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Pianist and composer Helen Sung was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and received rigorous classical training before pivoting to jazz. She has made up for lost time since, working with mentors like bassist Ron Carter, and releasing several well-received albums of her own. 

Sung appears with vocalist Nicole Zuraitis at Mezzrow on Sunday, with the Mingus Big Band at the Jazz Standard on Monday, and at the Caramoor Jazz Festival on July 15. She recently joined host Sheila Anderson in a conversation on Salon Sessions.

The Montreal International Jazz Festival proclaims to be the largest jazz festival in the world, headlined by some of music's biggest names. But the event also takes pride in spotlighting local talent — like Québécois trumpeter Jacques Kuba Séguin, featured in this Checkout podcast.


Courtesy of the artist

Pianist and composer Onaje Allan Gumbs began playing at age seven, inspired in part by Henry Mancini. A former sideman to aritsts including trumpeters Nat Adderley and Woody Shaw, Gumbs released his own debut album, Onaje, 40 years ago. 

During a recent conversation with Sheila Anderson on Salon Sessions, he reflected on his broad career, his so-called "return" — and the first Bob Cranshaw Community Achievement Award, which he recently received from the Jazz Foundation of America.

UZEB Play FIJM
Victor Diaz Lamich for FIJM

25 years ago, I first came to Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal.

25 years ago, the jazz/rock trio UZEB played the first Grande Evenement.


David Dinkins Turns 90 on July 10th

Jul 4, 2017
David Dinkins
David Dinkins

David Dinkins made political history in 1990 when he was sworn in as the first African American mayor of New York City.  Dinkins, now a professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, reflected on his historic journey in a June, 2010 on line interview which first aired on WBGO in 2016.

Scudder Homes
Doug Doyle for WBGO

Attorney and Essex County College professor Linda McDonald Carter is tired about reading how terrible things were for those who lived in the Scudder Homes projects in the 1960's.

Carter and four of her closest friends from that neighborhood came into WBGO to talk to News Director Doug Doyle about their lives before and after the 1967 Rebellion.

New Jersey’s state government shutdown is over and state parks, recreation areas, and historic sites will be open on the Independence Day Holiday.

An agreement on legislation to change the way the state regulates Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield paved the way for Assembly approval of a new budget shortly after midnight.

“I declare the bill passed. New Jersey is back on.”

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto says the Horizon measure puts a limit on the reserves the state’s largest insurer can keep.

New Jersey lawmakers who met with the top official of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield are optimistic about progress toward resolving differences that have shutdown state government offices for three days.

Lawmakers have been unable to come to terms on legislation to regulate the state’s largest insurer. Governor Christie wants a Horizon bill as part of a deal to approve a budget that would include additional spending Democrats have proposed.

After Sarah Vaughan moved back to her hometown of Newark, New Jersey in the mid-1960s, she could often be found, on a night off, at the Key Club. She loved to hang out with owner Jean Dawkins, catching up on gossip about mutual friends. There were no pretenses about her; she just wanted to be “one of the guys.”

Riccardo Schwamenthal / CTSIMAGES/Courtesy of Resonance Records

Sarah Vaughan means something special to WBGO. And it's not that she was born and raised in Newark — though that certainly doesn't hurt. Simply put, her magnificent voice has been a beacon on our air, and a steadfast point of agreement. This week sees the publication of a new biography of Vaughan, and we're taking the opportunity to showcase five favorite performances from across her career.

Water sprinklers in streed
David Tallacksen

"Je reviendrai a Montreal"  is a popular song of Montreal-born artist/icon Robert Charlebois. 

"I will return to Montreal," he sang, and I have said (have sung) the same every year as I've headed back after Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal.   Except ...

I don't ever leave.  Not really.  Not in my head.  Not in my heart.  After 25 years, being in Montreal for me is like being with friends you have not seen in years, or like going home to be with your family.  They're a constant,  a presence in your life.  You're always home.

After state lawmakers failed to pass a new budget by the midnight Friday deadline, Governor Chris Christie has signed an executive order shutting down state government.

