Photo: Archie Shepp (sax) and Amina Claudine Meyers (piano) | Joyce Jones. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND.
The next show will air on Sunday, April 3, 2016 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This broadcast will feature a rare interview with a 2016 NEA Jazz Master recipient, alto saxophone player, composer, pianist, singer, politically committed poet, playwright and legend Archie Shepp.
Shepp grew up in Philadelphia PA, studied piano and saxophone and attended high school in Germantown. He became involved with theatre while in college and met writers and poets including Leroi Jones and wrote “The Communist,” an allegorical play about the situation of Black Americans. In the beginning of the sixties he met Cecil Taylor and did two recordings with him which influenced his musical approach.
In 1962 he recorded his first album with Bill Dixon as co-leader. During the following year he created the New York Contemporary Five with John Tchichai; made four records for the Fontana, Storyville and Savoy labels; and traveled to Europe with this group. Starting in August 1964, he worked with Impulse and made 17 records which include Four For Trane, Fire Music, and Mama Too Tight: some of the classics of Free Music. His collaboration with John Coltrane materialized further with Ascension in 1965, a real turning point in Avant-Garde music. His militancy was evidenced by his participation in the creation of the Jazz Composers Guild with Paul and Carla Bley, Sun Ra, Roswell Rudd and Cecil Taylor.
In July 1969 he went for the first time to Africa for the Pan African Festival in Algiers where many Black American militants were living. On this occasion he recorded Live at the Pan African Festival, the first of six albums in the Actual series. In 1969 he began teaching Ethnomusicology at the University of Amherst, Massachusetts while continuing to travel around the world to express his identity as an African American musician.
The dictionary of Jazz (Robert Laffont, Bouquins) defines him in the following way: “A first rate artist and intellectual, Archie Shepp has been at the head of the Avant-Garde Free Jazz movement and has been able to join the mainstream of Jazz, while remaining true to his esthetic. He has developed a true poli-instrumentality: an alto player, he also plays soprano since 1969, piano since 1975, and more recently occasionally sings blues and standards.”
With his freedom loving sensitivity, Archie Shepp has made an inestimable contribution to the gathering, publicizing, and inventing of jazz.
Bio adapted from Archie Shepp’s website.
Shepp will be honored as a NEA Jazz Master on Monday April 4, 2016. The tribute concert will feature performances by NEA Jazz Masters Chick Corea, Randy Weston, and Jimmy Heath, as well as Ambrose Akinmusire, Lakecia Benjamin, Billy Harper, Stefon Harris, Justin Kauflin, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Pedrito Martinez, Jason Moran, David Murray, Linda Oh, Karriem Riggins, Roswell Rudd, and Catherine Russell. It will be livestreamed starting at 8 PM EST.
This program is co-hosted by Joyce Jones and Hank Williams. It is engineered, produced, and edited by Joyce Jones.
Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
Watch Shepp in a live 2001 performance of “You Gotta Call Him” with Amina Claudine Myers.
Watch Shepp in this 2011 live performance in France.
Watch Shepp sing “Mama Rose” live at the 2010 Sant’Anna Arresi Jazz Festival.
Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman and Hunter colleges in the City University of New York system.
Photo: Amiri Baraka | Joyce Jones
The next show will air on Sunday, November 2, 2014 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This installment of Suga’ will continue our discussion on the legacy of the Black Arts Movement with Sonia Sanchez and Drs. John Bracey and James Smethurst of the University of Massachusetts Amherst at a release party for their new book on the Black Arts Movement, SOS: Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader.
Sonia Sanchez, whose been previously featured on Suga’ in My Bowl, while best known for her poetry and central role in the Black Arts Movement, is also a playwright, activist, and educator. In her presentation, Sanchez recalls the origin of Baraka’s decision to come to Harlem and help organize Black artists and discusses the beginning of Black Studies programs. She also speaks about the role of the Black artist and what she expects of herself as a poet. Sanchez also talks about her discovery of the Schomburg library and Micheaux’s legendary Harlem bookstore and Malcolm X’s influential role in her political and intellectual development.
Dr. John Bracey is chair of the W.E.B. DuBois Department of Afro American Studies at UMass Amherst, where he’s taught since 1972. In the 1960s, Bracey was active in the Civil Rights and Black liberation movements in Chicago and has focused on this time period in his research. In his presentation, Bracey discusses Baraka’s contributions to the Black Arts, provides context for the emergence of the movement, and makes connections to current artists in hip hop.
Dr. James Smethurst is Professor of Afro American Studies at UMass Amherst. He is author and editor of several books, including The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s and The New Red Negro: The Literary Left and African American Poetry, 1930-1946. He is also working on a history of the Black Arts Movement in the south. Smethurst gives a timeline of the Black Arts Movement and discusses the role of Amiri Baraka in the movement.
