NEWS FLASH: Coming this winter, PLAYDATE WITH MATT WILSON brings you the drummer's choice of music from WBGO's amazing secret stash.
In the 1980s, WBGO produced "Big Apple Jazz" live from Sweet Basil, the Jazz Forum and Fat Tuesday's, and uplinked it via the NPR satellite (new technology at the time).
Next, the "American Jazz Radio Festival" -- hosted by Al Pryor and later, Michael Bourne -- presented bands on stages across the country for TWO hours every week. Yes, two hours.
Then in 1992, we launched "JazzSet with Branford Marsalis." Branford handed the host mic to Dee Dee Bridgewater in 2001.
And there is more. We ran marathons. Early on, WBGO became known for live Jazzathon fundraisers and our all-night, coast-to-coast New Year's Eve specials.
Now the music from 1980-2000, and the great musicians who happily played it for WBGO, will be the source for PLAYDATE WITH MATT WILSON, an eight-week series curated and hosted by Matt (a/k/a M@) with producer Alex Ariff.
Besides the PLAYDATE radio shows, there will be extra Bright Moments of music on the WBGO blog. Coming in February. Stay connected for more information.
Funding for PLAYDATE WITH MATT WILSON is coming from the National Endowment for the Arts: Art Works!
Last Friday night, I attended and loved this concert at the Borough of Manhattan Community College! The music had roots, it left them behind, it was a generous night.
Musical Director Matt Wilson calls the music "pre-bop," small group material from the 1940s by Neal Hefti, John Lewis, John Kirby, Tiny Grimes, Tiny Kahn, NEW arrangements for the occasion by Oded Lev-Ari. Matt assembled an improbable and wonderful band, below. Each player projected, each piece was a gem. Coming out of intermission, Matt gave us a "collision of songs," "a mashup," from an affecting trio arrangement of his "No Outerwear" (a/k/a "Out of Nowhere" and maybe "OON" is written on "Honeysuckle Rose?" .. help me here) to surprise walk on's by the rest of the group, vocalizing; things progressed unpredictably from there. If only I'd taken some legible notes. The smaller theater at BMCC worked beautifully for this; I saw Vijay's hands at work better than ever I've seen them before. Photos of 52nd Street a/k/a Swing Street were the backdrop.
Lost Jazz Shrines is Willard Jenkins' continuing series, and this Spring is the first time Willard has brought in a Musical Director. On Friday, June 3, see conguero Candido -- born in Havana, came to NY in 1946 -- with Matt's quintet Arts & Crafts. I wish we were recording these great nights for JazzSet!
Luckily I was sitting near a good photographer! BTW, Matt Wilson is also the Artist-in-Residence at this summer’s Litchfield Jazz Festival in Kent, CT.
I've been going to see more and more music these days, much to the detriment of my need for sleep. Tuesday evening, I decided to check out the Lee Konitz Trio with very special guest, Danilo Perez. The early set, anyway. I know my limitations.
Lee Konitz, at 80, is still making some amazing music. And as much as I get tired of hearing jazz repertory, I never tire of hearing Konitz play standards. Four songs in one set, three of which I recognized. All of which I enjoyed. Konitz has this way of never really playing the melody outright. Instead, he basically smashed the loaf into bread crumbs, and sprinkles them over the course of a 15 minute group improvisation. It takes a while to find it. And by the time you DO find it, you realize that the treasure is not at the end of the trail. It was the crumbs!
Kinda like that whole idea of jazz being more of a how than a what.
Tuesday night, the group (Konitz on alto sax, Danilo on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, and Matt Wilson on drums) played a strange, intermittent funk under "Stella by Starlight," then a less than foolish nod to people time - "I'll remember April." During the last song, I kept wondering if I was hearing a version of Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing..." I wasn't. I was hearing the band play Bob Haggart's "What's New?"
If you want to find the answer to that question - what's new? - follow the bread crumbs to Jazz Standard. This band beats creative loafing any day.
I spent the whole show backstage. I didn't even realize that Dennis passed. It was only at the last when Aria Hendricks talked about Dennis before she sang "The Nearness of You" that I knew. None of the cats backstage were being mournful. Whenever anyone said anything about Dennis, it was a joyful story. I introduced Mose Allison in the concert, and when Mose was singing, John Scofield and others backstage remembered that Dennis knew all the lyrics to Mose's songs. I was amazed by the who's who backstage. I remember looking over and all the drummers were hanging out. Jack DeJohnette. Kenny Washington. Lewis Nash. Paul Motian. And then Matt Wilson walked by. They and all of the others at the concert knew, learned from, laughed with, loved, and were swung by Dennis Irwin.