WBGO Blog
  • Crate Digging With Christian McBride: The History Of Latin Bass

    October 29, 2020

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    The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra featuring bassists Cachao, Andy González, and Charnett Moffett. (Image Credit: Frank Stewart/Jazz at Lincoln Center)

    In the Afro-Caribbean musical tradition, the essential pulse on the low end can be conjured in a single word, tumbao. But within that word, there are worlds — as we know from the shining example of bassist and bandleader Israel López Valdés, known to all as Cachao.

    This episode of Jazz Night in America, which kicks off a new series called Crate Digging, is a jubilant celebration of this Latin bass legacy. We'll hear highlights of a 2006 concert by the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, spotlighting four virtuoso bassists: Rubén Rodríguez, Charnett Moffett, the late Andy González, and yes, the mighty Cachao, two years before his death at 89.

    Jazz Night's host, Christian McBride, who handpicked this concert from the Jazz at Lincoln Center vault, knows a thing or two about the bass himself. But we'll join him in a spirit of discovery with this music — and in conversation with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra's founder, pianist and composer Arturo O'Farrill. "Even though they all play in the same world," O'Farrill says of the four bassists on the show, "they all have such different approaches to it."

    Musicians

    Arturo O'Farrill, piano and conductor, with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: Rubén Rodríguez, bass; Luis Bonilla, trombone; Reynaldo Jorge, trombone; Gary Valente, trombone; Douglas Purviance, trombone; Michael Rodriguez, trumpet; John Walsh, trumpet; Michael Philip Mossman, trumpet; Pablo Calogero, saxophone; Bobby Porcelli, saxophone; Erica von Kliest, saxophone; Mario Rivera, saxophone; Jimmy Delgado, percussion; Ivan Renta, saxophone; Raul Agras, trumpet; Tony Rosa, congas; Vince Cherico, drums. Special guests: Israel López Valdés (aka Cachao), bass; Andy González, bass; Charnett Moffett, bass.

    Set List
    (All featured guests on bass)

    • "Mas Bajo" (Tito Puente) feat. Rubén Rodríguez
    • "Caravan" (Juan Tizol) feat. Cachao
    • "Asia Minor" (Machito) feat. Andy González
    • "Vieques" (Andy Gonzalez) feat. Andy González
    • "Tricotism" (Oscar Pettiford) feat. Charnett Moffett
    • "Bajo Descarga" (Arturo O'Farrill) feat. Rubén Rodríguez, Cachao, Andy González, Charnett Moffett

    Credits

    Writer and Producer: Suraya Mohamed; Contributing Producer: Alex Ariff; Host: Christian McBride; Music Engineers: Rob Macomber and Jeff Rothman (JALC), Edward Gavitt (Jazz Gallery); Technical Director: David Tallacksen; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

    Copyright 2020 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Swinging The Clouds Away: Jazz Takes Over Sesame Street

    October 23, 2020. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    (Image Credit: Richard Termine/JALC)

    It wasn't your typical crowd in the Rose Theater one afternoon last fall, for a sold-out concert by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. For one thing, every grown-up in the audience seemed to be accompanied by an excited child or two. Then there were the guest artists, whom everybody knew on a first-name basis: Big Bird, Elmo, Rosita, Oscar, Abby. Bert and Ernie.

    A Swingin' Sesame Street Celebration — the title of that boisterous concert, a new album and PBS broadcast special — was a 50th-anniversary party for Sesame Street, the beloved educational television series. It was also a joyous acknowledgment of the role music has played on the show, with those familiar characters and their talented puppeteers dashing about the stage, as they sang custom new arrangements of "Doin' the Pigeon" and "Elmo's Song."

    On this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll feature music from that show while exploring the jazz undercurrent in Sesame Street's history, which goes back to its first musical director, the late Joe Raposo. We'll hear from Raposo's fellow songwriter Chris Cerf, and Hoots the Owl (ahem, that would be Chris Thomas Hayes,) who sings Cerf's tune "Put Down the Duckie." Marsalis will share his thoughts about Big Bird and Elmo too.

    But it doesn't stop there. The in-demand trombonist Joe Fiedler, an associate musical director for Sesame Street, started a band a few years back called Open Sesame, with peers like Steven Bernstein on trumpet and Jeff Lederer on saxophone. As its name suggests, the group takes a freewheeling approach to songs from the show — as we'll hear in a recording from The Jazz Gallery in New York. Like the rest of this show, it carries a core truth: "You could be serious and have your musical skill set impeccable," as Fiedler aptly puts it, "and still have it be fun."

    Musicians

    Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Wynton Marsalis, music director, trumpet; Ryan Kisor, trumpet; Kenny Rampton, trumpet; Marcus Printup, trumpet; Vincent Gardner, trombone; Chris Crenshaw, trombone; Elliot Mason, trombone; Sherman Irby, alto saxophone; Ted Nash, alto saxophone; Victor Goines, tenor saxophone; Janelle Reichman, tenor saxophone; Paul Nedzela, baritone saxophone; Dan Nimmer, piano; Carlos Henriquez, bass; Jason Marsalis, drums.