Essential services including state police, prisons, state hospitals, and key child welfare services will remain in operation.

State recreational areas historic sites and parks are closed and public events there cancelled.

Christie says his family is at the state-owned Governor’s Beach House and might be the only family spending the holiday weekend at Island Beach State Park.

Lisa Durden
Doug Doyle for WBGO

Television personality, pop culture commentator and adjunct professor Lisa Durden was recently fired by Essex County College after an appearance on Fox News' Tucker Carlson show.

WBGO Media Fellow Al Antomattei invited Durden to come into WBGO to talk about her case. 

Durden says she was unfairly dismissed and that she never associated herself with Essex County College when she was defending a Black Lives Matter event that was held for only people of color.

Alexandra Hill

The campaign to close one of New Jersey’s most infamous juvenile detention centers was marked with a rally earlier this week, outside the gateway to a facility that many say is the beginning of the state’s school to prison pipeline.

"It’s pretty much like a house of horrors, from the abuse from the guards, to the lack of medical attention, to the lack of educational programming, it was literally hell on earth.”

Dr. Vanessa Neumann
Allan Wolper for WBGO

Dr. Vanessa Neumann has won an international reputation for tracking the movement of terrorists and drug dealers, from Colombia to Southeast Asia. In December, St. Martin’s Press will publish her new investigative book, titled, “Blood Profits: How American Consumers Unwittingly Fund Terrorists.”

Born in the cauldron of Venezuela, South America, she has roamed the world seeking information and sources for the US State Department, the Pentagon, the United Nations, Interpol and numerous Fortune 500 companies.

Carla Bley, the wily and iconoclastic American composer, has a natural aversion to hearing other people interpret her music. But she didn't seem to have that problem with Riverside, a band jointly led by trumpeter Dave Douglas and multi-reedist Chet Doxas. In fact, she'll be joining Riverside, on piano, for a pair of upcoming Canadian concerts — in Quebec City on July 5 and at the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 6.

Her receptivity to Riverside's album The New National Anthem, which celebrates her work, may have something to do with the cajoling of her life partner, Steve Swallow, who plays electric bass in the band. But it could also be a reflection of the sincerity and sense of play brought to the table by Douglas and Doxas, who joined me in conversation for this episode of The Checkout.


Pianist Ahmad Jamal started his career as a child prodigy, moving on to quartets and then trios as his main voice for expression. The world would know about Ahmad with the 1958 LP Live At The Pershing, featuring the runaway jukebox hit "Poinciana." At 86, Ahmad Jamal is still expressing a vibrancy — this time with a love letter to an iconic city in Southern France, pulled together with longtime bassist James Cammack, drummer Herlin Riley and worldly percussionist Manolo Badrena.

The prospect of a state government shutdown is looming in New Jersey because of the stalemate on enacting a new budget.

Governor Chris Christie says he's willing to sign a budget that includes additions Democrats want but only if they also send him legislation to limit the surplus Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield can keep and to transfer the lottery assets to the public employee pension fund.

"So now it's up to Speaker Prieto. If Speaker Prieto wants to close the government, this is going to be his decision."

Ang Santos / WBGO

Speaking from a MTA conference seeking solutions to New York City’s aging infrastructure, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s system under a state of emergency.

“The delays are maddening New Yorkers.  They are infuriated by a lack of communication, unreliability, and now accidents.   Just three days ago we literally had a train come off of the tracks.  It’s a perfect metaphor for the dysfunction of the entire system,” Cuomo said.

WBGO Evening Jazz Host Awilda Rivera has been filling our airwaves with great music for the last 18 years. Today Rivera celebrates her birthday, and tomorrow we'll celebrate her final show as Evening Jazz Host with a star-studded live broadcast. Rivera is retiring from her post as host of weekday evening on WBGO, but will continue as host of the Latin Jazz Cruise.

Sheila Anderson and Rivera have shared a long-time camaraderie - apparent if you've heard the pair asking for your support during a WBGO pledge drive. On this edition of Salon Sessions, the two go back all the way to Rivera's first introduction to WBGO (as a volunteer in 1983!), and her history in broadcasting since.

