Music

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.


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.


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.

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. 

courtesy of the Artist

Roscoe Mitchell, “EP 7849”

The composer, multi-instrumentalist and educator Roscoe Mitchell has been a profound force in American experimental music for more than half a century – since the earliest stirrings of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, in the mid-1960s. His new double album is Bells For the South Side, recorded at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and just out on ECM.

Rob Davidson

Erroll Garner, the irrepressibly ebullient pianist, left an influence that runs deep but often diffuse: it isn't often that you hear someone who sounds just like him, but there's an awful lot of him in the language. Consider an exchange at our recent Yamaha Salon Concert between Kenny Werner and Andy Milne — a pair of super-literate, restlessly imaginative pianists, a generation apart. Their performance conjured Garner in spirit, without resorting to imitative devices, and set a high bar for responsive duologue.

When Steve Slagle named his new album Alto Manhattan, he had two connotations in mind. The first, of course, refers to his instrument, alto saxophone. But he was also thinking of the neighborhood where he lives, known to its Latino residents as "Alto Manhattan," or "The Heights." 

The album features a special guest, saxophonist Joe Lovano, as well as the percussionist Román Díaz, the drummer Bill Stewart, the bassist Gerald Cannon and the pianist Lawrence Fields. Slagle came into our studio to talk about the album, and play some music with Fields. The full band (sans Lovano) performs tonight at the Jazz Standard.

Metin Oner

The Microscopic Septet, a mid-size jazz combo with orchestral ambitions, has lived through many eras of jazz, beginning in New York City in the early 1980s. Back then, the band became a centerpiece in the city's downtown scene with John Zorn (an original member), Wayne Horwitz, and The Jazz Passengers. 

Its co-leader, Phillip Johnston, said he wanted to create music "too smooth for the avant-garde yet too knotty for the masses." In this Checkout studio session, they play the blues — as on their latest album, Been Up So Long, It Looks Like Down To Me.

T.J. Huff

First up in Take Five this week is a track from a notable left-of-center debut. You’ll also hear a John Coltrane classic played by two of his spiritual heirs, and a Mal Waldron standard finessed by a sturdy working band. Rounding out the lineup: a Cuban pianist in a meditative mood, and a self-described Timorese-Taiwanese-American vocalist and multi-instrumentalist transforming folk tales from around the world.

Last Thursday, on what would have been Erroll Garner's 94th birthday, WBGO held a Yamaha Salon Concert in midtown Manhattan, with a handful of superb pianists paying their respects. Among them was Christian Sands, who offered a solo medley with crystalline touch and bounding stride rhythm.

Then, following a brief exchange with Michael Bourne, he played a buoyant "Night and Day" with the evening's house rhythm team, bassist Ben Allison and drummer Allan Mednard.

Early in her musical career, in the ‘90s, Diana Krall played a regular gig on Saturday evenings in Boston. When she drove down to New York City on Sunday mornings, she’d plan the trip so she could get close enough to hear the FM signal of WBGO in time to hear Singers Unlimited. She’s been hearing herself playing piano and singing ever since on WBGO.

Nowadays, she can listen to wbgo.org during her travels around the world or in her hometown, Nanaimo, British Columbia. “I listen to you all the time,” she said when she came in for a recent session with a killer band, featuring frequent quartet-mate Anthony Wilson on guitar, along with bassist Robert Hurst, drummer Karriem Riggins and violinist Stuart Duncan.

In the fall of 1974, George Foreman and Muhammad Ali met in the country of Zaire, now called the Democratic Republic of Congo, for the legendary boxing match known as "The Rumble in the Jungle." Although the Rumble had to be postponed until later that autumn, a related promotional event went on as scheduled and turned out to be similarly momentous: Zaire 74, a music festival where some of America's greatest black artists played alongside Africa's leading talent to an audience of tens of thousands.

As jazz becomes more cerebral and gnarly by day, trumpeter and singer Wayne Tucker chases a sound closer to the heart. This instinctive, emotive approach to music has caught the attention of many — including some artists outside the genre, like Taylor Swift and Elvis Costello, with whom Tucker has toured. 

The Wayne Tucker Group recently came into our studio, giving a performance that featured his bright sound, feel-good melodies and a rhythm that, in his words, grooves "Harder Than Robots." 

AZ Jackson
Doug Doyle for WBGO

AZ Jackson, who is training with the Toulouse football club in France, is a rising soccer star. AZ, 15, is the son of jazz drummer and composer Ali Jackson, Jr.

Dad spends plenty of time as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra drummer, but he has also found time to go to France and support AZ's dream of becoming a pro soccer player.

