It's the 100th anniversary of afrofuturist Sun Ra's "Arrival" from the planet Saturn, by way of Alabama, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. Listen to his Arkestra perform "Space Is The Place," as recorded by WBGO on April 21, 1991:
Sun Ra was born Herman Poole "Sonny" Blount in Birmingham, Alabama in 1914, and developed his persona and approach to music, which combined imagery from Egyptian mythology, Freemasonry and space travel, while based in Chicago in the 1940s.
His big band, the Arkestra, embodied this vision in sound and dress, and performed his sophisticated arrangements, which incorporated psychedelia, traditional African folk songs and bebop. His live shows were spiritual, and made a profound impression on those who saw them.
“When I saw Sun Ra on the banks of the Hudson in the late 1980s,” recalls JazzSet producer Becca Pulliam, “it was a long summer evening, the sun was setting, and he had a little electric keyboard. I wonder what powered it. He and the musicians were singing "We travel the space wa-aves .. from pla-net to pla-net .."
To celebrate Sun Ra's centennial, former Arkestra drummer Michael D. Anderson has digitally remastered and released more than twenty albums from the first half of his career, from 1957 through 1972, many of which have never been available in digital form. For more information, visit iTunes.
Happy anniversary, Sun Ra!
Welcome to Playdate #8, the last in our series of highlights from WBGO's archive of live recordings. We've packed this show, which airs on WBGO-FM March 25 at 6:30 p.m., to the brim with excitement, and there's even more at WBGO.ORG/PLAYDATE.
First up is JazzSet's historic trip to Cuba in December of 1998. You'll hear trombonist Steve Turre jam on conch shells in the streets of Havana with a seven-woman percussion group, trumpeter Roy Hargrove grooving hard with locals, and more music and stories from producer Becca Pulliam and field engineer Duke Markos.
To read and hear more about this trip, visit this blog post we created for JazzSet's twentieth anniversary.
The view of the Habana River from Producer Becca Pulliam's hotel room
Show #8 also features pianist Harold Mabern, The Dave Holland Quintet at the 1998 Mount Hood Jazz Festival, tenor saxophonist Frank Wess with the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, and music from the two hosts of JazzSet: saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who hosted the show in its first decade, and vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, our current host.
You'll also hear part of an intimate performance by guitarist Larry Coryell with pianist Albert Dailey, bassist George Mraz and drummer Billy Hart at the Village Vanguard on April 26, 1984.
That morning, Count Basie passed away. Coryell dedicates his version of "Body and Soul" to the legendary organist, pianist and bandleader, who embodied for many jazz lovers, the sound and sense of "swing."
At WBGO.ORG/PLAYDATE, you can hear the full audio from this performance, as well as "On Green Dolphin Street," which features Coryell's group with innovative saxophonist Geroge Braith. On the track, Braith plays the Braithophone - a multi-reed instrument of his own invention.
Playdate #7 delivers The Message! Tonight at 6:30 p.m., host Matt Wilson presents hard bop innovator Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers live at New York City's Jazz Forum, in a vivid broadcast first heard on WBGO in 1983.
Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison, Jr. play trumpet and alto on "One by One," written by former Messenger Wayne Shorter. The pianist is Johnny O'Neal, still a must-see these days at New York clubs like Smalls and Smoke.
Also from the present day, Jazz Forum's proprietor, Mark Morganelli, gives Playdate a succinct, affectionate portrait of his friend Blakey who - Mark recalls - drove a Rolls Royce.
Morganelli sent us this photo of Mr. Blakey behind Woody Shaw at the Jazz Forum, a loft near Bleecker and Broadway.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1919, Art Blakey emerged in the late 1940s playing drums with Thelonious Monk. He formed the Jazz Messengers in the middle 1950s.
As host and drummer Matt Wilson says, "The Messengers were a jazz school before before there were jazz degrees from conservatories... an on-the-bandstand education."
Over its thirty-plus years in existence, The Messengers produced more than ninety top-flight musicians, ranging from Wayne Shorter to Johnny Griffin, Wynton Kelly to Keith Jarrett, and Lee Morgan to Wynton Marsalis.
Coincidentally, also from 1999 in this episode, we hear the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band play an exclusive arrangement of Monk's "Off Minor."
