Wednesday, January 30, 2008

January 27, 2008 Trowers & Tymas Together
"Robert Trowers is the MAN - by far the prettiest trombone sound a human can produce ....and his improve skills are sick. He plays so well it sounds as if he's playing a pre-written solo....its amazing as hell. And as for Baron Tymas, he's the coolest kat...really nice guy with a big heart...and man can he play....any style." These were the words of jazz sax player Ron Baxter, in describing the musical abilities of Durham-based trombone player, composer, performer, and teacher, Robert Trowers, and jazz guitar player, composer, and teacher, Baron Tymas. Ron knows well the talents of Robert Trowers and Baron Tymas - they were his teachers in the Jazz Studies Program at NC Central University in Durham, North Carolina. Robert was a fulltime jazz performer, based out of NYC for many years, before deciding to head South to teach at Central. He continues to compose and perform in the area and on occasion travels up North to perform with other jazz giants.

Trowers was influenced by a diversity of trombonists - from Jimmy Cleveland to J.J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Claude Jones and Jimmy Harrison. Trowers played with the Basie Orchestra for six years. He also played with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, Illinois Jacquet's big band, and the Sam Wooding Orchestra. He's played with pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and alto saxist Jesse Davis. On Trowers' CD, Synopsis, he is joined by Basie piano player, Carl 'Ace' Carter; bassist Marcus McLaurine; and drummer Lewis Nash. Many of the songs on this CD are Trowers' compositions.

On Trowers' CD, Point of View, he is joined by other trombonist - Slide Hampton, Al Grey, and Fred Wesley. They all had great praise for the talents of Trowers, as both a trombonist and a composer. Slide Hampton said, "I've known Robert for a long time, but when we finally got together for this, I was shocked that he played so well....Being there with him was a real pleasure and a real opportunity." Other musicians include Richard Wyands on piano, Marcus McLaurine on bass, and drummer Gene Jackson.

Joining Robert Trowers in the WCOM radio studio was Baron Tymas. Also on the jazz faculty at NC Central University, Baron has his own CD, Blues for the Tribe. Several of the songs on the CD are Baron's compositions.

Robert and Baron played music live in the studio for most of my show. It was a wonderful evening.

Playlist of Songs Played Live in the WCOM Studio -
  • Silver Fox, a Robert Trowers' composition
  • Loves Own, a Trowers' composition
  • Groove - a Trowers' composition
  • Synopsis - a Trowers' composition
Playlist of Recorded Songs
  • Baron Tymas; Blues for the Tribe CD; Saxsmo Goes to Woodstock
  • Duke Ellington's Orchestra; The World of Duke Ellington (with Tyree Glenn on trombone); Sultry Serenade
  • Robert Trowers; Synopsis CD; Good Bait
  • Wilbur Sweatman; Original Jazz Band LP; Slide Kelly Slide
  • Robert Trowers & Slide Hampton; Point of View CD; Minority
  • Jimmy Cleveland; Jimmy Cleveland Introducing Jimmy Cleveland LP; Bone Brother
Every Sunday night from 7:00 - 9:00 EST on WCOM radio out of Carrboro, NC, I feature the sounds and compositions of NC jazz musicians of our present and past. Please join me in the Carrboro area at 103.5 fm and on the internet at and click on the button in the upper righthand corner for web-broadcast. You can call in comments or requests at 919 929-9601.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

January 6, 2008 Lou is Coming
Lou Donaldson, the great alto sax player, hails from Badin, North Carolina. He's coming to play at Duke University on Jan. 19th as part of the Duke Performance Series. He'll be playing with Dr. Lonnie Smith's Trio. Besides Lou Donaldson, they will be joined by David 'Fathead' Newman, and Houston Person. It promises to be quite an evening - don't miss!

The Saturday, Jan. 19th performance kicks off a series, called Soul Power - From Gospel to the Godfather with lots of stars coming to town.

Since I only recently came to realize that Lou Donaldson was from Badin, NC, I decided to feature him this evening. I interspersed his music with some of the great musicians he played with over his lifetime. He played with the best.

