Billy Strayhorn Centennial – KCSM Special – Sat 19 Sep, 10 am to 6 pm

Fred Witt | September 9th, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

15_09_07_KCSM_BStrayhornShort, sweet and prolific!

Such was the life of composer, arranger, pianist Billy Strayhorn.

A child prodigy, whose genius was recognized by Duke Ellington when Strayhorn was only 23 years old, Billy would go on to become Duke’s collaborator and alter ego.

Billy worked so thoroughly with Duke that should you pick any of the Duke Ellington numbers you like, performed by him before ~ 1967  it is likely Billy was the arranger.   Just as an example, here is “The A Train.”  Billy had been raised by a musical grandmother and took off early, even composing and doing shows  in high school.  Billy was Duke’s composer and arranger for a quarter of a century.

Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Billy Strayhorn with Sonny Buxton, Chuy Varela and Melanie Berzon on Friday, September 11th, from 2 to 6PM, and Saturday, September 19th, from 10AM to 6PM, right here on KCSM, The Bay Area’s Jazz Station.

John Coltrane – KCSM Special – 16 Sept 2-6pm

Ron Lee | September 9th, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

71m4eYTbWJL._SX425_Celebrate the legacy of John Coltrane on Wednesday, September 16th from 2 to 6pm with Chuy Varela and Melanie Berzon. Born Sept. 23rd 1926, it’s an early birthday Trane-Fest showcasing his superb virtuosity and spirituality. Earlier we celebrated the 50th anniversary of his album “A Love Supreme”. Coltranes jazz career started after he left the Navy. His first band was with Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. He was part of the NY music scene and joined the Miles Davis Quintet in 1958. Their he would develop his “sheets of sound” technique and establish himself as a premier tenor player. He went on to release his albums “My Favorite Things”, “Giant Steps” and “A Love Supreme”.

Don’t miss it on Wednesday, September 16th from 2-6pm. Trane Lives at Jazz 91!

Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway – KCSM Special – Sunday 13 Sept 10-2

Ron Lee | September 9th, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway had a lot in common. They helped redefine Soul, used music as agents for social change and influenced countless others. Both men were part of the rich R&B soul scene in the 60s and 70s. Marvin Gaye recorded for the Motown label and Donny Hathaway was on the Atco label.  They recorded social commentary hits like What’s Going On and The Ghetto which spoke of the black experience fo their times.

On Sunday, September 13th, from 10AM to 2PM, join Keith Hines and Melanie Berzon for an in depth look at the musical lives and early deaths of Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway, right here, on KCSM, the Bay Area’s Jazz Station.


Marvin Gaye – KCSM Special – Tues 15 Sept 2-6pm

Ron Lee | September 8th, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

Marvin Gaye helped redefine Soul, used music as agents for social change and influenced countless others. He started as a session player for Motown and went on to become a celebrated artist. His “What’s Going On” album was the first Motown album to be independently produced.

On Tuesday, September 15th, from 2-6PM, join Chuy Varela and Harry Duncan for an in depth look at the musical life and early death of Marvin Gaye, right here, on KCSM, the Bay Area’s Jazz Station.


Sonny Rollins Saxophone – KCSM Special – Wed Sep 9 from 2p – 6pm

Fred Witt | September 7th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 03:  Sonny Rollins performs on stage during Barcelona Jazz Festival at L'Auditori on November 3, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jordi Vidal/Redferns) *** Local Caption *** Sonny Rollins

BARCELONA, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 03: Sonny Rollins performs on stage during Barcelona Jazz Festival at L’Auditori on November 3, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jordi Vidal/Redferns) *** Local Caption *** Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins has been called the Saxophone Colossus because of the gladiator tone he gets on his instrument.  Sonny is a senior veteran of our jazz world, and called by some people one of the most influential, due to his innovations.

Sonny grew up in a musical family from Harlem, NY, NY and was playing from age 7 or 8.  When he moved into professional performing his early style was bebop, and later were other styles.

Sonny is named as “brought a new sound to his craft.”    Notably, several times in his career he emerged with some new musical style or method.  An example is his introduction of using the sax as a rhythm piece rather than melody.  Try this sample here (I’m Old Fashion).  You should keep your eyes open when listening because a piece from one time can sound really different from one of another time.