    Sesame Workshop: Ken Diego, director; Andrew Moriarty, writer; Paul Rudolph, music director, vocals; Matt Vogel: puppet captain, Big Bird, Count von Count, Mr. Johnson; Eric Jacobson: Bert, Grover, Oscar The Grouch; Peter Linz: Ernie, Herry Monster; Carmen Osbahr-Vertiz: Rosita; Leslie Carrara-Rudolph: Abby Cadabby; Ryan Dillon: Elmo; Christopher Thomas Hayes: Hoots the Owl.

    Joe Fiedler's Open Sesame: Joe Fiedler, trombone; Jeff Lederer, tenor saxophone; Steve Bernstein, trumpet; Sean Conly, bass; Michael Sarin, drums.

    Set List

    • "Sesame Street Theme" (Joe Raposo, Bruce Hart & Jon Stone, arr. Kenny Rampton)
    • "Pinball Number Count" (Walt Kramer & Ed Bogas, arr. Carlos Henriquez)
    • "Mahna Mahna" (Piero Umiliani, arr. Wynton Marsalis)
    • "Put Down The Duckie" (Christopher Cerf & Norman Stiles, arr. Carlos Henriquez )
    • "I Don't Want To Live On The Moon" (Jeff Moss, arr. Wynton Marsalis)
    • "Has Anybody Seen My Dog" (Joe Raposo)
    • "Doin The Pigeon" (Joe Raposo)
    • "The Sesame Street Theme"
    • "Elmo's / Wynton's Song" (Tony Geiss, arr. Kenny Rampton)
    • "Sing" (Joe Raposo, arr. Ted Nash)

    The full performance featuring Wynton Marsalis and the Sesame Street Muppets will debut Oct. 30 at 9:00 p.m. EDT on PBS stations nationwide—check your local listings for details.

    Credits

    Special thanks to Shaniqua Martin, Aaron Bisman, Brit Edwards, Samantha Kennedy at Sesame Workshop and Kathleen Dunn at Penguin Random House.

    Writer and Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Music Engineers: Rob Macomber and James Nichols (JALC), Edward Gavitt (Jazz Gallery); Technical Director: David Tallacksen; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

    Copyright 2020 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Social Music In An Age Of Social Distancing

    October 16, 2020. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

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    (Image Credit: Nickolai Hammar/NPR)

    How is the jazz community in Philadelphia responding to the global pandemic? Jazz Night in America found a few different answers to that question. In this video short, we'll explore how a performer, a private citizen and an entrepreneur are striving for resilience during a time of social upheaval and economic uncertainty. In the radio episode, we'll hear vibrant performances from a front porch, a backyard and a jazz club.

    There's an echo of this struggle in jazz history. Philadelphia in 2020 and New Orleans in 1918 offer two historically distinct versions of America, but it's striking to consider the parallels. In his 1954 memoir, Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans, Louis Armstrong recalled being a teenager when the Spanish flu ground the city to a halt. "Just when the government was about to let crowds of people congregate again so that we could play our horns once more, the lid was clamped down tighter than ever," he wrote, "that forced me to take any odd jobs I could get."

    Pianist and proud Philadelphian Orrin Evans, whose Club Patio series has been a grassroots success story during the coronavirus pandemic, cites the Food Network reality cooking show Chopped. Maybe on some level he's thinking of Armstrong's "Cornet Chop Suey."

    Evans says, "I love Chopped because you have no idea what the ingredients are inside that basket, but they make a meal out of it. That's how I'm looking at life right now. Every morning I open the basket. I have no idea what the ingredients are going to be, but I got to make something happen. And that's what this time has to be for every artist."

    As you'll hear in our show, many artists are rising to the occasion, while aware of the deeper challenge. "Everybody's improvising and making sunlight happen," marvels bassist Alex Claffy, "in a time when it just seemed completely unfathomable."

    Musicians

    Orrin Evans Trio: Orrin Evans: keys; Luques Curtis: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.

    Heath Allen and Friends: V. Shayne Frederick: vocals; Hailey Brinnel: trombone and vocals; Marcell Bellinger: trumpet; Josh Machiz: bass; Jimmy Coleman: drums; Heath Allen: keys.

    Alex Claffy Trio feat. Mike Moreno: Alex Claffy: bass; Orrin Evans: piano; Byron Landham: drums; Mike Moreno: guitar.

    Radio Set List

    • "Don't Fall Off the Ledge" (Orrin Evans)
    • "Feed The Fire" (Geri Allen)
    • "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You" (Andy Razaf and Don Redman)
    • "Give Me The Simple Life" (Rube Bloom and Harry Ruby)
    • "Growing Pains" (Alex Claffy)
    • "Liberia" (John Coltrane)

    Credits

    This show was produced in partnership with WRTI. Special thanks to Josh Jackson. Video Producer: Nickolai Hammar; Radio Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Recording Engineers: Tyler McClure (Club Patio and Molly Murphy's backyard); Sean Svadlenak (Chris' Jazz Cafe); Technical Director: David Tallacksen; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

    Copyright 2020 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Meet the NEA Jazz Masters, Class of 2020

    September 18, 2020

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    Bobby McFerrin, Dorthaan Kirk, Roscoe Mitchell and Reggie Workman. (Image Credit: Carol Friedman, David Tallacksen, Richard Kohler, Ken Weiss /NEA)

    Every year since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts selects a new class of NEA Jazz Masters, a formal recognition reserved for seasoned musicians and jazz advocates.