We note with sadness the passing of drummer Ralph Penland earlier this week in California. Here on Playdate #7, Penland sounds great playing "Sky Dive" in Freddie Hubbard's sextet on New Year's Eve 1990.
Guest tenor Ernie Watts joins the band, and the late keyboard man George Duke and bassist Stanley Clarke are in the audience at Catalina's for this set, first heard as part of New Year's Eve Coast to Coast, from WBGO and NPR.
On the air, Freddie notes Penland's extraordinary drumming and says, "It's very seldom in Hollywood that I have a chance to play jazz... I haven't had this much fun for a long time!"
And that's just to whet your appetite. Want more? Head to WBGO.ORG/PLAYDATE to stream all our shows and enjoy our web extras. Thanks for playing!
Playdate is WBGO's new series of highlights from our archive of live recordings. Tune in Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to hear Show #6, a celebration of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie!
Dizzy impacted countless musicians, and his legacy lives on Playdate this week, with the music music of Paquito D'Rivera, Jon Faddis, The Modern Jazz Quartet, and Ray Brown.
Plus, a rare recording of the Terence Blanchard/Donald Harrison Group featuring pianist Mulgrew Miller.
We've crossed the midway point in this 8-part series. If you can't get the theme to Playdate--composed by drummer/host Matt Wilson--out of your head, now's the time to dig in.
Hear the slow and fast versions of the theme, and follow along with sheet music, here You'll also be able to revisit some of with Matt Wilson's Playdate cameos on the drum kit with Fred Hersch Trio, The Either Orchestra, and The Dewey Redman Quartet.
Matt Wilson tracks Playdate at WBGO (pictured here) and at Duke Markos Studios.
Other web extras for Playdate Show #6 this week include the full interview feature with bassist Christian McBride's on his work with mentor and fellow bassist, Ray Brown. Be sure to check back in with WBGO.ORG/PLAYDATE.
We’ve already posted on Wayne Shorter, The Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Ruth Brown, Sun Ra, Dorthaan Kirk, Chick Corea with Gary Burton, The "Salsa Meets Jazz" Series, Joe Henderson, The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Max Roach, Dexter Gordon, JazzSet’s coast-to-coast adventures, Bobby McFerrin with Astral Project, Mardi Gras, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Stefon Harris.
Tune in on Tuesday to hear the partial interview with an exclusive duet between McBride and Brown, and more music on WBGO's Playdate!
Playdate is WBGO's new series of highlights from our archive of live recordings. Tune in Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to hear Show #5, a celebration of the music of New Orleans, with Wynton Marsalis, Queen Ida, Lester Bowie and Brass Fantasy, and more!
We’ve already posted on Wayne Shorter, The Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Ruth Brown, Sun Ra, Dorthaan Kirk, Chick Corea with Gary Burton, The "Salsa Meets Jazz" Series, Joe Henderson, The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Max Roach, Dexter Gordon, and JazzSet’s coast-to-coast adventures.
One highlight of this week's show is vocalist Bobby McFerrin with the New Orleans band Astral Project, as recorded at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights, Ohio in 1999.
McFerrin, (center) with Astral Project's James Singleton and Tony Dagradi
The concert was a kind of reunion - in the 1970s, McFerrin visited New Orleans and sat in with the band - on piano - at The Old Absinthe Bar on Bourbon Street. That led to a 5-month tour with the band, during which he began to experiment with some of the innovative vocal techniques that have now become his signature style.
Can't wait to hear this great combination? Head over to WBGO.ORG/PLAYDATE, where you can hear McFerrin and Astral Project perform Don Cherry's "Mahakali" and read more about this concert.
And tune in on Tuesday to hear more from this group and other surprises on WBGO's Playdate!
Playdate is WBGO's new series of great moments from our archive of live recordings. Tune in Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to hear Show #4 with Michael Brecker, Max Roach, Kurt Elling, Shelly Manne, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Stéphane Grappelli and Bucky Pizzarelli, James Newton, and more!
We’ve already posted on Wayne Shorter, The Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Ruth Brown, Sun Ra, Dorthaan Kirk, Chick Corea with Gary Burton, The "Salsa Meets Jazz" Series, Joe Henderson, and The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band.
This week's first web extra, available now at WBGO.ORG/PLAYDATE, comes from a historic performance inside the walls of WBGO.
