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Archive | June, 2011

Five reasons why Memphis should get props for the blues

27 Jun

Another great conversation between KPLU’s Kirsten Kendrick and Nick Morrison. Enjoy!

Five reasons why Memphis should get props for the blues

By Kirsten Kendrick and Nick Morrison

A blues joint on Beale Street in Memphis, Tenn. Bo Nash / Flickr

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

Memphis, Tenn., is known as the birthplace of rock ‘n roll. But KPLU’s Nick Morrison says it should also be known for the blues.

Nick gives five examples of how Memphis and its neighbor, West Memphis, Ark., rank right up there with the Mississippi Delta and Chicago when it comes to launching the careers of influential blues artists.

I always learn a lot when Nick and I talk about the blues. There is so much history and so much good music.

A tale of two cities and two radio stations

This time around, I learned that there are two radio stations where many blues legends got their starts. One is KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas. That’s where Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson II had radio shows.

Nick says B.B. King got his first exposure to a broad public on Sonny Boy Williamson’s show on KWEM. He later went to have his own show on the Memphis station WDIA (and that’s where Riley B. King became B.B. King).

Five songs that highlight Memphis blues

Below are five songs that Nick chose to highlight the impact Memphis and West Memphis had on the blues. My two favorites on the list are from Sonny Boy Williamson and B.B. King.

Williamson’s “Mighty Long Time” is very sparse (a sorrowful voice, harmonica and bass played by mouth), but it’s very powerful. It evoked some strong emotions in me – see what it does for you. And, you’ll be amazed by the high-pitched voice of a young B.B. King in “Crying Won’t Help You.”

Enjoy!

  • Cannon’s Jug Stompers – Album: Complete Works, 1927-1930. Song: Prison Wall Blues
  • Sleepy John Estes – Album: I Ain’t Gonna Be Worried No More 1929-1941. Song: Milk Cow Blues
  • Sonny Boy Williamson II – Album: King Biscuit Time. Song: Mighty Long Time
  • Howlin’ Wolf – Album: Memphis Days: Definitive Edition, Vol. 1. Song: How Many More Years
  • B.B. King – Album: Original Greatest Hits. Song: Crying Won’t Help You

For links to the music and history of the artists, go to Nick’s blog post on A Blog Supreme/NPR Jazz

If you love the blues, be sure to check out the All Blues show with your host John Kessler every Saturday and Sunday night from 6 p.m. to midnight on 88.5 KPLU – and streaming live at kplu.org.

National Endowment for the Arts Announces the 2012 NEA Jazz Masters

24 Jun

30th anniversary of nation’s highest honor in jazz

Source: National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) today announced the recipients of the 2012 NEA Jazz Masters Award — the nation’s highest honor in jazz. The five recipients will receive a one-time award of $25,000 and be publicly honored at the annual awards ceremony and concert, produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center at its home, Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York City.

With this class, the NEA is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the NEA Jazz Masters Awards, which recognize outstanding musicians for their lifetime achievements and significant contributions to the development and performance of jazz.

The 2012 NEA Jazz Masters are:

Jack DeJohnette, Drummer, Keyboardist, Composer
Born in Chicago, IL; lives in Willow, NY)
Von Freeman, Saxophonist
Born in Chicago, IL; lives in Chicago, IL)
Charlie Haden, Bassist, Composer, Educator
Born in Shenandoah, IA; lives in Agoura Hills, CA)
Sheila Jordan, Vocalist, Educator
Born in Detroit, MI; lives in Middleburgh, NY and New York, NY)
*Jimmy Owens, Educator, Trumpeter, Flugelhorn Player, Composer, Arranger
Born in Bronx, NY; lives in New York, NY)

*Jimmy Owens is the recipient of the 2012 A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy.

“These artists represent the highest level of artistic mastery and we are proud to recognize their achievements,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “Through their contributions, we have been challenged, enlightened, and charmed, and we thank them for devoting their careers to expanding and supporting their art forms.”

“Jazz is considered by many as one of America’s greatest cultural gifts to the world,” said Wayne S. Brown, NEA Director of Music and Opera. “These artists are being recognized for their extraordinary contribution to advancing the art form and for serving as mentors for a new generation of young aspiring jazz musicians.”