The Jacksons, father and son, came into WBGO for a special edition of the award-winning podcast SportsJam with Doug Doyle.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters award, which comes with a $25,000 prize, is widely described as United States' highest honor for jazz. Today, the NEA announced its four newest recipients of the prize: pianist Joanne Brackeen, guitarist Pat Metheny, singer Dianne Reeves and producer Todd Barkan.

Bart Babinski / ECM Records

What’s on your agenda toward the end of this week? If you live within reach of New York City, Take Five has some fantastic options for you — three competing shows on Friday night, and another one at lunchtime on Thursday. But even if you’re already booked (or situated out of range), you can hear some of the music we’re talking about, right this second.

Selwyn Birchwood's new album, Pick Your Poison, is a soulful collection of genre-bending blues and roots. Birchwood, a guitarist and vocalist, recently dropped by the Blues Break for a live in-studio performance — and sat down with host Michael Bourne to talk more about this new album and his current tour.


Banda Magda
artist

Banda Magda creates a worldly music with unrelenting energy. Led by Magda Giannikou, a singer-songwriter and accordionist from Greece, this ambitious, rhythm-minded band came together at the Berklee College of Music, among an international coalition of players. In this podcast, Banda Magda returns to their alma mater in Boston for a special concert.


Courtesy Greenleaf Music

A few years ago, trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist Chet Doxas released the self-titled debut album by a band they called Riverside. Along with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Jim Doxas (Chet’s brother), they made the album a smart, springy tribute to the midcentury-modern multireedist and composer Jimmy Giuffre.

Swallow played with Giuffre in the early 1960s, so the project had a personal dimension. But Riverside’s second album, The New National Anthem, lands even closer to home — honoring Carla Bley, the resolutely original composer and pianist who has been Swallow’s life partner for more than 40 years. 

Jean Marc Lubrano

Two brilliant pianists. Two ebullient Cubans. Two intrepid young Englishmen. Two lovable standards, in new colors. The math may not seem to add up in this edition of Take Five, but the music — five winning tracks from as many different acts — most certainly does. (But who's counting, anyway?)

Marie Incontrera is the pianist, composer and leader behind the Eco-Music Big Band, a multigenerational, socially conscious ensemble determined to leave a positive stamp on society. She's a student and protégé of Fred Ho, the baritone saxophonist who founded the Afro-Asian Music Ensemble, and who succumbed to cancer in 2014. 

In this Checkout podcast, Incontrera talks about learning the ways of the Ho — the underground, self-proclaimed revolutionary artist — and why it's important to nurture a new ecology for the avant garde.

Bern Nix, a thoughtfully expressive guitarist in the jazz avant-garde, best known for his close association with composer and saxophonist Ornette Coleman, died on Wednesday at his home in New York City. He was 69.

His death was confirmed by Denardo Coleman — Ornette’s son, and the drummer in his fusionesque band Prime Time, which has recently been preparing for a memorial Ornette Coleman Festival at Lincoln Center in July.

Jure Pukl

The tune was familiar yet unfamiliar, an iconic object seen through a funhouse prism. It was “El Manisero,” the bedrock Cuban standard, refurbished with shadowy postbop harmony and a rolling montuno in 18/8 time. Portillo & Cauce was playing to a packed house at La Zorra y el Cuervo, one of the leading jazz clubs in Havana, and they couldn’t have sounded sleeker or more modern.

The Philly-based collective Killiam Shakespeare is a little hard to categorize, and they're happy about that. Drummer Steve McKie and keyboardist Corey Bernhard say their sound is a seamless blend of jazz, rock, hip-hop and other modern vibrations — styles they picked up while backing genre-blurring artists like Bilal, Talib Kweli, and Questlove, among others. 

Hear them describe their unique sound on another edition of The Checkout series My Music.

John Abbott

With his new release, Zenith, pianist Michael Wolff has captured the diverse spirit of a solo recording done exceptionally well. The album includes an original New Orleans bounce, some Coltrane in ragtime, Sufjan Stevens and more. 

Michael stopped by Morning Jazz to chat about his past associations with Sonny Rollins, Cal Tjader, Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson — and play some inspired piano  on our Steinway grand.

Sonny Rollins
Chuck Stewart/Courtesy of the artist

Sonny Rollins wasn't really thinking about the formation of an archive as he went about his life and career over the last 60 years — as a tenor saxophonist of unsurpassed stature, an artist of active spiritual and social engagement, and an embodiment of jazz's improvisational ideal.

John Abbott

The tracks in Take Five this week cover a range from heartsick to hopeful, from resigned to anything but. One track was recorded almost 80 years ago, but sounds as fresh as anything you’re likely to hear. Another has a political thrust clearly aligned with current events. That’s enough preamble for this week; let’s dive right in.

Known for his work with Weather Report, Joni Mitchell and Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius was one of the most inventive bass players in music history. He is the only electric bassist in DownBeat magazine's Jazz Hall of Fame.

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