a lot to Jimmy Giuffre. Yes, they do. Anyway, here are two versions of Giuffre's trio playing "The Train and The River," one from the television program The Sound of Jazz:
Then, the great trio of Giuffre, trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, and guitarist Jim Hall, from the Newport Jazz Festival documentary, Jazz on a Summer's Day.
One of the Jimmy Giuffre Three members, Jim Hall, has undergone back surgery for the last couple of months. He has been rehabilitating, and is expected to be released on Tuesday. WBGO wishes the distinguished guitarist and NEA Jazz Master a speedy recovery. Check out Jim Hall's Great Live Moment while you're here.
April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and it's been a busy time in the WBGO Performance studio. The next generation of jazz players from metro area music programs has been visiting Michael Bourne on Afternoon Jazz. Here are some highlights:
First up, the SUNY-Purchase Jazz Endeavor came to WBGO on April 9th. The group features recipients of the James Moody Scholarship.
Hear them play.
Today, we featured the students from Manhattan School of Music.
Listen to The New School Jazz Ensemble.
Tune in Wednesday, April 30th at 8pm. I'm your host for a performance of Combo Nuvo, featuring faculty and students from the NYU School of Music.
This is a collaboration between WBGO and the Clive Davis School for Recorded Music at NYU. Special thanks to Jim Anderson and Dave Schroeder.
And finally, on May 20th, WBGO presents students from the Berklee College of Music on Midday Jazz with Rhonda Hamilton. So much for just one month of jazz appreciation. WBGO loves this music year-round. And you?
In October 2007, WBGO recorded a studio session with the Nicholas Payton Quintet. The band had just finished a week-long run at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, and they had just recorded the music for Payton's debut on Nonesuch Records, Into the Blue. The record hit stores this week. Check out the studio session on NPR Music. It posted earlier today. Funny how that works....Timing is everything.
Aside from being one of the foremost composers of jazz standards - "I Remember Clifford," "Whisper Not," "Stablemates," and "Killer Joe" immediately come to mind - Benny Golson is one of the real gentlemen of our music. When WBGO approached Mr. Golson for approval to post music from the American Jazz Radio Festival in 1987, here's what he said:
Please use whatever you want in whatever way you choose. WBGO has made a
hero out of me by playing my recordings over the years. Be assured, this
does not go without much appreciation. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
May all that your collective hands find to do continue to meet with certain
Is this cat for real? Yes, absolutely.
Perhaps you'll consider becoming a WBGO member. They make great live moments like this possible. Contribute now.
A Billy Strayhorn melody is so very nice to hear on solo piano. A Billy Strayhorn medley is even better when there are two pianos. In 1983, at the Jazz Forum in New York, the lyrical master John Hicks and the underrated Albert Dailey put Strayhorn's music on display for more than twenty-three minutes. 'Star-Crossed Lovers' (aka "Pretty Girl") and 'Chelsea Bridge' were songs that I always believed Strayhorn had tailor-made for their respective soloists, Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster. However, these are such tremendous songs, all they require are the hands of any master musician. On this particular evening in September, they received four master hands, and 176 piano keys.
Listen to the Billy Strayhorn medley, from the WBGO Archives.