National Endowment for the Arts

“Now in Stores” XIII

24 Jun

Here are five more recent jazz releases worth giving a listen to:

1. Standing on the Rooftop by Madeleine Peyroux (Decca, June 14, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

On Standing on the Rooftop there’s one very interesting collaborator that may have the key to opening new doors is the Rolling Stones’, Bill Wyman, whom Peyroux met at the Nice Jazz Festival while waiting to hear B.B. King, and the two then began writing together. A strong point for Peyroux this year was performing their song for the children of a displaced persons’ camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti this summer. The song, entitled ‘The Kind You Can’t Afford’, Peyroux says, is a testament to owning what money can’t buy. About the visit, she recounts, “I’ve had a sincere desire to be in Haiti ever since I started reading Edwidge Danticat, but never did visit before the storm. It was a life-changing experience which I’ll always remember, and the songs I performed there will now always have that flavor of pure music and joy in my memory.” Other current collaborators include Jonatha Brooke, David Batteau, Andy Rosen, and Jenny Scheinman. The new album is due to be released June 14th, 2011, and Peyroux plans to begin touring again in the US and Europe in early spring. “I think my fans are eager to hear something different,” Peyroux says, and pauses with restraint before adding, “Music has grown into another place in my mind… I am the same singer that I was as a teen, that wants to grow into music, wherever it comes from. I don’t believe I’ve given up anything. I’ve added to myself.” Let’s hope that that little air of restraint doesn’t hold her back.

2. Forever by Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White (Concord Records, June 7, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Pianist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White – each a powerful force of nature in his own right – have done more in recent decades to redefine jazz-rock fusion and push the limits of its potential than any other musicians today. Together they formed the core of the classic, most popular and successful lineup of Return to Forever, the legendary seminal electric jazz fusion band. After reclaiming the jazz-rock world in 2008 with the triumphant return of Return to Forever, Corea, Clarke and White decided to revisit where it all began, to get back to basics and the soul of their relationship.

The result is Forever, a two-CD set of 18 quintessential tunes. Recorded live, disc one of Forever is a best-of sampler from Corea, Clarke and White’s “RTF-Unplugged” world tour in 2009. Highlights include jazz standards “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Waltz for Debby” and “Hackensack,” exquisite Corea-classics “Bud Powell” and “Windows,” Clarke’s beautiful new “La Canción de Sofia” and even RTF pieces “Señor Mouse” and “No Mystery.” Disc two is a bonus CD with its own story.

3. Ninety Miles by Stefon Harris, David Sanchez and Christian Scott (Concord Picante, June 21, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

All distance is relative, especially where geopolitical borders and ideologies are involved. We speak one language, they speak another. We follow our system, they follow theirs. When we focus on the differences, a relatively short stretch of land or water starts to look like a yawning chasm. But when we look at each other as individuals and focus on the similarities, that “chasm” is actually a very short distance. Less than a hundred miles. Musicians – especially jazz musicians, whose craft is in many ways an improvised form of communication – understand this principle inherently, perhaps better than any politician or diplomat could ever hope to. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris, saxophonist David Sánchez and trumpeter Christian Scott cross that divide in their new recording, Ninety Miles.

Recorded entirely in Havana, Cuba, with the help of some highly talented Cuban players – pianists Rember Duharte and Harold López-Nussa, each leading their own quartets – the nine-song set is an experiment that examines the fascinating chemical reaction that takes place when musicians from different cultures come together and converse in a common language that transcends mere words. The set also includes a DVD that is a sneak peek of the forthcoming documentary of the same name that chronicles the recording process of the album in Cuba. It will also include two bonus live performances of “City Sunrise” and “La Fiesta Va.”

4. Songs of Mirth and Melancholy by Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo (Marsalis Music, June 7, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

In ‘Songs of Mirth and Melancholy’ Marsalis and Calderazzo seem to tap into even deeper levels of musical empathy and intuition

It may have taken just three days to record, but this new duo recording from sax player Branford Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo has 13 years of music-making behind it, dating back to when Calderazzo replaced the late, great Kenny Kirkland in the Branford Marsalis Quartet in 1998. We’ve come to expect a superabundance of imagination from both these players, but in Songs of Mirth and Melancholy Marsalis and Calderazzo seem to tap into even deeper levels of musical empathy and intuition.

