Jazz

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After 35 years, WBGO is still a radio station with a mission

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“WBGO is a miracle radio station and I’m going to tell you why.”

But before Dorthaan Kirk — Newark’s First Lady of Jazz, with her silver braids behind her headband and her welcoming smile and her eyes that have seen more of this music than most people will ever hear with their ears — does that, let’s go back to 1979. Newark had for 12 years been recovering from the riots of ’67 — six days, 26 dead, hundreds injured, swaths of the city destroyed. Resentment smoldering long after the fires were extinguished. Maybe, by 1979, Newark had not yet recovered, or maybe the trends that precipitated the riots just settled in to stay: capital flight, de-industrialization, rising unemployment, dwindling opportunity. Kirk had for two years lived with the loss of her husband, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, a virtuoso whose cometary life still glows across a certain period of jazz history. Continue Reading →

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McCoy Tyner to be honored as ‘Jazz Giant’ at SOPAC

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McCoy Tyner will be honored in South Orange on Saturday the way all great jazz musicians should be honored: With a celebratory, all-star evening of music. In the 17th show in the annual Giants of Jazz series, Tyner, 75, will perform, after a long list of his friends, collaborators and admirers — including Gary Bartz, Cyrus Chestnut, Antonio Hart, Jimmy Heath, T.S. Monk, Wallace Roney, Claudio Roditi, Renee Rosnes and Steve Turre — have played his compositions. “He’s one of the piano titans of this music, like Mount Rushmore,” said bassist John Lee, who founded the series and organizes the show. Lee, a member of Tyner’s band for 2½ years in the early ’80s, describes Tyner as “a great guy, and very passionate about music. I grew up listening to him, and his compositions. Continue Reading →

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Jazz meets soul at explosive NJPAC concert

There’s just an “invisible fence” separating the worlds of jazz and soul, said Christian McBride at the start of Thursday night’s “Jazz and Soul” concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. And certainly the show, one of the main concerts in the third annual TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival, made that point clear. McBride’s own jazz big band — who were onstage the whole evening, performing on their own and backing vocalists Philip Bailey (of Earth, Wind and Fire), Fantasia and José James — played, among their handful of songs, McBride’s James Brown-inspired “Gettin’ to It,” as well as his “Used ’ta Could,” which had a loose, bluesy feel and was propelled, largely, by handclaps. Fantasia, the soul and R&B singer who reinvented herself as a jazz diva in the recent Broadway musical “After Midnight,” impressed with deeply emotional versions of the jazz standards “Stormy Weather” and “Summertime,” as well as a stripped-down version of her latest single, “Side Effects of You.” Bailey added percussion to the big band’s funky version of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Africano/Power” before crooning the jazz standards “Here’s to Life” and “Caravan,” and then closing the show with the celebratory “Sun Goddess” (a EWF/Ramsey Lewis collaboration, some 40 years ago). Continue Reading →

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Family-oriented ‘Day of Swing’ at Newark jazz fest

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The best deal of the TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival? That’s easy: The “Day of Swing,” Saturday, with 28 free workshops and other activities for jazz-loving children and their families, at the NJPAC’s Center for Arts Education Annex at 24 Rector St., Newark. It all takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Here are the events:

11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.: “Creative Movement: Jazz Style.” Room 202. Ages 3-8. Continue Reading →

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Remembering jazz maverick Rahsaan Roland Kirk

In 1971, jazz saxophonist and flutist Rahsaan Roland Kirk was booked to perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He had agreed to perform his version of “My Cherie Amour,” then a recent hit by Stevie Wonder. But he shocked Sullivan and, no doubt, a large number of viewers, when, instead, he led an all-star group, including Charles Mingus on bass, Roy Haynes on drums and Archie Shepp on saxophone, through a wildly improvisational take on Mingus’ “Haitian Fight Song.” The story is told, and the entire performance is shown, in the documentary “The Case of the Three Sided Dream,” which was screened Tuesday night at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, as part of TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival, which continues through Sunday. Kirk’s widow Dorthaan Kirk — well known to New Jersey jazz fans for her work with WBGO-FM and her Dorthaan’s Place series of Sunday brunches at NJPAC’s NICO Kitchen + Bar — introduced the film, and four artists interviewed in it (trombonist Steve Turre, bassist Michael Max Fleming, cellist Akua Dixon and poet Betty Neals) joined the film’s director, Adam Kahan, in a post-screening panel discussion. Continue Reading →

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‘Last Train From Overbrook,’ James Moody

