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Black History Month on WBGO

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At WBGO, we celebrate Black History every month of the year through the musical genres created by and originating in the Black American experience.

While this celebration takes place 365 days a year at WBGO, there is also an opportunity to spotlight an aspect of our music during Black History Month. This year, we are "Looking Back/Looking Forward," highlighting influential African-American artists and the connection to the artists they influenced or mentored.

Programming this month will include Looking Back/Looking Forward features every day on 88.3FM and WBGO.org, a Take Five focused on Black History, and a panel discussion on The Black Church, with Reverend Dr. William Howard, NEA Jazz Master Dorthaan Kirk, singer Lizz Wright and Director/Producer Shayla Harris. 

On this page, we will highlight some of the segments you will hear on the air throughout Black History Month, thanks to WBGO's announcers.

Sheila Anderson highlights Gil Scott-Heron and Charnee Wade.

Gil Scott-Heron was a soul singer, jazz poet, musician, author; a griot, whose music was a mix of jazz, soul and the blues. He called himself a “Bluesolgist.” His great body of work included “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” “The Bottle,” Pieces of a Man” to “Lady Day and John Coltrane” that featured his musical partner, Brian Jackson on piano and Ron Carter on bass. Charenee Wade, the first woman to devote an entire recording to the work of Gil Scott, stated that he was “unapologetic when talking about race in America” and she was moved by his Spiritual impact. Offering, her tribute album included “Song of the Wind,” featuring Stefon Harris on vibes and marimba. It is a song about honoring the ancestors and was the first song she arranged for the album. Music: Gil Scott-Heron-”Lady Day and John Coltrane”/Charanee Wade-”Song Of The Wind”

Brian Delp highlights pianists Duke Ellington and Don Sebesky:

"It's absurd to put (Duke) Ellington in polls," Charles Mingus once said. "A man who has accomplished what he has shouldn't be involved in contests. He should just be assumed to be in first place every year." In addition to having one of the most distinctive piano styles in jazz, Ellington's real instrument was his band. His compositions, with melodies and solo spaces used to highlight the talents of the various legends that played in his band for more than four decades, are virtually unequaled in the history of the music. Which brings us to New Jersey's own Don Sebesky. Though a fine trombonist in his youth, Sebesky moved to the piano and began working as an arranger around 1960. He was well established when producer Creed Taylor, then at Verve Records, came calling in the mid '60s, resulting in his work on Wes Montgomery, Astrud Gilberto and Cal Tjader recordings. When Creed started his CTI label in 1968, it was Sebesky he turned to most often for arranging and conducting. It's hard to imagine how those now classic releases by Freddie Hubbard, George Benson, Milt Jackson, Paul Desmond, Hubert Laws and many others would have sounded without Sebesky's work. In 1999, as others were honoring the Ellington centennial, Sebesky recorded Joyful Noise, an all-star tribute to the legend. The result was note-for-note recreation of "KoKo," a completely new take on such Ellington classics as "Chelsea Bridge," "Caravan," and "Satin Doll," and Sebesky's own suite of music "Joyful Noise." Another result - two more Grammy awards for someone who has become a legend himself.

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Keanna Faircloth highlights jazz violinsts Stuff Smith and Regina Carter during Afternoon Jazz:

Stuff Smith, although considered unsung to the masses, was one of the preeminent violinists of the Swing era. Inspired to play jazz by Louis Armstrong, Smith regularly shared the stage and recorded with artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole, Carmen McRae, Sun Ra and Ella Fitzgerald. His sound contributed to the blueprint that put strings on display on the bandstand. Stuff Smith is also one of the 57 musicians photographed in the iconic portrait "A Great Day in Harlem" by Art Kane. Fast forward about three decades and the baton has been passed to Regina Carter. Stuff Smith worked with Ella Fitzgerald whom Carter was influenced and inspired by as shared on The Pulse. Since the release of her debut album in 1995, Regina Carter has received the MacArthur "Genius" and Doris Duke awards, been nominated for numerous GRAMMYs, and continues to inspire the next generation of string players from Black Violin, to Chelsey Green, to The String Queens.

Greg Bryant highlights guitarsts Grant Green and Ed Cherry on February 17 during Jazz After Hours:

Guitarist Grant Green’s blend of groove, melody, blues and bebop made him a standout among many listeners. Green was adaptable to almost any musical instrumentation and he always brought a heavy dose of soul to any situation. Guitarist Ed Cherry is cut from the same cloth. From his work with Dizzy Gillespie, Henry Threadgill and as a leader of his own groups, Cherry has demonstrated a soulful lyricism that has energized listeners all around the world. He often speaks of an early connection with Green and many of the master guitarists who first emerged on the national scene in the 1950s and 1960s. “My dad had recordings by Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell that he would play in our home often,” said Cherry speaking with Jazz Guitar Today. “I was aware enough to notice the tonal and phrasing differences. Early on, I liked Grant’s playing the most and then Kenny Burrell.”