WBGO Blog
  • Electric Miles: Behind The 'Brew'

    August 15, 2019

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    Miles and Betty Davis in color in Miles' New York westside brownstone, 1969 (Image Credit: Baron Wolman)

    Electric Miles. Few word pairings in the jazz lexicon are apt to inspire so much contention and challenge and ferment. What the phrase refers to, of course, is a period in the career of trumpeter Miles Davis, spanning the last third of his life. And while there are other important antecedents, the big bang of this period is an album recorded 50 years ago by the name of Bitches Brew.

    This episode of Jazz Night in America takes us behind the furious mystique of that album, illuminating the musical and cultural forces Miles was metabolizing at the time. We'll hear from an array of authorities on the subject — notably his second wife, funk heroine and fashion icon Betty Davis, who inspired his outrageous transformation in the Age of Aquarius. ("Whatever I would wear, he would wear," says Betty with a laugh, in this rare, can't-miss interview.)

    Among the other essential voices in the show is electric bassist Marcus Miller, who served as musical director and record producer for a later edition of Davis' band. We'll hear highlights from an Electric Miles concert that Miller put together for Jazz at Lincoln Center — featuring not one but two blazing trumpeters, Russell Gunn and Marquis Hill, along with stone killers like guitarist Vernon Reid.

    "When you create music," Miller asserts, "your primary responsibility is to reflect the times that you live in." That's one of many explanations for the current that flows through Electric Miles — and the charge that it can still deliver.

    Set List

    • "Directions" (Joe Zawinul)
    • "Bitches Brew" (Miles Davis)
    • "Spanish Key" (Miles Davis)
    • "Black Satin" interlude (Miles Davis)
    • "Tutu" (Marcus Miller)

    Musicians

    Marcus Miller – Music Director, Bandleader, Bass Guitar, Bass Clarinet ; Brett Williams – Keyboards; Alex Han – Saxophone; Marquis Hill – Trumpet; Russell Gunn – Trumpet; Vernon Reid – Guitar; Alex Bailey – Drums; Mino Cinelu – Percussion.

    Credits

    Host: Christian McBride; Producers: Sarah Geledi with Trevor Smith; Editor: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • 'The Black Messiah' And The Legacy Of Cannonball Adderley

    July 26, 2019. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    Cannonball Adderley sits with his saxophone. (Image Credit: JP Jazz Archive/Redferns/Getty Images )

    Cannonball Adderley was a mere 46 when he died, of a brain hemorrhage, in 1975. An alto saxophonist of robust intellect and irrefutable soul, he left a monumental legacy during his two decades in the spotlight — as a member of the Miles Davis Sextet, an exemplar of 1960s soul jazz and the leading avatar of a brand of post-bop modernism with popular appeal.

    This episode of Jazz Night in America takes a fond look at that legacy, illuminating it from multiple angles. Guided by our host, self-avowed Cannonball fanatic Christian McBride, we'll hear from some of Adderley's former bandmates, like drummer Roy McCurdy and tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts. We'll spend quality time with Patrick Bartley Jr., a young alto saxophonist who has taken Cannonball Adderley's music and message to heart. And we'll pull the curtain back on The Black Messiah, a 1971 album that has come to be seen as a classic.

    "The Mighty Cannonball Adderley" band

    Patrick Bartley: alto saxophone; Julian Lee: tenor saxophone; Bruce Harris: trumpet; Chris Pattishall: piano; Alexander Claffy: bass; Evan Sherman, drums

    "The Chocolate Nuisance" from The Black Messiah

    Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: alto saxophone; Nat Adderley: cornet; George Duke: electric piano; Mike Deasy: guitar; Walter Booker: bass; Roy McCurdy: drums; Airto Moreira, Buck Clarke: percussion

    Credits

    Host: Christian McBride; Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • The Artistic Duality Of Drummer Mark Guiliana

    July 11, 2019. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    Mark Guiliana (Image Credit: Justin Bettman/Courtesy of the artist)

    Drummer/composer Mark Guiliana traverses many musical landscapes from modern jazz (Brad Mehldau), Tunisian oud music (Dhafer Youssef), Hasidic reggae (Matisyahu), or legendary rock (David Bowie.) However, these days, his primary mode for expression is displayed in two distinctly different sounding bands: the acoustic The Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet and his electric Beat Music project. But don't make the mistake of thinking about these vehicles as separate, or only binary, divided between plugged-in and plugged-out lines, but rather in unison, from the creative mind of an artist who deftly synthesizes the vast array of contemporary sounds around us. And, as far as the spirit of the music, Guiliana says, "You know, every time I sit down it's jazz whether it is or not."

    Join us on this exciting Jazz Night in America journey, where we'll bring you these two bands in their peak form, with two unique concerts, from two hemispheres of the globe: The Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet recorded at the world famous Bimhuis in Amsterdam followed by Beat Music's album release party at Rough Trade in Brooklyn.

