Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 20, 2007 NC Jazz Collection and Thelonius

On my radio show tonight, Melva's Musings on Jazz, I featured the music of NC jazz musicians, both of the past and the present, with a special focus on Thelonius Monk, from Rocky Mount, NC. I was recently in Chicago and attended the Looptopia Festival, a dusk to dawn cultural festival spread across the Loop. I caught a gypsy jazz group at the Art Institute. Across the street at the home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I picked up a new CD - Thelonius Monk Plays Duke Ellington.

My show can be heard every Sunday night on WCOM from 7:00 - 9:00 EST at 103.5 fm on the 100 Watts of Wonder station out of Carrboro, NC. You can hear my show anywhere in the world by jumping on the worldwideweb and going to www.communityradio.coop and clicking on the button in the upper right-hand corner. I promise it's easy and won't cause your computer to blow up.

This week's playlist -
  • Nina Simone (b. Tryon, NC); Anthology CD; I Wish I Knew What It Would Feel Like to be Free
  • Thelonius Monk (b. Rocky Mount, NC); Thelonius Monk Plays Duke Ellington CD; It Don't Mean a Thing, if it Don't Have that Swing
  • Kevin Van Sant & Ben Palmer (both out of Durham, NC); Jazz Duo CD; Meditation
  • Thelonius Monk & John Coltrane (b. Hamlet, NC); Thelonius Monk & John Coltrane CD; Off Minor
  • Nina Simone; Anthology CD; Why? (The King of Love is Dead)
  • Paulo Lopez (Chapel Hill, NC from Sao Paulo); Brazilian Soul CD; Tive Razao by Seu Jorge
  • Thelonius Monk with John Coltrane; Riverside Recordings CD; Crepuscule with Nellie
  • Frankie Alexander (Durham, NC); Made About the Words; Once I Loved
  • Thelonius Monk; Thelonius Monk Plays Duke Ellington; Caravan
  • Scott Warner (lived 10+ yrs. Chapel Hill, NC - jazz piano player and composer); Wild Man Blues CD; Pine Apple Rag
  • Thelonius Monk Quartet with John Coltrane; At Carnegie Hall CD; Monk's Mood
  • Thelonius Monk; Thelonius Himself CD; I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You
  • Brian Horton (Durham, NC); Best of Brian Horton CD; Freddie D
  • Jamuna (Pittsboro, NC singer); Innocence to Cry CD; Moscow Night
  • Thelonius Monk; Thelonius Monk Plays Duke Ellington CD; Black and Tan Fantasy
  • Sawyer-Goldberg (Durham-based, NC jazz group); Jazzadelia CD; Black Orpheus
I want to thank Nicholas Sullivan for joining me for the show and helping me to pick out songs. His mom, Linda, called in from Concord, NC; and a friend Fran called in from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to say 'hi' and share that she was enjoying the show. Congratulations to Nicholas for graduating from UNC-CH and I wish him well on his up-coming journey to Brazil! More to come.

Monday, May 07, 2007

May 6, 2007 Equinox Rocks the House
It was a wild night in the WCOM studio. In the tiny space, I had four musicians, a singer, and all the equipment of the Chapel Hill-Durham based jazz group, Equinox. Most of the band has been together for many years, but Terri Houston, their vocalist, only joined the group a few years ago. Other Equinox members are Steve Allred on bass, Scott Emmerman on guitar, Spence Foscue on drums, Lou Sawyer on saxophones, and Holden Thorp on keyboard. They have just released a new CD, The Peace of Wild Things.

During my show, Melva's Musings on Jazz, we switched back and forth between the band playing music live in the studio, our talking about jazz and musical roots, and then playing songs from their new CD. They performed - Lost Without You, God Bless the Child, How Tender the Moment, and Guilty. All the songs on the CD are written by Equinox members except for God Bless the Child, which Terri did a beautiful job on and definitely pulled on her Chicago Gospel roots to add a tender tone to this beautiful song. From the new CD, we heard the songs The Peace of Wild Things, Gonna Burn a Hole, True to the Blues, Top of Mind, When Love Unfolds, Saladelia Swing and Mastergame. It was a swinging, rocking time as their music shows lots of eclectic influences.