SOS—Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader brings together a broad range of key writings from the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, among the most significant cultural movements in American history. The aesthetic counterpart of the Black Power Movement, it burst onto the scene in the form of artists’ circles, writers’ workshops, drama groups, dance troupes, new publishing ventures, bookstores, and cultural centers, and had a presence in practically every community and college campus with an appreciable African-American population. Black Arts activists extended the reach even further through magazines such as Ebony and Jet, on television shows such as Soul! and Like It Is, and on radio.
Special thanks to the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn for permission to record the presentations at their event and to WBAI producer Dred Scott Keyes, who gathered the sound and presented parts of it on his WBAI show Cutting Edge.
Show engineered, produced, hosted, and edited by Joyce Jones. Sound recording and engineering by Dred Scott Keyes. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
This show will feature highlights of our premium for the fall fund drive, which is a 2-CD presentation of the book release event at the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College on October 9, 2014. Discussion panelists were co-editors Sonia Sanchez with Drs. John H. Bracey Jr. and James Smethurst. For your generous financial support to WBAI-FM, you will be able to get a copy of this program, the SOS—Calling All Black People reader, or both! You can also support WBAI (and the show) by donating as little as $5 during the fund drive.
Photos: John Bracey via UMass Afro Am | Sonia Sanchez via Wikimedia Commons / Slowking
Pledge for the Suga in My Bowl Black Arts Movement 2-CD audio premium
Pledge for the SOS—Calling All Black People reader from the University of Massachusetts Press.
Donate whatever you can to WBAI to support Suga’ in My Bowl
The next show will air on Sunday, June 22, 2014 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This installment of Suga’ in My Bowl will feature percussionist Hamid Drake.
Hamid Drake was born in Monroe, LA, in 1955, and later moved to Chicago with his family. He ended up taking drum lessons with Fred Anderson’s son, eventually taking over the son’s role as percussionist in Anderson’s group. As a result, Fred Anderson also introduced Drake to George Lewis and other AACM members.
Drake also has performed world music; by the late ’70s, he was a member of Foday Muso Suso’s Mandingo Griot Society, and has played reggae.
Hamid Drake has been a member of the Latin jazz band Night on Earth, the Georg Graewe Quartet, the DKV Trio, Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Octet/Tentet, and Liof Munimula, the oldest free improvising ensemble in Chicago.
By the close of the 1990s, Hamid Drake was widely regarded as one of the best percussionists in improvised music.
Drake has also worked with trumpeter Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Fred Anderson, Mahmoud Gania, bassist William Parker (in a large number of lineups), and has performed a solstice celebration with fellow Chicago percussionist Michael Zerang semiannually since 1991.
Incorporating Afro-Cuban, Indian, and African percussion instruments and influence, in addition to using the standard trap set, Drake has collaborated extensively with top free jazz improvisers Peter Brötzmann, Fred Anderson, and Ken Vandermark, among others.
Show engineered, produced, hosted, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
Photo: Hamid Drake at Vision Fest 2014.| Joyce Jones. Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 licensed.
See our blog for photos and coverage from Vision Fest 19.
Watch Drake and Fred Anderson.
Watch Drake perform with bassist William Parker and saxophonist Peter Brötzmann in this 2004 clip.
The next show will air on Sunday December 9, 2012 from 11:00pm – 1:00am Monday on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. On this installment of “Suga’ In My Bowl,” we will present keyboardist, composer, “arti-vist” and one-third of the group Medeski Martin and Wood, John Medeski. Join in and help us “Reboot WBAI“!
As the keyboardist in the trailblazing instrumental trio Medeski Martin & Wood, solo performer, leader of his own project the Itch, film composer, and producer, collaborator and sideman with countless other artists, Medeski has channeled this transformative force with uncanny power and imagination.
A skilled composer and whirling-dervish improviser, he consistently wrings sonic revelations from acoustic and electric piano, Hammond organ, Clavinet, Mellotron, assorted synthesizers and other instruments. He’s nearly as dynamic visually as aurally, windmilling his hands across the keys, leaning into a B-3 stab, reaching inside the piano to tap the strings with a screwdriver.
Whether the music he’s playing at any given moment can be classified as jazz, funk, modern classical, avant-noise, roots music, rock or “world,” however, is of little concern. “I never separated music into categories,” he insists. “Whoever I’m playing with, I just think, ‘What can I add that will be part of this? Does it need anything?’”
He was born in Kentucky but raised in Florida, starting piano lessons at the tender age of five. Though his fervor for music wasn’t instantaneous, he had his first “out-of-body experience” playing a Mozart sonata while still an adolescent. “It was a competition, and I guess I arrived late, because I had no time to get ready and just sat down and played,” he recalls. “It was like I wasn’t even playing – I was just transported. After that, I did whatever I could to get that feeling back.”