    Set List:

    • "Jersey" (Mark Guiliana)
    • "Our Lady" (Chris Morrissey)
    • "One Month" (Guiliana)
    • "Bones" (Guiliana)
    • "Bud" (Guiliana)

    Musicians:

    Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet: Mark Guiliana: drums/composition; Jason Rigby: saxophone; Fabian Almazan: piano; Chris Morrissey: bass.

    Beat Music: Mark Guiliana: drums & electronics; Nick Semrad: synthesizers; BIGYUKI: synthesizers; Chris Morrissey: bass

    Credits:

    Host: Christian McBride; Producer: Simon Rentner; Editor: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: David Tallacksen (Beat Music), Micha de Kanter (Jazz Quartet); Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Funded in Part By: The Argus Fund, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Fund, The National Endowment for the Arts, Wyncote Foundation

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Good Gracious! Words Of Wisdom And Soulful Reflection From 'Sweet Papa' Lou Donaldson

    June 20, 2019

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    Host Christian McBride and Saxophonist Lou Donaldson in Florida. (Image Credit: Katie Simon/WBGO)

    Lou Donaldson, the alto saxophonist fondly known as "Sweet Papa," tends to characterize his colorfully sprawling life in jazz as the pursuit of a fundamental aim. "I always had my music geared to the people," he says. "'Cause when I played, I listened to what they were giving me the applause for."

    During a career spanning more than six decades, Donaldson met that standard with style to spare — in the earliest hard-bop bands, alongside Art Blakey and Clifford Brown; with a winning series of 1960s Blue Note albums, like Alligator Bogaloo, that would come to epitomize soul jazz; as a blues-and-bebop legacy artist, recognized as an NEA Jazz Master; and as a core sample source for hip-hop artists like Pete Rock and De La Soul.

    Donaldson, 92, has lately been enjoying a retiree's easy pace in Florida, but he's no less garrulous and mischievous than he ever was, as we'll hear in this episode of Jazz Night in America. Our host, Christian McBride, visited Donaldson at home, and their conversation is an unguarded and salty treat. ("The only jazz I hear," quips Sweet Papa Lou, "is when some old people play it.")

    We'll also hear plenty of music, pulled not only from Donaldson's storied catalog but also a 2009 date at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, with his longtime organ quartet. We'll hear Don Was, the president of Blue Note, explain why Donaldson has been key to the label's legacy. And we'll hear Pete Rock break down the magic of those tracks from a hip-hop point of view. "To me, Lou was special," Rock reflects — a sentiment we all share at Jazz Night, in a vibrant present tense.

    Musicians

    Lou Donaldson, alto saxophone, vocals; Randy Johnston, guitar; Akiko Tsuruga, organ; Fukishi Tainaka, drums

    Credits

    Host: Christian McBride; Producers: Trevor Smith with Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Special thanks to Hannah Harris Green, Sam Turken, Roberta Magrini, Belviana Todmann, Cem Kurosman, and Colin Moreshead

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Turtle Island Quartet Joins Cyrus Chestnut With Global Gospel Offering

    June 6, 2019. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    Turtle Island String Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    "I don't believe America was founded to be one dimensional," pianist Cyrus Chestnut asserts. "It's various different people coming together, quote unquote, to develop something hip."

    Chestnut is referring, in part, to a conversation between jazz, gospel and classical music that has been ongoing for well over a century. But he's also describing Carry Me Home,his decade-long collaboration with the Turtle Island Quartet, the subject of this episode of Jazz Night in America.

    Now approaching its 35th year, Turtle Island — violinists David Balakrishnan and Gabriel Terracciano, violist Benjamin Von Gutzeit and cellist Malcolm Parson — stands apart from most other string quartets in its capacity to improvise and truly swing.

    Jazz Night caught the fourth-ever concert performance of Carry Me Home, at the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre in the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech. The program — ranging from gospel spirituals to Senegalese chants to jazz standards — illustrates what Balakrishnan calls "a blend kind of mentality." He was using that phrase to describe Chestnut, but on some level he could have been talking about the American experiment, which can only ever be a work in progress.

    Set List

    • "Subconscious-Lee" (Lee Konitz, arr. B. von Gutzeit)
    • "Wade In The Water" (trad, arr. Cyrus Chestnut)
    • "Down In The Depths" (Wayne Shorter, arr. B. von Gutzeit)
    • "Chant Mouride" (Diame Beniot, arr. M. Parson)
    • "Jeannine" (Duke Pearson, arr. D. Balakrishnan)
    • "Come Sunday" (Duke Ellington, arr. Cyrus Chestnut)
    • "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" (Charles Gabriel, arr. Cyrus Chestnut)
    • "Lean On Me" (Bill Withers, arr. Cyrus Chestnut)

    Musicians

    Turtle Island Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut: David Balakrishnan, violin, leader; Benni von Gutzeit, viola; Gabe Terracciano, violin; Malcolm Parson, cello; Cyrus Chestnut, piano

    Credits

    Producers: Alex Ariff; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Recording Engineer: Robert Gainer, mixed by David Tallacksen

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.