    On this episode of Jazz Night in America, we throw the spotlight on the class of 2020, beginning with a storied bassist whose career parallels the history of jazz from the early 1960s onward. Reggie Workman grew up in Philadelphia with Lee Morgan and Archie Shepp, and played in the John Coltrane Quartet and Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, before collaborating with almost every big name in the book for half a century.

    Then we'll profile another jazz lifer, although avant-garde saxophonist and composer Roscoe Mitchell would take issue with that limiting definition. While most jazz fans know of his work in The Art Ensemble of Chicago, his career also veered into the realm of performance art and classical music.

    We also celebrate one of the most beloved people in the jazz community: Dorthaan Kirk, the First Lady of Jazz in Newark, N.J. She's been a behind-the-scenes force of nature for over 40 years, and this year she received the A.B. Spellman Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy.

    Last but certainly not least, we salute Bobby McFerrin, an undefinable vocal improviser who not only changed the paradigm of what singing could be, but also pushed the boundary of the human voice. His daughter, singer-songwriter Madison McFerrin, helps us pay tribute.

    Set List

    • John Coltrane, "Greensleeves" (traditional, arranged by McCoy Tyner)
    • Rahsaan Roland Kirk, "Dorthaan's Walk" (Kirk)
    • Art Ensemble of Chicago, "Odwalla Theme" (Roscoe Mitchell)
    • Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea, "Even For Me" (McFerrin / Corea)
    • Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea, "Autumn Leaves" (Bernie Hanighen / Thelonious Monk / Cootie Williams)

    Credits

    Special thanks to the NEA and Josephine Reed for the Masters interviews. Watch The 2020 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert From SFJAZZ here.

    Writer and Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Technical Director: David Tallacksen; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

    Copyright 2020 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Bird Lives! A Charlie Parker Centennial, With Strings Attached

    August 28, 2020. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    "Charlie Parker With Strings" album cover (Image Credit: /Verve Records)

    Charlie Parker, the incandescent avatar of modern jazz, didn't live to see 35. His centennial is upon us, and with it comes a chance to celebrate his legacy — as a quicksilver alto saxophonist, a voracious musical thinker and a crucial link in the chain of jazz tradition. Bird, as he was fondly known, gave us a lexicon as well as a literature. Like Louis Armstrong before him and just a few others since, he redrew the possibilities of the art form, and he did it with absolute panache.

    For our "Bird at 100" show, Jazz Night in America locks in on a Parker tribute featuring two alto saxophonists well suited to the task: leading bebop practitioner Charles McPherson and the ever-soulful Wess "Warmdaddy" Anderson. They joined forces for a Jazz at Lincoln Center concert organized by trombonist Vincent Gardner, with a focus on the iconic Charlie Parker with Strings recordings — a crossover landmark, and a byproduct of Parker's sincere interest in classical modernism.

    We'll hear vibrant music from the concert — not only standard fare like "Just Friends," but also pieces like George Russell's "Ezz-thetic," which Parker never had the chance to record. We'll also hear insights from Carl Woideck, one of Parker's biographers, and violinist Teddy Blume, a key member of his string section. What it all amounts to is a reaffirmation of Parker's continuing relevance, as McPherson succinctly puts it. "When you do these kinds of projects," he reflects, "in a way, this is when you realize how great Bird was."

    Set List

    • "Easy to Love" (Cole Porter, arr. Jimmy Mundy)
    • "Just Friends" (John Klenner, arr. Jimmy Carroll)
    • "Laura" (David Raksin, arr. Joe Lipman)
    • "Rocker" (Gerry Mulligan)
    • "Repetition" (Neal Hefti)
    • "Ezz-Thetic" (George Russell)
    • "Scootin' " (John Lewis)

    Musicians

    Vincent Gardner, trombone and music director; Charles McPherson, alto saxophone; Wess "Warmdaddy" Anderson, alto saxophone; Ehud Asherie, piano; Ben Wolfe, bass, Victor Lewis, drums.

    The Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas: Ben Wendel, conductor; Daniel Andai, violin and concertmaster; Brooke Quiggins-Saulnier, violin; Elizabeth Young, violin; Cecee Pantikian, violin; Regi Papa, violin; Audrey Lo, violin; Irene Momchilova, viola, principal; Lev "Ljova" Zhurbin, viola; Benjamin Capps, cello; Keve Wilson, oboe and english horn; Kristi Shade, harp.

    Credits

    Special thanks to: Carl Woideck and Kerry Farrell. And to Phil Schaap for letting us use his interview with Teddy Blume. Hear the entire interview and many more of Phil's radio episodes here.

    Writer and Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Music Engineer: Rob Macomber; Technical Director: David Tallacksen; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

    Copyright 2020 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.