  • Nina Simone (b. Tryon, NC); Anthology CD; I Wish I Knew How It Felt to be Free
  • Jimmy Smith & Lou Donaldson (Badin, NC); Jimmy Smith - The Very Best CD; All Day Long
  • Lou Donaldson (b. Badin, NC); The Natural Soul CD; Funky Mama
  • Thelonious Monk & Lou Donaldson & Max Roach (b. New Land, NC); The Best of Thelonius Monk CD; Skippy
  • Lou Donaldson; Blues Walk CD; What Will I Tell My Heart
  • Lou Donaldson; Natural Soul CD; Nice and Greasy
  • Lou Donaldson; Lush Life CD; Star Dust
  • Lou Donaldson; The Natural Soul CD; People Will Say We're in Love
  • Lou Donaldson; Lush Life CD; It Might As Well Be Spring
  • Lou Donaldson; Blues Walk CD; Move
  • Frankie Alexander (lives Durham, NC); Mad About the Words CD; Teach Me Tonight
  • Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong: Ella & Louis Again CD; Willow Weep for Me
  • Jimmy Scott & Grady Tate on drums (b. Durham, NC); All the Way CD; Someone to Watch Over Me
  • Ernestine Anderson; Hello Like Before CD; Send in the Clowns
  • Nina Simone (b. Tryon, NC); Jazz Masters 17 CD; Wild is the Wind
  • Nina Simone; Sugar in My Bowl CD; I Shall Be Released
  • Billy Taylor (b. Greenville, NC); Music Keeps Us Young CD; I Wish I Knew How it Felt To Be Free
My son, Will Okun, who teaches on the westside of Chicago is continuing to post blogs for the NY Times for Nicholas Kristof, while he is on a book leave. Will's latest posts were on his students making personal and global New Year's resolutions and another post on how his students are very limited in what they can and will read. To see Will's photography of his students and life on the westside of Chicago, go to On his website, you can see his best photographs from the last ten years.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

December 30, 2007 Good-bye Oscar the Great
On December 22nd, Oscar Peterson died at his home in Ontario, Canada, just outside of Toronto. He was 82 years old. He remained musically active late in his life, despite a stroke he suffered in 1993, which effected his playing abilities. In the eyes of many, he was one of the greatest jazz piano players ever; he was certainly loved by many. He was a successful and prolific performer and recorder. For several years he produced four to five albums a year. He toured throughout Canada, the USA, Europe and Japan. He performed with other jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge, Nat King Cole, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. He played for fourteen years with one of the finest jazz bass players, Ray Brown, joined by Herb Ellis on guitar. Oscar toured during the 4os and 50s with Jazz at the Philharmonic concert series.

Duke Ellington called Oscar Peterson the 'maharajah of the keyboard' and Basie said, "Oscar Peterson plays the best ivory box I've ever heard." He was known for his incredible sense of swing and technical proficiency and was honored with eight Grammy awards. He built on the legacy of Art Tatum, Nat King Cole and Teddy Wilson. There are some wonderful videos of Oscar performing posted on YouTube.

Oscar Peterson was born in St. Antoine district of Montreal. His parents were of West Indian and Caribbean descent. Although his family was poor, he was encouraged to study music and began on the trumpet and then switched to piano, when his lungs were weakened by tuberculosis.

Oscar Peterson is best described as a summational artist - a genius at pulling on and synthesizing the sounds of the jazz giants before him. Others would take those sounds and build something totally new and innovative. (most of this information was taken from the NY Times 12.25.07 article by Richard Severo)

I dedicated my show to Oscar Peterson and to the artists he performed with over his prolific jazz lifetime. I was joined in the studio by Roco, who is the DJ of WCOM's popular Saturday morning show, The Music Hall. Renee also came by to enjoy the music and to help. Both are great music enthusiasts. Each Sunday night, I feature North Carolina jazz musicians on my radio show from 7:00 - 9:00 EST. The station can be heard in the Carrboro/Chapel Hill area at 103.5 fm on the dial and anywhere in the world by going to our webstreaming broadcast off of our website at You can call in to chat or make a request at 919 929-9601.

Nina Simone (b. Tryon, NC); Anthology CD; I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free
Oscar Peterson; Oscar Peterson & Friends CD; Tea for Two
Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie (h.s. Laurenburg, NC); Diz n Bird at Carnegie Hall CD; A Night in Tunisia
Oscar Peterson; OP & Friends CD; A Wonderful Guy
Count Basie; This Time for Basie CD; One Mint Julip
Oscar Peterson & Anita O'Day; OP & Friends CD; You Turned the Tables on Me
Dizzy Gillespie; Bird Songs CD; Orni Thology with Bobby McFarron
Oscar Peterson; OP & Friends CD; Scrapple From the Apple
Stan Getz & Gilberto; Getz/Gilberto CD; The Girl from Ipanema
Oscar Peterson; OP & Friends CD; A Foggy Day
Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington CD; Mood Indigo
Oscar Peterson; OP & Friends CD; A Foggy Day
Ella Fitzgerald & Oscar Peterson; Pure Ella CD; Oh Lady, Be Good
Nat King Cole Trio; Best of the Nat King Cole Trio; It's Only a Paper Moon
Billy Taylor (b. Greenville, NC); Music Keeps Us Young CD; I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free

I thank Roco and Rene for helping me with the show tonight. I'm always glad to have the company.

Enjoy 50 years of history in images and music in three minutes time.