This was big fun, joining my colleague Talia Guzman-Gonzalez from the Library’s Hispanic Division to talk with saxophonist, composer, educator Miguel Zenon about his thoughts on music and his own critically acclaimed work. We did this on April 11, 2017. Check his reaction when I show him a manuscript in the hand of Charlie Parker.
Just in time for my Astor Piazzolla birthday celebration broadcast today, I found this aircheck buried deep in my closet. It’s from a program we did nearly 30 years ago when Piazzolla was about to bring his new sextet to the Warner Theater. The 3rd voice is one of my listeners Roberto Cucullu, who knew far more about Piazzolla than I did (he also brought a lot of rare Piazzolla recordings he’d collected over the years). Good memories. I miss Astor Piazzolla, who would have turned 97 today.
More than 10 years ago, my former boss at work, Michael Donaldson (an inveterate 45 collector), brought me a little something he picked up at a thrift store. It was super rare 45 of a New York-based vocal trio named The Three Graces singing a song dedicated to their latest heartthrob, Larry Applebaum. I was startled to see the title of the recording, issued by Golden Crest in 1960, written by Cy Levitan.
It has many of the characteristic pop sounds of the day: jangly guitars, sax solo, vocal harmony and several very catchy hooks. It’s taken me many years to find a clean copy, so I’m grateful to Jeff Krulik, Gary Levine and Lee Michael Demsey for tracking it down for me. I now have my new closing theme for my radio show!
Multi-instrumentalist and educator Steve Wilson is busier than ever these days. He’s got his own group and has appeared on more than 150 recordings from duets to big bands. In addition to being a much-in-demand clinician, Wilson teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University, the City College of New York and the Juilliard School. His most recent release as a leader was Live in New York: The Vanguard Sessions (Random Act), and his next vinyl-only release Sit Back, Relax, & Unwind (J.M.I.) is due out later this year. We carved out some focused listening time at the Watergate Hotel prior to Maria Schneider’s Orchestra sound check at the Kennedy Center.
“Bounce Parts I & II” from Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere (Waterbaby Music). Smith, drums; Kris Bowers, keyboard; Fima Ephron, electric bass; Jeremy Most, guitar; Jaleel Shaw, alto saxophone; Chris Potter, tenor saxophone. Recorded in 2014.
Lisa Fischer has long been considered a singer’s singer. She won her first Grammy in 1991 for her hit “How Can I Ease the Pain,” but in years since, she’s become a go-to, first-call backing vocalist, sharing the stage with many of the biggest names in business, including The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Sting and more than two decades with the late Luther Vandross. The 2013 Oscar-winning documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom reminded audiences of her prodigious vocal skills and helped revitalize her career as a solo artist. We caught up with Ms. Fischer on the last day of her sold-out weekend at Blues Alley. Her perceptive comments were offered with insider’s insights punctuated by joyous laughter.
Gregory Porter & Common
“Running” (from Refugee Song, LLC). Curated and Produced by Keyon Harrold and Andrea Pizzicone; Lyrics by Andrea Pizzicone, Keyon Harrold, Common; Music by Keyon Harrold and Jasson Harrold. Recorded in 2016.
Before: I feel transported, like I’m traveling through space. I might get the feeling of being lost but there’s something about this voice makes me feel safe. Continue reading →
2015 was a banner year for Dianne Reeves, winning a Grammy for Beautiful Life and receiving her honorary doctorate from the Juilliard School. She spent a good part of the past 12 months working on her follow-up Concord disc and touring both stateside and abroad. We met for this session during her summer stop at the Alfa Jazz Festival in Lviv. Eager to hear her thoughts on a handful of recent releases, we also served up collaborations between Mahalia Jackson and Duke Ellington, her cousin George Duke with Kamasi Washington, Portland-based singer Nancy King with bassist Glen Moore, and an oddly awkward Carmen McRae curiosity with Ben Webster from 1958.
On April 12, 2016, I interviewed composer, arranger and bandleader Maria Schneider during her weeklong residency at the Library of Congress. We discussed her creative process, how she met and began working with Gil Evans, artists rights in the digital marketplace, crowdfunding and commissions, her setting of poems by Ted Kooser and her collaboration with David Bowie.
I recently dug up, dusted off and added some photos to this old report on my State Department-sponsored lecture tour to Ukraine back in 2004. Subsequent visits have shown interesting things still happening there, so I offer this post for the sake of context and warm memories.
On Oct. 2, 2016, in the midst of his first American tour, British singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Jacob Collier stopped up to WPFW-FM for a bit of a chat on my radio program. We discussed a number of issues including his relationships with Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones, his wildly popular YouTube videos, artist rights in the digital world and how he created his recently released debut recording “In My Room” entirely in his room at home.