Max Roach – I’m Talkin’ Jazz – Sun 15 Feb

Fred Witt | February 9th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

15_02_05_KCSM_MRoachDrummer Max Roach was a veteran performer of the 20th century, and high on the nation’s list of best jazz drummers.

Born into a musical home in North Carolina & moved to New York in his pre-school years, Max was drumming in bands by age 10.  He played next to many famous musicians including Gillespie, Parker, Davis, Monk, Mingus, Eckstine, and Little. Max passed away in 2007.

Max was extremely accomplished, and for sheer drum work try his track here. He is credited with innovation in keeping the beat with the cymbal and working the drum beats freely around this. You do have to look carefully for some examples, and you could try some ’40’s work.  In a signature of past times, a lot of the ’60’s work came out as part of protest like these tracks with his wife Abbey Lincoln.  On another side, some work with people like Clifford Brown comes out smooth – super-smooth.

Listen Sunday morning with Dick Conte at 8 am, Feb 15 for the interview on drummer Max Roach on KCSM.

San Jose Jazz Winter Fest – 27 Feb – 8 Mar

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

WF-Brand-626x350-metroKCSM is a again a proud sponsor of San Jose Jazz Winter Fest. San Jose Jazz describes Winter Fest as

Feb 27-March 8, 2015, it’s Summer Fest’s “cool” counterpart. It’s a “lab” where we feature some of jazz’s most contemporary forms. San Jose Jazz Winter Fest, presented by Metro, continues our steadfast commitment to present young artists pushing the boundaries of jazz, R&B and hip-hop alongside the legends of jazz.

Some of the featured artists are Grammy award winner Diane Schurr, Kris Bowers, Marc Cary Focus Trio, Mads Tolling Quartet with Tierney Sutton and many more. These year there will also be several dance parties taking place at the San Pedro Square Market. You can see who will be playing and sample their music at the Winter Fest web site at San Jose Jazz Winter Fest.

Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting a few of the artists here at the KCSM blog.

Linda Tillery – I’m Talkin’ Jazz 8 Feb

Ron Lee | February 1st, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

LindaTilleryLinda Tillery has been on the SF music scene since the 1960s. She was the drummer and vocalist for the group The Loading Zone. She moved on and in the 1990s she formed the Cultural Heritage Choir which is her current group. Linda standa out as the lead vocalist on their African and Gospel works. From the Cultural Heritage Choir web site:

Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir is a Grammy © nominated, percussion driven, vocal ensemble whose mission is to preserve and share the rich musical traditions of African American roots music. Their music is rooted in the deep south and strongly connected to their West African and Caribbean origins. This mission is pursued through academic research, review of historical recordings, documents and video footage and most importantly – live performance. Performing together since 1992, the Cultural Heritage Choir creates dynamic rhythms and sparkling energy on stage. Their vocals are lush and vibrant, their lyrics are poignant and uplifting. Through stick, song, dance and story, the CHC transports the audience to a place in time when the roots of American popular music, were just being sewn by the “involuntary immigrants” from Africa’s western regions. Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, have become world renowned for their breathtaking performances and commitment to the authenticity of African-American roots music. The groups first collaboration with veteran performers Taj Mahal and Eric Bibb entitled “Shakin’ A Tailfeather”, was nominated for a Grammy (1997) and their second collaborative effort “Hippity Hop”, received a Parents Choice Award (2000). The group’s next recording “Say Yo’ Business” (2003), was nominated for a California Music Award. The CHC’s most recent titles are “Still We Sing, Still We Rise” (2010) and “A Retrospective” (2012) Currently, the Cultural Heritage Choir is: Linda Tillery, Rhonda Benin, Tamala Brown, Elouise Burrell, Bryan Dyer and Simon Monserrat.

Mel Sharp and David Ramirez will be speaking with Linda on I’m Talkin’ Jazz on 8 Feb.

Jason Moran – I’m Talkin’ Jazz – 1 Feb

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

Come listen to Jason Moran chat about what’s going on and his music. Most recently this last May Jason along with Meshell Ndegeocello performed the Fats Waller Dance Party in Manhattan at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse. Previously he brought back the music of Thelonius Monk in his piece In My Mind: Monk at Townhall 1959. This work is part of the reason why he was awarded the prestigious McArthur Fellowship  in 2010.

