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Sunday 7/14 Show: Jeff “Tain” Watts

Jeff "Tain"Watts/ Oliver Link Photography

Jeff “Tain”Watts/ Oliver Link Photography

The next show will air on Sunday July 14, 2013 from 11 PM to 1 AM Eastern Standard Time on WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This installment of “Suga’ In My Bowl” will feature an exclusive interview with drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, who holds the unique distinction of being the only musician to appear on every Grammy Award winning jazz record by both Wynton and Branford Marsalis.

One of the most in demand jazz drummers in the world today, Jeff initially majored in classical percussion at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, where he was primarily a timpanist, followed by enrollment at the Berklee School of Music, where he pursued jazz studies alongside such talented players as Branford Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks, Greg Osby, Aimee Mann, Steve Vai and Marvin “Smitty” Smith.

Jeff joined the Wynton Marsalis Quartet in 1981 and proceeded to win three Grammy Awards with the ensemble. Watts left Wynton Marsalis in 1988. After working with George Benson, Harry Connick. Jr. and McCoy Tyner, he joined the Branford Marsalis Quartet in 1989.

Jeff has worked in the film and television industry as both a musician on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and as an actor, Rhythm Jones in Spike Lee’s “Mo Better Blues”. Jeff joined Kenny Garrett’s band after returning to New York in 1995 after three years in LA on the Tonight Show. Watts also continued to record and tour with Branford Marsalis as well as Danilo Perez, Michael Brecker, Betty Carter, Kenny Kirkland, Courtney Pine, Geri Allen, Alice Coltrane, Greg Osby, Steve Coleman, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Ravi Coltrane.

Along with explosive power, blinding speed and mastery of complex rhythms and time signatures, Watts brings a rare sense of elegance, tried-by-fire composure, and a gritty street funk to his music. His artistic ingenuity expresses itself in his incomparable technique, sweltering sense of swing, and an extraordinary ability to imbue his music with majestic grace and elegant repose. A true jazz innovator, Watts never fails to deliver the percussive magic that has been his trademark since his emergence on the contemporary jazz scene.

Jeff has an extensive discography as a side-man, as well as six albums as a leader. Jeff was also the producer on five of those releases “Bar Talk” (Sony 2002), “Detained: Live at the Blue Note” (Half Note 2004) and Dark Key Music releases, “Folk’s Songs” (2007), “WATTS” (2009) and “Family” (2011).

Hosted, Produced, and Edited by Joyce Jones.

The Watts Family Reunion Band will be at the Jazz Standard in New York from July 18-21. Tune in to win a pair of tickets to one of the shows! “Tain” will also be appearing at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival with David Gilmore’s Numerology and be leading a group at New York’s Village Vanguard in September 2013.

Web Extras

Watch this short clip from Spike Lee’s film Mo’ Better Blues featuring Jeff “Tain Watts on drums.

Also watch “Tain” solo, courtesy of Drummerworld magazine.

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Sunday 6/9 show: Joe Sample

Joe Sample/ Flickr user Tom.Beetz via Wikicommons

Joe Sample/ Flickr user Tom.Beetz via Wikicommons

The next show will air on Sunday June 9, 2013 from 11 PM to 1 AM Eastern Standard Time on WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This installment of “Suga’ In My Bowl” will feature an exclusive interview with pianist Joe Sample, known to many from his work with The Jazz Crusaders (later The Crusaders). You can hear a short preview below.One of the many jazzmen who started out playing hard bop but went electric during the fusion era, Joe Sample was, in the late ’50s, a founding member of the Jazz Crusaders along with trombonist Wayne Henderson, tenor saxman Wilton Felder, and drummer Stix Hooper. The Crusaders’ debt to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers wasn’t hard to miss — except that the L.A.-based unit had no trumpeter, and became known for its unique tenor/trombone front line. Sample, a hard-swinging player who could handle chordal and modal/scalar improvisation equally well, stuck to the acoustic piano during The Crusaders’ early years — but would place greater emphasis on electric keyboards when the band turned to jazz-funk in the early ’70s and dropped “Jazz” from its name. Though he’d recorded as a trio pianist on 1969’s Fancy Dance, 1978’s Rainbow Seeker was often described as his first album as a leader. In contrast to the gritty music The Crusaders became known for, Sample’s own albums on MCA and, later, Warner Bros. and PRA have generally favored a very lyrical and introspective jazz-pop approach.

Sunday 5/19 show: Abbey Lincoln tribute

941476_10201258401371900_1206633860_nThe next show will air on Sunday May 19, 2013 from 11 PM to 1 AM Eastern Standard Time on WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. On the heels of pianist Marc Cary’s recent Harlem Stage events and new release honoring Abbey Lincoln, this installment of “Suga’ In My Bowl” will continue to honor renaissance woman Abbey Lincoln. This special was originally offered in October 2010. You can hear a short preview below.