Medeski sold his piano before leaving home to attend the New England Conservatory (NEC) in Boston. He continued to play piano there, but the discovery of a dust-covered Hammond B-3 organ in a rehearsal hall would significantly alter his course. “I’d checked out the B-3 before and listened to Jimmy Smith and Larry Young,” he notes, “but this time, when we started jamming with it, I was blown away. It was a universe of sound. I was playing a lot of free jazz at the time and really got into the coloristic possibilities of the instrument.”
A group that effortlessly straddles the gap between avant-garde improvisation and accessible groove-based jazz, Medeski, Martin & Wood have simultaneously earned standings as relentlessly innovative musicians and as an enormously popular act. Emerging out of the New York downtown scene in the early ’90s, MMW soon set out on endless cross-country tours before returning home to Manhattan to further refine their sound through myriad influential experimentations. Each of the musicians — keyboardist John Medeski, drummer/percussionist Billy Martin, and bassist Chris Wood — had crossed paths throughout the ’80s, playing with the likes of John Lurie, John Zorn, and Martin mentor Bob Moses. In 1991, the trio officially convened for an engagement at New York’s Village Gate. Soon, the group was rehearsing in Martin’s loft, writing, and then recording 1992’s self-released Notes from the Underground. As the group began to tour, escaping the supportive though insular New York music community, Medeski — a former child prodigy — switched to a Hammond B-3 organ rather than a grand piano.
WBAI is also in the middle of a short fund drive to help the station recover from time off the air during Hurricane Sandy. While we’re airing a regular show this time, If you haven’t pledged recently, please consider making a donation while we’re on the air. Copies of The Journey radio documentary with Bobby Sanabria that chronicles the trip of music from Africa to the Caribbean and Latin America are still available, as are copies of The Blues Journey with Dr. Guthrie Ramsey.
Produced by Joyce Jones and Hank Williams. Hosted and Engineered by Joyce Jones.
On Sunday, November 18, “Suga’ In My Bowl” will celebrate Jazz legend Pharoah Sanders’ run at Birdland this week by offering the program that originally aired on April 20, 2010. Join Joyce Jones and Hank Williams as they spend time with this marvel in the music.
Pharoah Sanders possesses one of the most distinctive tenor saxophone sounds in jazz. Harmonically rich and heavy with overtones, Sanders’ sound can be as raw and abrasive as it is possible for a saxophonist to produce. Yet, Sanders is highly regarded to the point of reverence by a great many jazz fans. Although he made his name with expressionistic, nearly anarchic free jazz in John Coltrane’s late ensembles of the mid-’60s, Sanders’ later music is guided by more graceful concerns.
The hallmarks of Sanders’ playing at that time were naked aggression and unrestrained passion. In the years after Coltrane’s death, however, Sanders explored other, somewhat gentler and perhaps more cerebral avenues — without, it should be added, sacrificing any of the intensity that defined his work as an apprentice to Coltrane.
Pharoah Sanders (his given name, Ferrell Sanders) was born into a musical family. Sanders’ first instrument was the clarinet, but he switched to tenor sax as a high school student, under the influence of his band director, Jimmy Cannon. Cannon also exposed Sanders to jazz for the first time. Sanders’ early favorites included Harold Land, James Moody, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane. As a teenager, he played blues gigs for ten and 15 dollars a night around Little Rock, backing such blues greats as Bobby “Blue” Bland and Junior Parker. After high school, Sanders moved to Oakland, CA, where he lived with relatives. He attended Oakland Junior College, studying art and music. Known in the San Francisco Bay Area as “Little Rock,” Sanders soon began playing bebop, rhythm & blues, and free jazz with many of the region’s finest musicians, including fellow saxophonists Dewey Redman and Sonny Simmons, as well as pianist Ed Kelly and drummer Smiley Winters. In 1961, Sanders moved to New York, where he struggled. Unable to make a living with his music, Sanders took to pawning his horn, working non-musical jobs, and sometimes sleeping on the subway. During this period he played with a number of free jazz luminaries, including Sun Ra, Don Cherry, and Billy Higgins. Sanders formed his first group in 1963, with pianist John Hicks (with whom he would continue to play off-and-on into the ’90s), bassist Wilbur Ware, and drummer Higgins. The group played an engagement at New York’s Village Gate. A member of the audience was John Coltrane, who apparently liked what he heard. In late 1964, Coltrane asked Sanders to sit in with his band. By the next year, Sanders was playing regularly with the Coltrane group, although he was never made an official member of the band. Coltrane’s ensembles with Sanders were some of the most controversial in the history of jazz. Their music, as represented by the group’s recordings — Om, Live at the Village Vanguard Again, and Live in Seattle among them — represents a near total desertion of traditional jazz concepts, like swing and functional harmony, in favor of a teeming, irregularly structured, organic mixture of sound for sound’s sake. Strength was a necessity in that band, and as Coltrane realized, Sanders had it in abundance.