From his web site bio:

Since his formidable emergence on the music scene in the late 90s, jazz pianist Jason Moran has proven more than his brilliance as a performer. The Blue Note Records recording artist has established himself as a risk-taker and innovator of new directions for jazz as a whole.

In almost every category that matters – improvisation, composition, group concept, repertoire, technique and experimentation – Moran, and his group The Bandwagon – with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits – have challenged the status quo, and earned the reputation as “the future of jazz.”

Moran’s debut recording as a leader, Soundtrack to Human Motion, was released in 1999 to great critical praise. Ben Ratliff of The New York Times named it the best album of the year and the Jazz Journalists Association awarded it “Best Debut Recording.” The following year, Facing Left, established The Bandwagon trio with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, and prompted JazzTimes Magazine to declare the album “an instant classic.” Moran augmented the trio for his third Blue Note release, Black Stars, adding avant-garde icon Sam Rivers, who plays saxophone, flute and piano on the recording. Gary Giddins of the Village Voice exclaimed, “Black Stars is possibly a Blue Note benchmark, definitely one of 2000’s outstanding discs.”

Currently he is touring with the Charles Lloyd Quartet through Europe. Check out his concert dates and his music at his web site


Carmen McRae Tribute – 31 Jan – KCSM Pledge

Fred Witt | January 27th, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

carmen-mcraeSinger Carmen McRae is remembered in this KCSM Pledge special. Carmen was born in Harlem, spent long periods in New York and Chicago, and performed internationally. Her early upbringing wasn’t easy.   She was an original talent and acquired fame in the volatile jazz years of 1940 to 1960, mixing in the art with the likes of Ellington, Basie, Shearing, Gillespie, and Armstrong, to mention more famous ones.

By her own word Carmen’s most formative artist was Billie Holiday.  They met in 1937, Carmen in teens, just at the start of performing and Billie in 20’s, and by then into 8 years of show business.  Billie was an even more original singer, changing music for the nation’s jazz listeners, and Carmen took off from Billie’s style.  Billie was so inspiring that Carmen almost always included something of Billie’s work in a performance.

Carmen’s signature “behind-the-beat” singing style and ironic interpretations of lyrics made her  influential.  When you listen to her tracks you hear her straight-ahead American singing, despite her Costa Rican/ Jamaican parentage.

Listen Saturday afternoon 2-6 pm, Jan 31 for the Carmen McRae Tribute with Mel & Dick on KCSM.

KCSM Pledge Special Programming – now playing

Ron Lee | January 24th, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

71097_193349651122_1526328_nOur Winter pledge is underway so come join us! Sonny and Mel are playing Billie Holiday this morning. Listed below is what is happening for the next week.




Billie Holliday Centenary

SATURDAY, 1/24, 10AM-2PM with Sonny & Mel
THURSDAY, 1/29, 2-6PM with Chuy & Mel


Feeling Good: The Nina Simone Story

SUNDAY, 1/25, 10AM-2PM with Keith & Mel
FRIDAY, 1/30 2-6pm with Chuy & Mel
Join Nina’s daughter, Simone and others who knew her well, for “Feeling Good…The NinaSimone Story”, like you’ve never heard it before, on Sunday, January 25thfrom 10AM to 2PM, and on Friday, January 30th from 2-6PM.


Milt Jackson, John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet

SATURDAY, 1/31, 10AM-2PM, with Sonny & Mel
For over 40 years, The Modern Jazz Quartet mesmerized audiences and musicians alike, with their unique blend of Jazz and Classical music. Join Sonny and Mel as we pay tribute to the great Milt Jackson, John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet, on Saturday, January 31st, from 10AM to 2PM.

Billie Holiday – KCSM Pledge 24 Jan 10-2 and 29 Jan 2-6

Ron Lee | January 24th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

792b0f5b8bd96bb75b1a3775aabbe669April 7 2015 is the 100 year birthday of Elenora Fagan or Billie Holiday. Her story has been told through many biographies and movies. I first learned about Billie Holiday through Diana Ross’s movie “Lady Sings the Blues”. I didn’t even know about her when I heard Credence Clearwater Revival do “God Bless the Child”. Once I discovered here I loved her music.