Most people are only familiar with Abbey Lincoln as a singer and actress. However, Ms. Lincoln was also published poet, writer, visual artist and composer. During this special, several artists will either share their personal tributes and/or read the work of Ms. Lincoln. Contributing artists include:

Sonia Sanchez, who will read Ms. Lincoln’s piece “To Whom Will She Cry Rape?” from the 1970 Toni Cade Bambara anthology “The Black Woman” and originally printed in a 1966 issue of “The Negro Digest.” Latasha N. Nevada Diggs will read Ms. Lincoln’s poetry which was included in Amina and Amiri Baraka’s 1983 anthology titled “Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women.” Lashonda Katrice Barnett, author of “I Got Thunder: Black Women Songwriters on Their Craft,” which featured an exchange with Abbey Lincoln, will read excerpts from Ms. Lincoln’s unpublished autobiography. Rembrances from political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, writers the late Jayne Cortez, Amina and Amiri Baraka, Mark Anthony Neal, Farah Jasmine Griffin and Carl Hancock Rux, filmmakers Ifa Bayeza (“You Gotta Pay The Band”) and Carol Friedman (“Abbey Lincoln: The Music Is The Magic” in production), Maggie Brown (daughter of Oscar Brown Jr.), bassists Christian McBride and Charlie Haden.

These contributions will be offered as a 2-CD set in an effort to help continue this listener-supported experiment that is WBAI/Pacifica Radio. Please join us as we continue to remember Ms. Abbey Lincoln (Aug. 6, 1930 – Aug. 14, 2010).

Co-Hosted by Joyce Jones and Hank Williams. Produced and engineered by Arts Producer Joyce Jones.

Sunday 5/5 show: Will Calhoun

Will_CalhounThe next show will air on Sunday May 5, 2013 from 11 PM to 1 AM Eastern Standard Time on WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This installment of the program will feature drummer and percussionist Will Calhoun.

Hard-hitting Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun returns to his Jazz roots on his soon to be released “Life In this World.” Join us while we discuss parts of Brother Will’s drum and recording journey.

Will Calhoun, the widely acclaimed drummer from the Bronx, New York, graduated from the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he received a Bachelors degree in Music Production and engineering. He was also the recipient of the prestigious Buddy Rich Jazz Masters Award for outstanding performance by a drummer.

Will’s first jazz CD as a bandleader is entitled The Will Calhoun Quintet: Live at the Blue Note. The disc is an adventurous journey through Will’s approach to acoustic Jazz, World and Ambient music. The line-up features Bobby Watson-sax, Terrell Stafford-trumpet, John Benitez-bass and Orrin Evans-piano. Will’s song writing, arrangements and drumming on this CD are ground breaking. Although this was Will’s first attempt at fronting a jazz group, Down Beat Magazine, Jazz Times, and Billboard Magazine have given the CD top ratings. Drum Magazine’s readers poll voted Will’s CD 1st runner up for Drummer/Band leader.

One of Will’s latest creations is his follow-up release on the Halfnote label: Native Lands. Native Lands can be described as Jazz meets World, meets trance-inducing Urban music. This is a double package – CD/DVD in which Calhoun marries his far reaching interests in a genre-bending collection that taps key expressionists from various backgrounds. Among those contributing are Pharoah Sanders, Mos Def, Buster Williams, Stanley Jordan, Kevin Eubanks, Marcus Miller and Wallace Roney, as well as Nana Vasconcelos from Brazil and Cheick Tidiane Seck from Mali. The album includes a DVD with over ninety minutes of music videos and documentary materials that chronicle the last ten years of Will’s life and travels.

The “Life In This World” CD Release event is scheduled for Friday to Sunday, May 17-19, 2013 at New York City’s Blue Note. See the Tour Schedule page on Will’s site for additional dates.

For all you Living Colour fans, the band is touring again and working on new material. See their tour schedule for information for these dates.

Produced, engineered, edited, and hosted by Joyce Jones.

Web Extras

Watch Will, keyboardist Marc Cary, and bassist Charnett Moffett perform a blistering live version of “King Tut Strut” at NYC’s Blue Note in 2012.

Watch Oumou Sangare with her band featuring Will at the 2012 Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival.

Sunday 3/24 show: Diane Schuur

The next show will air on Sunday March 24, 2013 from 11 PM to 1 AM Eastern Standard Time on WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This installment of the program will feature vocalist and pianist Diane Schuur. Listen to a short preview below:

481165_10151495232041170_424525180_nBorn in Tacoma, Washington, in December 1953, Schuur was blind from birth. She grew up in nearby Auburn, Washington, where her father was a police captain. Nicknamed Deedles at a young age, Schuur discovered the world of jazz via her father, a piano player, and her mother, who kept a formidable collection of Duke Ellington and Dinah Washington records in the house.