On the liner notes, Equinox included a favorite Wendell Berry poem, The Peace of Wild Things.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief,
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Friends dropped by during the show to catch the band live in the studio - Marion and Franklin Hirsch, Melissa and Tristan Caminiti, and Susan and Richard Neulist. Please join me every Sunday night, from 7:00 - 9:00, on WCOM, the 100 Watts of Wonder community-powered radio at 103.5 fm on your dial and at www.communityradio.coop on the web. My radio show features the sounds and music of NC jazz musicians - both the currently performing musicians and those greats of the past.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Will Okun Wins Trip to Africa with Nicholas Kristof
Will Okun, my son, recently won a national NY Times essay contest, Win-a-Trip. He was one of two finalists, along with Leana Wen, among over a thousand entrants. Will and Leana will travel with Nicholas Kristof this June to Rwanda, Burundi, and East Congo. During his trip, Will will
take photographs and create a blog to record his impressions, which will be posted on the the NY Times website.

Will teaches at the Westside Alternative High School in Chicago. He has a comprehensive website of photographs (wjzo.com), where he has recorded images and events of the lives of his students, in addition to many other topics.

In his essay, Will describes his views, hopes, experiences and dreams of being a teacher. A video tells in more details his philosophy as a teacher and how he utilizes photography to help his students see their own beauty and value, that of others, and of areas of Chicago which are free to the public and easily accessible to them.

I am very proud of my son and wish him a wonderful trip - more info to come. Will is a fine young man and I'm so glad to see him so honored and given this opportunity to travel to Africa.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

April 29, 2007 Scott Warner from SF Comes to Play a Gig

Scott Warner is a San Francisco/Oakland based jazz piano player, composer, and teacher extraordinaire. He was
in NC to play piano with the jazz trio, with Robbie Link on bass and Matt McCaughan on drums, that accompanies the NC Youth Tap Ensemble. The youth tap dancers are lead by Gene Medler, with Yvette Glover (mother of Savion) singing and Michelle Dorrance tapping and inspiring the youth. It was a wonderful weekend of performances, that culminated with Scott playing during my radio show, Melva's Musings on Jazz, brought to you each Sunday evening from 7:00 - 9:00 on WCOM in downtown Carrboro, NC.

During my
show, we alternated between Scott playing keyboard (thank you, Chris Frank with the Red Clay Ramblers, for loaning the keyboard and helping with the setup) and playing songs off of Scott's CDs.

We began by sharing, Feeling Like Someone in Love, which was sung by Frankie Alexander (Durham-based singer) and Scott on piano. From Scott's CD, wild man blues, I played Pine Apple Rag, Jungle Blues, and Naked Dance. With a grant from the Durham Arts Council, Scott synthesized and reworked classic rag time songs and made them his own. Entire musical strains are missing, melodies have been reharmonized, and in a few cases the tunes have been juxtaposed rhythmically in a way that the composers might hardly recognize their songs.

Scott played in the studio - Song for My Father, Stella by Starlight, They Can't Take That Away From Me, and a variation of Beethovan's Pathetique (2nd Movement). Friends called into the show to say how much they were enjoying the music. Scott is an unbelievably talented piano player and composer.

The phone rang and it was Scott's parents calling from Ohio. They were having difficulties connecting to the web, and so I had them stay on the line as Scott continued to play - You Don't Know What Love Is. He played a beautiful rendition of What a Wonderful World for his mom, Lucy, in honor of Mother's Day. She was both touched and speechless.

We then played songs from Scott's CD, Mindfield, that was put together with support from the University of NC at Chapel Hill's Jazz Program, where Scott taught for over ten years. Playing with Scott on this CD, which all of the songs but one are his compositions, are Jimmy Greene on soprano and tenor saxophones; Rodney Whitaker on acoustic bass; and Gerald Cleaver on drums. We played Mindfield, After the Deluge, and Won't Someone Listen.

Scott finished up the show by playing in the studio - Things Aren't What They Used to Be. It was great to have Scott Warner here in town. He was my jazz piano teacher for two years and I still miss him. I, and many others, look forward to his return.