5. Voice by Hiromi (Telarc, June 7, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Pianist and composer Hiromi Uehara, whose passionate and incendiary keyboard work has been a shining light on the jazz landscape since her 2003 debut, believes that the voice that never speaks can sometimes be the most powerful of all. Her newest release, a nine-song trio recording simply titled Voice, expresses a range of human emotions without the aid of a single lyric.

Although a mesmerizing instrumentalist in her own right, Hiromi enlists the aid of two equally formidable players for this project – bassist Anthony Jackson (Paul Simon, The O’Jays, Steely Dan, Chick Corea) and drummer Simon Phillips (Toto, The Who, Judas Priest, David Gilmour, Jack Bruce). Jackson had previously played on a couple tracks from each of Hiromi’s first two albums – Another Mind in 2003 and Brain in 2004 – but they had never recorded an entire album together. “I’ve always been a huge fan of his bass playing,” she says. “I’ve always liked playing with him, and I was very happy that we finally had the chance to make an entire album together.”

“Now in Stores” XII

“Now in Stores” XI

“Now in Stores” X

“Now In Stores” IX

“Now In Stores” VIII

“Now In Stores” VII

Now in Stores (Late May, June, and July)

“Now in Stores” – 5/16/2010 to 5/22/2010

“Now in Stores” – 5/2/2010 to 5/8/2010

Now in Stores” – 4/25/2010 to 5/1/2010

“Now in Stores” – 4/18/2010 t0 4/24/2010

“Now In Stores” – 5 Noteworthy Jazz Albums Released this Week (4/11/2010-4/17/10)

Julian Lage – From guitar prodigy to guitar master

21 Jun

Another great session from the KPLU studios…check out audio, video, and photos below!

Julian Lage – From guitar prodigy to guitar master

By Justin Steyer, Nick Francis and Nick Morrison

Guitarist Julian Lage performs live in the KPLU studios on June 15, 2011. Justin Steyer / KPLU

CLICK HEAR TO LISTEN TO THE SESSION

When Julian Lage was 8 years old, his skill as a guitarist was the subject of a documentary film, Jules at Eight. Before he entered his teens, he had already performed with Carlos Santana and jazz vibraphonist, Gary Burton.

He made his first jazz recording with Burton at age 15, and at age 22 he released his first CD as a band leader. Now, at the ripe old age of 24, he’s just released his second CD, called Gladwell.

To celebrate and promote the new recording, Julian is traveling the country with his quintet, and stopped by the KPLU studios last week to treat us to three delightful pieces of music.

Along with his drummer, Tupac Mantilla, and bassist, Jorge Roeder, Julian began the set with his intriguing reworking of the Neil Hefti classic, Li’l Darlin (which Mantilla plays percussion on Roeder’s bass for the second half of the tune).

The trio also performed However, from their new CD, and finished up with an as-yet unrecorded composition called Welcoming Committee:

 

Allen Toussiant live at KPLU

18 Jun

Another great live performance from our studios – check it out!

Allen Toussiant live at KPLU

By Justin Steyer, Abe Beeson and Nick Morrison

Allen Toussaint performing live in our Seattle studios in front of a lucky group of KPLU Leadership Circle members on June 1, 2011. Justin Steyer / KPLU

 CLICK HERE FOR AUDIO

Pianist, vocalist, producer and songwriting legend (and Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame inductee), Allen Toussaint stopped by the KPLU studios on June 1 and took us on a sweet and uplifting trip to New Orleans with his music.

Mr. Toussaint has crossed many paths in his illustrious career in music. He has produced, written for, and performed with music giants such as Dr. John, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Boz Scaggs and Irma Thomas to name a few.

Toussaint began the performance with the first song he ever recorded, Happy Times. He followed that up with a song originally written for himself, but was turned into a huge hit by Boz Scaggs, and later Bonnie Raitt, What Do You Want The Girl Do:

His final song, It’s A New Orleans Thing, inspired by the late Professor Longhair, who Toussaint refers to as the “Bach” of New Orleans music. Listen for hints of Professor’s classic Tipitina throughout the tune:

 

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