She was still a toddler when she learned to sing the Dinah Washington signature song, “What a Difference a Day Makes.” Armed with the rare gift of perfect pitch, Schuur taught herself piano by ear and developed a rich, resonant vocal style early on, as evidenced in a recording of her first public performance at a Holiday Inn in Tacoma when she was ten years old. She received formal piano training at the Washington State School for the Blind, which she attended until age 11. By her early teens, she had amassed her own collection of Washington’s records and looked to the legendary vocalist as her primary inspiration.

Schuur made her first record in 1971, a country single entitled “Dear Mommy and Daddy,” produced by Jimmy Wakely. After high school, she focused on jazz and gigged around the northwest. In 1975, an informal audition with trumpeter Doc Severinson (then the leader of the Tonight Show band) led to a gig with Tonight Show drummer Ed Shaughnessy’s group at the Monterey Jazz Festival. She sang a gospel suite with Shaughnessy’s band in front of a festival audience that included jazz tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, who in turn invited her to participate in a talent showcase at the White House. A subsequent return performance at the White House led to a record deal with GRP, which released Schuur’s debut album, Deedles, in 1984.

Over the next 13 years, Schuur recorded 11 albums on GRP, including two Grammy winners: Timeless (1986) and Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra (1987).

After one album on Atlantic records in 1999 – Music is My Life, produced by Ahmet Ertegun – Schuur joined the Concord label with the 2000 release of Friends For Schuur. The move to Concord marked the beginning of a series of highly successful collaborative projects: Swingin’ For Schuur (2001), a set of finely crafted duets with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson; Midnight (2003), Schuur’s unique interpretations of thirteen songs (mostly new material) written or co-written by Barry Manilow; and Schuur Fire (2005), a decidedly Latin-flavored album featuring the Caribbean Jazz Project.

Schuur’s February 2008 Concord release, Some Other Time, is a recording of songs by jazz artists whom she first discovered via her parents during her childhood and adolescent years. The set also includes a surprisingly mature-sounding rendition of “September in the Rain,” recorded at the Holiday Inn in Tacoma in 1964 when Schuur was only ten years old.

Diane Schuur’s latest studio release, The Gathering, is unique in both material and style, and features special guests Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Mark Knopfler, Larry Carlton and Kirk Whalum. The Gathering is a collection of 10 classic country songs, mostly written during the golden era of the 1960s, and is the first time Schuur has featured this genre of music to this extent.

Schuur’s most recent release is Diane Schuur Live, and it is a unique and special album as it’s a project close to Diane’s heart. This album is dedicated to Diane Schuur’s husband, Les Crockett. The recording takes place where she and her husband shared a magical night reflecting on memories of the very place they first met 16 years earlier.

Engineered, Produced, and Hosted by Joyce Jones.

WBAI’s financial situation remains dire due to back rent owed on their transmitter at NYC’s Empire State Building. Please give what you can to the WBAI Transmitter Fund and/or come out next Wednesday, March 27, for the WBAI Dance Party at S.O.B.’s.

Web extra: Watch Diane Schuur and Ray Charles perform live.

Sunday 3/10 show: René Marie

Note: Suga’ in My Bowl’s new Behind the Mic blog is now up and running. We’ll use it to expand on some of the shows, artists, and ideas you’ve heard on the show and post related content, new release info, and provide a space for discussion. We’re still tweaking it, but invite you to head over and check it out.

Our home station WBAI is in a serious crisis due to back back rent owed on their transmitter at NYC’s Empire State Building. They’ve struggled in the past, but this time the situation is serious. Details are on the Pacifica Radio Network home page. You can also donate directly to the transmitter fund.

The next show will air on Sunday March 10, 2013 from 11 PM to 1 AM Eastern Standard Time on WBAI Radio, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This installment of the program will feature composer, vocalist and warrior queen René Marie. Listen to a short preview below:

rene14René Marie, the award winning singer whose style incorporates elements of jazz, soul, blues and gospel, has quickly become a heroine to many; a woman of great strength exuding stamina and compassion; often explaining how finding her voice and self through singing gave her the courage to leave an abusive marriage. But since the release of her recording debut, Renaissance, this Colorado based heroine has also evolved into one of the greatest and most sensuous vocalists of our time. Unmistakably honest and unpretentious while transforming audiences worldwide with her powerful interpretations, electrifying deliveries and impassioned vocals — René Marie has drawn a legion of fans and music critics who find themselves not only entertained, but encouraged and even changed by her performances.

It is hard to believe that Marie didn’t sing professionally until after she turned 40. But in fact, the Virginia native, married at 18, mother of two by 23 and a member of a strict religious group with her then husband only occasionally sang in public while she was focused on raising a family. It was in 1996 that Marie’s eldest son Michael urged her to take the plunge to pursue a career. “He told me that was exactly what I needed to do” she explains. Two years later following an ultimatum by her husband to either stop singing or leave their home, she chose to leave after 23 years of marriage.