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“Last Train From Overbrook,” by jazz saxophonist and composer James Moody, starts off in chugging mode, and never lets up. It’s a brisk, almost bursting-at-the-seams instrumental, which makes sense, given the circumstances under which it was recorded. Moody, who was raised in Newark and lived in the Newark area for much of his life, spent several months at the Overbrook psychiatric hospital in Cedar Grove in 1958; he was struggling with alcoholism, according to his 2010 New York Times obituary. In “Last Train From Overbrook,” you can feel the pent-up energy; he can’t wait, it seems, to get on with his life. “Last Train From Overbrook” became the title track of an album Moody released in ’58. Continue Reading →

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Ambitious James Moody Democracy of Jazz fest begins on Sunday

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“As long as you make the audience feel like they’re a part of your journey, you can play any kind of music you want.” That’s what Christian McBride, artistic director of New Jersey’s biggest annual jazz event, the TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival, said he learned from Moody and other jazz artists of Moody’s generation. The third annual Moody festival, which takes place Nov. 9-16, is, as usual, an eclectic affair. One of its biggest concerts is by Chris Botti, a trumpeter whose work has a strong pop element. Continue Reading →

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Exit 0 presents jazz heroes throughout Cape May

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Monty Alexander and his Harlem-Kingston Express band is a jazz-reggae fusion band, which means they might not be a good choice to headline some jazz fests. But are just right for the Exit O International Jazz Festival, which takes place Nov. 7-9 at various Cape May locations. “I really want the festival to be fun,” says festival producer Michael Kline, who also owns a Cape May-based jazz management and booking company. “It takes place in a resort town. Continue Reading →

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‘Fly Me to the Moon,’ Frank Sinatra & Count Basie

It was just a coincidence, perhaps, that they both happened to be from New Jersey — Frank Sinatra from Hoboken, and Count Basie from Red Bank — but their occasional musical partnership was a remarkably fruitful one, yielding three great albums: “Sinatra-Basie: An Historic Musical First” (1962), “It Might As Well Be Swing” (1964) and the live album “Sinatra at the Sands” (1966). Combine Sinatra’s charismatic vocal style with Basie’s robust approach to swing, and the results were almost always magical. “Fly Me to the Moon,” from “It Might As Well Be Swing,” was perhaps their finest moment together: the definitive take on this often recorded, Bart Howard-written song. It was also, coincidentally, the first song every heard on the moon: astronaut Buzz Aldrin (also a New Jerseyan, hailing from Montclair) played it there on a cassette player in 1969. New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. Continue Reading →

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‘C Jam Blues,’ Paul, Farlow & Pizzarelli

Three of the greatest guitarists in New Jersey history are Les Paul, Tal Farlow and Bucky Pizzarelli. And at least one time — on Aug. 15, 1985 — they all shared the same stage. It was a one-night-only jazz supergroup: Paul, Farlow & Pizzarelli. The occasion was a concert at the Nicholas Music Center at Rutgers University in New Brunswick that was called “Jersey Jazz Guitars” and taped for a PBS special. Continue Reading →

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Stanley Jordan salutes Stevie Ray Vaughan at Crossroads in Garwood

One world-class musician will pay tribute to another at Crossroads in Garwood Saturday, as jazz fusion guitarist Stanley Jordan leads a tribute to the late blues-rocker Stevie Ray Vaughan, the day after the 60th anniversary of Vaughan’s birth. Joining the 55-year-old Chicago native and Princeton University graduate will be drummer Bernard Purdie, whose credits range from Aretha Franklin to Miles Davis, Cat Stevens and Steely Dan; and bassist Charnett Moffett, a former member of the Wynton Marsalis Quintet who also has played with Art Blakey, Ornette Coleman and Dizzy Gillespie. Tickets can be purchased on Facebook at facebook.com/CrossroadsNJ, or by calling Crossroads at (908) 518-0323. I talked to Jordan by phone on Wednesday. Q: Tell me a little bit about your history with Stevie Ray Vaughan. Continue Reading →

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350 Jersey Songs: ‘Hackensack,’ Thelonious Monk

For a city with a not exactly pretty-sounding name, Hackensack has made it into a lot of musical compositions. There’s Fountains of Wayne’s 2003 ballad, “Hackensack.” And Billy Joel’s 1977 hit, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” boasts the famous line, “Who needs a house out in Hackensack?” And then there’s Thelonious Monk’s 1954 instrumental “Hackensack,” named for the city where it was recorded. At the time, recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder was running a leading jazz studio out of his parents’ Hackensack home; in 1959, he moved it to Englewood Cliffs, and had even more success. Continue Reading →

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