In late 1980s, drummer Max Roach fused his working quartet with a string quartet to create a Double Quartet. Hear this group perform Rahsaan Roland Kirk's “Bright Moments” live in the WBGO studios by clicking here.
Portrait of Max Roach, Three Deuces, New York, N.Y., ca. Oct. 1947. Photo by William P. Gottlieb.
Roach was one of the most prolific and influential figures in modern jazz. Best known for his work with saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and other bebop pioneers, his use of thematic improvisation forever changed how jazz drummers approach their instrument.
This week's Playdate, Show #4, begins with a solo drum song by Roach. Our host, drummer Matt Wilson, draws inspirations from Max Roach every-time he sits down at his kit - Wilson has also named one of his sons Max after this great jazz icon.
Playdate is a new series hosted by drummer Matt Wilson with highlights from the WBGO archive of live recordings. Every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., we'll broadcast a new show on WBGO-FM. You can also hear the show on demand, hear extra tracks and read web extras for each episode at WBGO.ORG/PLAYDATE, so check back all week for more surprises.
Tomorrow night, we’ll debut Show #2. Tune in to hear saxophonist Clifford Jordan (1931-93) at The Village Vanguard, the bandleader and arranger Chico O’Farrill (1921-2001) at Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing, bassist Bill Lee and the Natural Spiritual Orchestra celebrating a New Year's Eve at the WBGO performance studio, pianist Stanley Cowell in both Jordan's and Lee's groups and solo, and - from the Paul Robeson Center at Rutgers-Newark - the Vibration Society playing and singing a piece by Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
As a sneak preview on WBGO.ORG/PLAYDATE, we're streaming “Armando’s Rhumba” by Chick Corea, with by Corea on piano and Gary Burton on vibes, at Buffalo State College in 1985. The full tune can be streamed here.
Missed Show #1? Never fear, you can hear it in its entirety right here.
Thank you for joining us on Playdate With Matt Wilson!
Playdate is a new series with highlights from the WBGO archive of live recordings. Tune in Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to hear Show #3 with Mario Bauzá, Betty Carter, Joe Henderson, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band (1992-2002) playing a breakout arrangement by Jim McNeely of Louis Prima's "Sing, Sing, Sing," Kevin Eubanks, Ivan Lins, and much more!
To get ready for this week's show, we have posted a bonus audio extra from Mario Bauzá and his Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, as recorded by WBGO at New York's Village Gate on August 20, 1990.
This concert was part of the historic “Salsa Meets Jazz” series, which paired guest jazz soloists with featured Latin jazz bands, that ran from the 1970s until The Village Gate closed in 1993.
(Le) Poisson Rouge, which is now located at the site of the former Village Gate, brought the series back in December 2008, and WBGO's Awilda Rivera was the host!
Above, The Village Gate (circa 1970.) Below, the opposite angle, only The Village Gate sign remains (circa 2013.) To the right of the CVS stands (Le) Poisson Rouge.
What makes this 1990 concert, which was recorded by WBGO, so special is that it was the first show of trumpeter Arturo Sandoval in the United States after leaving Cuba! Sandoval had already established his reputation - and won a Grammy Award - with the Cuban band Irakere before coming to the U.S. as a political exile.
“The house was full of trumpet players including most of the brass section from the Chicago symphony,” recalls Bobby Sanabria, who served as Mario Bauzá's drummer (and friend) through the 1980s and 1990s.
Hear an interview and special drum solo/feature with Bobby Sanabria on Playdate with Matt Wilson tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m., but first you can get a sneak peak Mario Bauzá and his Afro-Cuba Jazz Orchestra, and stream “Mambo Inn” here.
Playdate, WBGO's brand new series of stunning live recordings hosted by drummer Matt Wilson, is here! Join Matt every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to hear rare gems from the WBGO archives.
For our first show, we celebrate our host! Tune in Tuesday, Feb. 4 to hear Matt (below right) perform with bassist Drew Gress (left) and pianist Fred Hersch (center) at the 1997 Iowa City Jazz Festival.
Join Matt Wilson Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. in February and March for this exclusive series featuring rare music from the WBGO archive of live recordings.
Get to know the our intrepid host and his accomplice, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, in this behind-the-scenes video of the recording of the Playdate theme in the WBGO studios!
Tune in tomorrow night to hear the selections below, and check in all week to get the stories behind the playdate.