Hosted, produced, and engineered by Joyce Jones.

Don’t forget to give to the WBAI Transmitter Fund. If there is no transmitter, there really is no WBAI.

Web extras

Listen to the full song “Black Lace Freudian Slip”. (Background music for the Suga’ show teaser.)

Watch René Marie sing “This is Not a Protest Song” live.

Sunday 2/3 Show: Lou Donaldson

Suga' in My Bowl guest Jazz Master Lou DonaldsonThe next show will air on Sunday February 3, 2013 from 11:00pm – 1:00am 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 feature one of the 2013 NEA Jazz Master recipients, alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson. This program originally aired in May 2009 and focused on recordings that were sampled by hip hop artists to lead up to the June Hip Hop Takeover.

You can hear a 30-second preview below.

Donaldson has long been an excellent bop altoist influenced by Charlie Parker, but with a more blues-based style of his own. His distinctive tone has been heard in a variety of small-group settings, and he has recorded dozens of worthy and spirited (if somewhat predictable) sets throughout the years.

Donaldson started playing clarinet when he was 15, soon switching to the alto. He attended college and performed in a Navy band while in the military. Donaldson first gained attention when he moved to New York and in 1952 started recording for Blue Note as a leader. At the age of 25, his style was fully formed, and although it would continue growing in depth through the years, Donaldson had already found his sound. In 1954, he participated in a notable gig with Art Blakey, Clifford Brown, Horace Silver, and Tommy Potter that was extensively documented by Blue Note and that directly predated the Jazz Messengers. However, Donaldson was never a member of the Messengers, and although he recorded as a sideman in the ’50s and occasionally afterwards with Thelonious Monk, Milt Jackson, and Jimmy Smith, among others, he has been a bandleader from the mid-’50s up until the present.

Donaldson’s early Blue Note recordings were pure bop. In 1958, he began often utilizing a conga player, and starting in 1961, his bands often had an organist rather than a pianist. His bluesy style was easily transferable to soul-jazz, and he sounded most original in that context. His association with Blue Note (1952-1963) was succeeded by some excellent (if now-scarce) sets for Cadet and Argo (1963-1966). The altoist returned to Blue Note in 1967 and soon became caught up in the increasingly commercial leanings of the label. For a time, he utilized an electronic Varitone sax, which completely watered down his sound. The success of “Alligator Boogaloo” in 1967 led to a series of less interesting funk recordings that were instantly dated and not worthy of his talent. These particular Blue Note recordings were often sampled by hip hop artists.

Sunday 12/23 show: Pianist Harold Mabern

H_Mabern_122312showThe next show will air on Sunday December 23, 2012 from 11:00pm – 1:00am Monday on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. In this installment of “Suga’ In My Bowl,” we will present pianist, composer, educator Harold Mabern. Mabern is also the father of Michael Mabern, a longtime producer of the “Creative Unity Collective” show on WBAI. You can hear a 30-second preview of the show below.

Harold Mabern (born March 20, 1936), one of jazz’s most enduring and dazzlingly skilled pianists, was born in Memphis, a city that produced saxophonists George Coleman and Charles Lloyd, pianist Phineas Newborn Jr. and trumpeter Booker Little. He was an unsung hero of the 1960s hardbop scene, performing and recording with many of its finest artists, and only in recent years has he begun to garner appreciation for his long-running legacy in jazz and the understated power of his talent; as critic Gary Giddins has written, “With the wind at his back, he can sound like an ocean roar.”

During his over half-century on the scene as sideman and leader, he has played and recorded with such greats as Lee Morgan, Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley, Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis, just to name a few. Mabern takes his sideman work very seriously: “I was never concerned with being a leader,” he says. “I just always wanted to be the best sideman I could be”. “Be in the background so you can shine through.”

In more recent years, he has toured and recorded extensively with his former William Paterson University student, the tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. To date, Mabern and Alexander have appeared on over twenty CDs together. A faculty member at William Paterson University since 1981, Mabern is also a frequent instructor at the Stanford Jazz Workshop.

His latest release is “Mr. Lucky: A Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.” released this year on HighNote Records.

Produced, Hosted, and Engineered by Joyce Jones.

Web extras:

Live clip of Mabern playing with Eric Alexander

Eric Alexander talks about Harold Mabern as a teacher.

Sunday 12/9 show: John Medeski

Sugs' in My Bowl guest John MedeskiThe 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.

Sunday 11/18 show: Pharoah Sanders

Saxophonist Pharoah SandersThe next show will air on Sunday November 18, 2012 from 11:00pm – 1:00am Monday on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org.

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.

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