The great pianist, composer and educator Geri Allen passed away yesterday from cancer. In 2010, Allen sat down at our Steinway B for an intimate solo studio session and conversation with former host of The Checkout, Josh Jackson.


A private New Jersey foundation that provides public policy grants says poor fiscal decisions are hampering the state's ability to pay for basic needs, and it’s recommending immediate changes.

The Fund for New Jersey says the most critical financial problem is funding the public employee pension system.  Rutgers University professor and fund trustee Henry Coleman says a balanced approach would include limiting retirees' health coverage commensurate with private employers. 

Rob Davidson

“Erroll Garner had so much spirit when he played, so much joy, so much groove,” Michael Wolff recently told Michael Bourne. “That’s why I think he was such a successful pianist. No matter what he did — and he played really, for his day, very sophisticated outside harmonies — but everything he played swung.”

Wolff was at our Yamaha Salon Concert on what would have been Erroll Garner's 94th birthday. He played both in a solo stride vein and with a swinging trio, and both performances were filmed.

John Rogers for WBGO and NPR / johnrogersnyc.com

Geri Allen, a widely influential jazz pianist, composer and educator who defied classification while steadfastly affirming her roots in the hard-bop tradition of her native Detroit, died on Tuesday in Philadelphia. She was 60, and lived for the last four years in Pittsburgh.

The cause was cancer, said Ora Harris, her manager of 30 years. The news shocked Allen’s devoted listeners as well as her peers, and the many pianists she directly influenced.

Francois Bisi

The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal kicks off with a major debut featuring one of its local artists. Rising star and Montrealer Malika Tirolien, formerly from the French Caribbean, is the frontwoman for Michael League's new project Bokanté, which is attracting a lot of buzz as of late. In this Checkout podcast, Tirolien talks about Strange Circles, the band's recording debut, and how League discovered her while he was on tour with his primary band Snarky Puppy.


Alexandra Hill

City officials in Newark, along with a parade of corporate partners, launched a new initiative at city hall today in an effort to drastically reduce the city’s unemployment rate. Mayor Ras Baraka says the Hire Buy Live Newark partnership extends beyond city government to involve Newark's colleges and universities, hospitals, and numerous corporations to create training and job opportunities for more than 2000 residents by the year 2020.

Awilda Rivera has been the host of Evening Jazz on WBGO for the last 18 years. This Friday, June 30, will mark her final shift of the show. We'll celebrate with an on-air jam session from 8 to 11 p.m., featuring musicians including clarinetist and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, percussionist Bobby Sanabria and guitarist Russell Malone. The festivities will be broadcast live on WBGO 88.3 FM and here at wbgo.org.

After a year of research, the New Jersey Campus Sexual Assault Task Force has issued a 39-page report on steps colleges must take to make campuses safer.

Patricia Teffenhart is executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the co-chair of the task force.  She says the recommendations include having every college conduct a sexual violence climate survey to get information from students, faculty and staff.

Students should know where they can confidentially report a sexual assault and have access to counseling and services.

Al Antomattei / WBGO

Nico Hischier is soaking in the celebrity that comes with being a New Jersey Devil.

“I knew it from the beginning that I’m joining a great organization with a lot of history.  I’m really happy to be a Devil,” said Hischier.  “After being drafted, it’s been crazy.  I can’t really believe it.  It’s one thing to the other and it’s just amazing to be here and special.  When I stepped into the rink it’s pretty cool and the locker room is awesome as well.”

New Jersey Devils coach John Hynes welcomes the 18-year-old Swiss player.

The WBGO News Team won seven national and four state awards over the weekend!  

WBGO won a total of seven awards, including four first place, in PRNDI's (Public Radio News Directors Incorporated) Division "C" category for newsrooms with 3 full-timers or less. The goal of the PRNDI awards is to honor the best in local public radio. This year's annual PRNDI Awards Banquet was held in Florida Saturday night.  More than 200 journalists attended the conference in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. 

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