Sonny has been recording for over half a century, although he did more than half of his releases in the ’50’s and ’60’s.  One problem of comparing his work over time is that so much of it in circulation is in these two decades.  Here are a handful of pieces, mostly from the 50’s and 60’s: (unnamed, at St. Thomas), The Bridge (’62), Tenor Madness (’56), and Bird (’56).

On Wednesday, September 9th, from 2 to 6 PM, Chuy and Mel will honor Tenor Titan Sonny Rollins with an afternoon chronicling his career and contributions to Jazz, right here on KCSM, The Bay Area’s Jazz Station.

Frank Sinatra Centenary – KCSM Special – Sun 20 Sept 8:30am – 2pm

Ron Lee | September 5th, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

sinatra_platinum2015 marks the centenary of the birth of one of the most important popular music figures of the 20th century…

Francis Albert Sinatra!

For 6 decades, Old Blue Eyes thrilled us with his unique phrasing, his impeccable intonation and his ability to interpret a song. He began his jazz career with the big bands of Tommy Dorsey and Harry James in the early 1940s. As a solo artist he signed with Columbia Records and released several top recording in the late 40s and 50s. He then went on to become an actor in several Hollywood films. After his first retirement he came back and took up residence in Las Vegas and toured nationally. Frank was the hottest recording artist until the Eliv, Beatles, and Michael Jackson beat his records.

Make an Early Bird donation between August 26 and September 8 (11:59pm) and you will pick up Frank Sinatra’s “The Platinum Collection. ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ left us in 1998 after a stellar, near six-decade career, but his legend lives on through his music. Many of his signature songs have been collected here in a compilation that includes songs from most of his 1961-62 albums, augmenting them with earlier American Songbook classics. Enjoy 50 cuts on 3 cool white vinyl LP’s.

Frank Sinatra’s story is an interesting and complex one and Keith and Mel will be telling it on Sunday, September 20th from 8:30AM to 2PM  right here on KCSM, The Bay Area’s Jazz Station.

Buddy Guy – KCSM Special – Fri 11 Sept 8pm-midnight

Ron Lee | September 4th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Revised_BG_Photo-193x138If you have been listening to KCSM you have been hearing Kathleen Lawton talk about Buddy Guy:

You can’t cheat on the blues. It’s either heart wrenching – or it’s not blues. And guitar wizard George “Buddy” Guy, has been pouring his heart out musically for over fifty years now – and can still leave a crowd gasping for air and panting for more with the “gentle menace” in his voice and his way of bending new curves into those blue notes.

On Friday, September 11th, from 8PM ‘til midnight, Kathleen Lawton and Harry Duncan will be celebrating this titan of the blues, voted one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone, honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and generally considered to be the greatest living blues guitarist. Honor the man who played with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and Koko Taylor, on Friday, September 11th, at 8 for a night of “total manic abandon” with the wild sounds of the incredible Buddy Guy.

Let’s listen and see what Kathleen is talking about.

That is some guitar work in that video. I never knew someone could play the electric guitar with one hand. Buddy Guy was born in Lousiana and eventually worked his way to Chicago where he joined the blues scene there with Muddy Waters. He is friends and a major influence on rock guitar players like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. If you want to hear more go find the album “Buddy Guy and Junior Wells Play the Blues”. It is considered one of the finest electric blues recording ever.

So on Fri Sept 11 at 8pm tune in the KCSM and hear what Kathleen and Harry have to say about Buddy Guy. This is going to be great Crazy About the Blues Nights.

Win an Instant 91 LP vinyl collection from the KCSM/KJAZ libary! Pledge now for the Early Bird special

Ron Lee | August 31st, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

jazzhdr_pledge_earlybirdYou can win an instant jazz vinyl collection selected from the backup collection of vinyl LPs from KCSM and KJAZ. A lucky listener will be winning this list of LPs and a turntable as part of the KCSM Fall Pledge Drive. KCSM host Jesse “Chuy” Varela personally selected this collection of LPs from the backup collection of the KCSM library. Here is your chance to own a selection of top vinyl LPs and a turntable. Take a look at the list below and you will see artists like Tony Bennet, Dave Brubeck, Jamie Cullum, Toots Thielman, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Stanley Jordan, Abbey Lincoln and the list goes on and on. Chuy says they span from the late ’70s through the 80s-90s. For those of you who don’t know Chuy is a vinyl collector and looks after the KCSM library. Just imagine being able to sit back and plays these LPs at home. It would be awesome!

