ballad

Great Live Moments - Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis

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.
-Josh

Rhonda Hamilton Interviews Guitarist Russell Malone

Rhonda Hamilton and Russell Malone

Rhonda Hamilton interviewed guitarist Russell Malone yesterday.
Fortunately, Russell didn't share any of his really colorful jokes with our audience. If he did, the FCC would level some hefty fines.
He did, however, talk at length about his experience with Jimmy Smith. When Russell met the organist in Atlanta, he asked to sit in with the band. Russell played everything he knew, trying to impress Jimmy. The audience went wild. Then, Smith called a ballad, "Laura," and Russell did not know the song. That humbling experience led to an all-night lesson in music in Jimmy Smith's hotel room. Smith had played with some great guitarists, notably Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery. He taught Russell Malone a valuable lesson - to put himself into the music, rather than trying to emulate those guys. Listen to the interview.
-Josh

Great Live Moments - Roy Hargrove

In 1996, trumpeter Roy Hargrove could hardly be called The Waco Kid. By this time, the Texas native was a fully-fledged gunslinger in the jazz tradition. Most musicians will tell you that playing a ballad is one of the hardest things to do...especially when you're playing to an audience. But when Roy Hargrove draws from the emotional wellspring, he's tapping a fairly deep reserve.
Check out his take on the classic "Never Let Me Go," one of my all-time favorite ballads. Twas the week before Christmas, 1996, and Roy's quartet was stirring the house at the old Iridium location, near Lincoln Center. The quartet features pianist Allen Farnham, the late Dennis Irwin on bass, and drummer Karriem Riggins. And for those of you who like to sing the words, follow along:

Never let me go
Love me much too much
If you let me go
Life will lose its touch
What would I be without you?
There's no place for me without you

Never let me go
I'd be so lost if you went away
There'd be a thousand hours in a day without you
I know

Because of one caress my world was overturned
at the very start
All my bridges burned by my flaming heart
You'd never leave me would you?
You couldn't hurt me could you?

Never let me go
Never let me go

A Change is Gonna Come (I still believe it will...)

This year will mark the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. On this day - Martin Luther King Day - I reflect longer than usual on the times we're living in. I ponder on how much has changed since his being snatched away from us on that spring day in April. And I wonder what the real possibilities are for our nation to come together. There are still so many who believe that we should not even be honoring the civil rights leader and that his legacy is not worthy of a national holiday. In 2008, you would think we would have come a lot further than this. Then again, at 30 years old, I have older siblings who were alive when Dr. King and others were still fighting for the rights of Blacks to sit in the front of the bus. That always puts things into perspective for me. It's been a long time, but then again...not so much.

With the presidential race and the mantra of change in the forefront of our minds, I can say that I am still hopeful. Many are actually tired of hearing the word change, and want to hear tangible-type strategies for real problems that we are facing at this very fragile time in American and world history. I am one of those people. But if we are already tired of hearing about change, then we've got a long way to go...and so we do. Change is what it took for Dr. King to realize the dreams of so many Americans in this country. Change is what it's going to take to get us out of the deep trouble we're in as a nation four decades later. As I listen to one of my favorite singers, Bilal, sing "A Change Is Gonna Come", it is extremely haunting. Sam Cooke made this civil rights ballad in the heart of the movement, and the meaning is extremely apparent, when you look at the times. When I listen to Bilal - a singer of my generation, sing it here - I listen with a different ear. The fact that the lyrics are still so relevant...and the song is still so haunting let's me know that a CHANGE still needs to come. And I believe it will. Thank you, Dr. King.