Sanders made his first record as a leader in 1964 for the ESP label. After John Coltrane’s death in 1967, Sanders worked briefly with his widow, Alice Coltrane. From the late ’60s, he worked primarily as a leader of his own ensembles. From 1966-1971, Sanders released several albums on Impulse, including Tauhid (1966), Karma (1969), Black Unity (1971), and Thembi (1971). In the mid-’70s, Sanders recorded his most commercial effort, Love Will Find a Way (Arista, 1977); it turned out to be a brief detour. From the late ’70s until 1987, he recorded for the small independent label Theresa. From 1987, Sanders recorded for the Evidence and Timeless labels. The former bought Theresa records in 1991 and subsequently re-released Sanders’ output for that company. In 1995, Sanders made his first major-label album in many years, Message From Home (produced by Bill Laswell for Verve). The two followed that one up in 1999 with Save Our Children. In 2000, Sanders released Spirits — a multi-ethnic live suite with Hamid Drake and Adam Rudolph. In the decades after his first recordings with Coltrane, Sanders developed into a more well-rounded artist, capable of playing convincingly in a variety of contexts, from free to mainstream. Some of his best work is his most accessible. As a mature artist, Sanders discovered a hard-edged lyricism that has served him well.
Bio from Chris Kelsey, All Music Guide.
Show hosted and produced by Joyce Jones and Hank Williams. Engineered by Joyce Jones.
Happy New Year and Habari Gani Imani! First, a quick update on what the Suga’ team has been up to. If you haven’t been over to our audio archives page yet, jump over and check it out! We’ve uploaded most of the shows that aired in 2011 and are working backwards from there to make older shows available: most of 2010 should be up over the New Year’s weekend. There will also be a few web-only extras: snippets of sound that didn’t quite make the cut for the original show for whatever reason.
The next show will air on New Year’s Day: Sunday 1/1/2012 at 11:00pm – Monday at 1:00am on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. Listen to the 45-second promo below (may not work in all browsers, especially mobile ones):
Tune in to hear an interview with Creed Taylor, who revolutionized the respectability and popularity of jazz with CTI Records. In fact, some of the most significant jazz of the last half of the 20th century has been fashioned under Taylor’s guidance and supervision.
This show is a remixed version of one that originally aired as part of WBAI’s fifth Hip Hop Takeover in June 2007 and primarily focused on songs from the CTI Records catalog that have been sampled by hip hop artists.
Taylor has been especially influential in the packaging of music. His records are as much art to see as they are to hear. With heavy, glossy, gatefold covers featuring stark design and striking photography, his records have the sound and feel of something bearing unusual class and great quality.
After earning a degree in psychology in the early 1950s, Taylor played trumpet in clubs around Virginia Beach. He relocated to New York and secured a venerable post as head of artists and repertoire at Bethlehem Records. He produced a wide variety of jazz for Bethlehem before he took a higher profile position with ABC Paramount during the late fifties. At ABC, he produced some jazz and a great many more vocal recordings that enjoyed popular success.
When ABC Records sought to form a jazz subsidiary in 1960, Taylor was recruited to oversee it all. He called the company “Impulse!,” conceived its distinctive black and orange label and spine design, brought in photographer Pete Turner for elegant, vivid cover art and initiated heavy cardboard, gatefold sleeves (to convey substance). Taylor, however, stayed with Impulse for only a few months. But during this short time, he recorded historically significant music by John Coltrane, Gil Evans, Oliver Nelson and Ray Charles.
Taylor jumped ship to accept a lucrative offer to run Verve Records, the jazz label Norman Granz sold to MGM in 1961. Here was a company that had solid name recognition in the jazz community as well as a rich parent company to fund many of Taylor’s lavish goals. Verve’s big budgets and Creed Taylor’s proven ability to turn jazz into hits (starting in 1962 with Stan Getz’s “The Girl From Ipanema”) afforded limitless opportunities to employ the cream of the crop in studio musicians for these records.
In November 1967, Taylor arranged with A&M’s Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss to begin his own organization, CTI Records. The team he took with him were among the finest in the business: engineer Rudy Van Gelder, designer Sam Antupit and, again, photographer Pete Turner. He also developed a small in-house staff of musicians comprised of jazz’s greatest names.
In 1970, Creed Taylor launched CTI as an independent entity. The shift was seen in the switch from the cover’s white backgrounds to black. George Benson made the transition too, staying throughout CTI’s greatest years in the 1970s. Some of the music’s greatest players, including (past Suga’ in My Bowl guest) Freddie Hubbard and Stanley Turrentine, were recruited to CTI and ultimately created some of their most remarkable recordings while under Creed Taylor’s aegis.
(CT’s bio adapted from Doug Payne’s excellent blog entry.)
Hosted by Arts Producer Joyce Jones.