jazzannoucer_varelaSo make your Early Bird Pledge now, get Frank Sinatra The Platinum Collection in vinyl and you will be automatically entered into the raffle. Find out how on our web site at KCSM Fall Pledge Drive Early Bird Special

 KCSM/KJAZ Vinyl Collection

Read the rest of this entry »

San Jose Jazz Summer Fest – great music! 7-9 Aug 2015

Ron Lee | August 23rd, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

11535790_10152825539752657_2104729044132531579_nA few weeks ago I got to hear at the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest. Summer Fest covers all forms of jazz, blues, R&B, funk, New Orleans, zydeco and more. As I wandered from stage to stage I was able to hear Jessica Johnson, Chihiro Yamanaka, Etienne Charles, Eddie Palmieri, John Pizzarelli, Bria Skonberg, Kim Nally, Kenny Washington, and many others.

I wanted to take a moment to talk about why go to  jazz festivals and how they differ from concerts. I go to a festival is to discover new music and new artists. As I went through the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest lineup there were a few artists I knew but there were many I didn’t know. Since I was free to roam all the stages this let me sample and find new artists that were new to me. Even for the artists I recognized the jazz festival gave me a chance to catch up with them and hear what they are playing now. The other thing that happened were all the chats I had with the other attendees. Lots of times we were swapping tips, comments and recommendations on who we just saw, who we are seeing next and who we should go see tomorrow. I got to meet a lot of jazz fans. If you have not been to a jazz festival you owe it to yourself to come next time!

Chihiro Yamanaka was playing on the Umpqua Bank stage on South 1st St. This stage was indoors at a theatre stage that sat around 200 people and it was full. Chihiro is a very talented and highly proficient pianist. She was playing with her trio Yoshi Waki on bass and Eric Garland on drums. She opened with her own composition and played several original compositions from her recordings. I think she had the most fun with her version of Beethoven’s Fur Elise. It was a great way to start the afternoon.

KimKennyNext up was Kim Nally and Kenny Washington.  The group was rounded out by local pianist, Tammy Hall, Marcus Shelby on base and Kent Bryson on drums. Kim opened with a acoustic performance of Summertime accompanied by just Tammy Hall. She and Kenny did “Didn’t Know What Time It Was” and “Teach Me Tonight” which were great. Kim, Kenny and the rest of the musicians were have a lot of fun on stage.

Greg Bridges and Etiernne CharlesEtienne Charles and his Creole Soul group delivered on Caribbean influenced jazz. He did a great version of Bob Marley’s Turn Your Lights Down Low. A lot of Eienne’s music drew from the different rhythms and style of the isalnds in the Caribbean.

My favorite artist on Sunday was Charenee Wade at the Cafe Stritch. She performed pieces from her current recording of the music and poetry of Gil Scott-Heron. She had a great group with her, Lakecia Benjamin on sax, Brandon McCune on piano, Paul Beaudry on bass and Alvester Garnett on drums. Appropriately her opening was Offering from the CD. She also did Superman. Lakecia Benjamin, the sax player, was hot. She did several stellar solos and she leads her own group.

I really appreciated the ability to go from stage to stage. I caught a couple of songs with John Pizzarelli and Bria Skonberg at the California theatre. Roamed in and out of the blues stage and got to hear a lot of music that I would not normally hear. Jazz festivals are just great for finding new music!

R&B Jessica Johnson – Appeared Live in South Bay at SJZ Festival – 7 Aug

Fred Witt | August 8th, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

15_08_08_KCSM_JJohnsonOur own San Jose bright young singer Jessica Johnson appeared last night at the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest.  She put on an R&B show with a 7-piece band in the Gorden Biersch courtyard venue to more than 100 people.  Jessica had that piano man backing her up get down and keep busy.  It wasn’t long before she had the crowd on their feet dancing to jazz standards and favorites.

Jessica has a fine clear voice, lovely all the way up through the high notes.  (Unusually, an early part of her career was singing the national anthem at sporting events, rolling into being the anthem singer for a great number of leading teams !)

Jessica is currently working from San Jose.  Her latest release, “Love Is Real” is up on iTunes today.  Jessica has been a regular in our town, including at San Pedro Square.

Click here for a sample, from one of her performances.