Lady Day got her start in the 1930s in Harlem. Lester Young nicknamed her Lady Day. She would go on to perform and record through her passing in 1959.You can find out more at her web site

On Saturday, 1/24, 10AM-2PM with Sonny & Mel and Thursday, 1/29, 2-6PM with Chuy & Mel we will be honoring the centenary of Lady Day.

Listen to her last album.


The Nina Simone Story – 25 & 30 Jan – KCSM Pledge

Fred Witt | January 21st, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1950:  Photo of Nina Simone  Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesJazz & blues singer Nina Simone of North Carolina started at the classical piano, singing to keep her education going. If you sift through her songs over the early years look for influences like Johan Bach in her piano work! With a great voice she became one of our heartfelt blues & jazz singers. The civil protests of the 60’s loomed and entered her work (but did not completely take it over – the ballads of everyman’s heart are still there).

Tune in for the Nina Simone story Sunday midday, 10 am – 2 pm 1/25 with Keith & Mel and Friday afternoon, 2-6 pm 1/30 Chuy & Mel on KCSM.

Carmen McRae and Abbey Lincoln – 22 Jan – KCSM Pledge

Fred Witt | January 21st, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

15_01_19_Carmen_McRaeSongbirds Carmen and Abbey are remembered in this KCSM Pledge special.  Both are veterans of the 20th century and rose to places on the lists of jazz’s greatest singers.  Both brought great voices to our songs in the American jazz scene, and their early years are unique.  (Regrettably, little video is circulating for the early years.)

Carmen was born in Harlem, spent long periods in New York and Chicago, and performed internationally. Her co-performers read like an on-running marquee of towering jazz figures including Armstrong, Basie, Ellington, Brubeck, Vaughn, Gillespie, Shearing, and many more.  Her signature “behind-the-beat” singing style and ironic interpretations of lyrics made her influential.  When you listen to her tracks you hear her straight-ahead American singing, despite her Costa Rican/ Jamaican parentage.

15_01_19_ALincolnAbbey was born in Chicago and performed widely, including long stretches in New York.  Abbey was fully into her career coming into the civil rights decade of the 60’s and put the activism into many of her works.  In her tracks you still hear her Chicago origins, and may hear the “rights” influence.

Listen Thursday afternoon 2-6 pm, Jan 22 for the Carmen & Abbey special with Chuy & Mel on KCSM.

3 Divas and a Tony! Bette Middler, Annie Lennox, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett – KCSM Pledge!

Ron Lee | January 21st, 2015 | Leave a Comment »

What a collection of talent is represented here. If we look at each artist

Bette Middle – She got her start in pop music in the early 1970s with her hit “Booglie Woogie Bugle Boy”. She progressed into careers in stage and film winning awards for “The Rose” and “Fiddler on the Roof”. Recently in 2003 and 2005 she released tribute albums to Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee.

Annie Lennox – Annie first achieved success with the Eurythmics with songs like “Sweet Dreams (are made of this)” and “Here Comes the Rain Again”. She went on to a highly successful solo career along with her charity work. She was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II in 2010 with the award of the Officer of the British Empire for her charity work. Her most recent album “Nostalia” has songs like “I Put a Spell on You”.

Lady Gaga – Lady Gaga is an American pop superstar and performance artist. Starting in 2008 with her hit debut album “Fame” Lady Gaga has produced a series of top recordings and tours. Recently she released an album of jazz standards with Tony Bennet and appeared on Tony’s second Duets album.

Tony Bennet – Tony, at 88, is the grand master of vocals and jazz. Tony got started in 1950 at Columbia record. He maintained a successful career as an American pop singer all till today. During the 1980s he record with pianist Bill Evans. His current success started in 1994 with his MTV Unplugged performance whose accompanying album went platinum. This led to recording like his Duets series where he sings with top contemporary artists. His latest album is a collaboration with Lady Gaga release in 2014.

The commonality for all these artists is a love of the jazz standards. I remember being very surprised when I first heard Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga sing “The Lady is a Tramp” on tony’s Duerts II recording. This was not the Lady Gaga I was used to hearing. It is a lot of fun to hear these artists perform well know standards and each one giving those songs their own unique spin.

Tune in and listen to –

“Looking for a great way to spend a Friday afternoon? Join Chuy and Mel for “3 Divas & A Tony”, our musical tip of the hat to Bette Midler, Annie Lenox, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, on Friday, January 23rdfrom 2-6PM.  “3 Divas & a Tony”, sure to put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step!”