Prelude
June is Black Music Month, but unfortunately, in too many instances it has become mainly Black pop or hip-hop month. This nation’s rich legacy of jazz and blues not only too often gets overlooked or devalued in contemporary circles, but happens far too much during celebrations like this. I am certainly a big fan of many music styles, but it is sad to see so little attention paid to anything other than the handful of acts who happen to get their songs aired on commercial radio.

The broad scope of Black music in America has always been much wider than that, and it is a shame people all over the world understand and acknowledge the diversity, versatility of and links between the numerous styles of music made by Blacks, yet far too few folks in this country, even many who consider themselves knowledgeable and passionate advocates for Black history and culture, continue to overlook all idioms except a tiny sliver of what is deemed popular.

BlackMusicMonth

Much of that fault rests on the shoulders of those who control the music industry, especially radio. The playlists at commercial corporate radio, which is still where a large portion of the listening audience goes to hear anything, have never been smaller or more rigid. While there are clearly alternatives like satellite and Internet radio, the digital divide (which not only still exists, but may get worse in the coming months if the Trump controlled FCC is successful in overturning the recent moves toward more digital access that the Obama FCC was advocating) keeps a good portion of the potential audience from hearing a host of great artists not only in jazz and blues, but gospel, contemporary R&B, and all types of international sounds from reggae and Afrobeat to Latin, plus other genres from Asia, Africa, Latin and Central America, and the Caribbean.

Add the continuing cutbacks at newspapers and magazines in coverage of anything except the most notable, constantly heard pop acts. As someone who worked in daily newspapers for 19 years and saw first hand how losses in advertising were affecting coverage decisions, I don’t expect much these days from mainstream publications regarding jazz and blues. There are a handful of big city outlets who can or will intersperse jazz and blues coverage within the framework of the usual spate of stories about Alternative Rock, Pop and Hip-Hop. But it would be nice to see more inclusion coverage approaches within the alternative press, as well as in publications and on websites run by people of color.

The disappearance of jazz and blues from broadcast radio doesn’t help either. But unfortunately, much of this cannot be remedied. Mainstream papers, for the most part, aren’t hiring writers knowledgeable about or in many cases even aware there are plenty of great contemporary jazz and blues acts, that there have been new albums released, and all coverage doesn’t have to be relegated to an occasional historical piece on John Coltrane or Muddy Waters.

My fervent, if probably overly optimistic, hope is one day when I see Black Music Month articles, I’ll see jazz and blues acts cited next to the inevitable rapper and urban vocalists/groups. I also hope whenever the new Black Music Museum opens in Nashville, it reflects the full spectrum of Black musical achievement and legacy rather than the microscopic segment the mainstream tends to acknowledge.

Side 1 – Greg Pogue interview

GregPogueMany people know Greg Pogue as an avid and award-winning sports broadcaster and columnist going way back. He currently is co-host of the Greg Pogue and Big Joe show on WNSR-560AM and 94.9FM from 9-11 am CDT (10-12 noon EDT) weekday mornings. In addition, he is the voice of Tennessee State University football and basketball.

However, Greg has also been an avid jazz and blues fan for as long as he’s been a sports enthusiast. He currently hosts the weekly show “Nashville Jazz” on Acme Radio Live.com Sundays from 6-8 pm CDT (7-9 pm EDT). The program features a guest from the Nashville jazz community who also brings along some of their favorite selections. They interact with Greg in a free-wheeling exchange (I’ve been a guest so I can personally verify it is spontaneous and engaging) about songs, artist memories, and whatever other subjects may pop up during the program.

Not only is the show available online at acmeradiolive.com, it can also be heard on tunein.com. In addition, all shows are archived, and the program is gaining new fans each week not only nationally, but internationally. Greg and I conducted this interview online a few weeks ago.

When did you first get interested in jazz?
“First off, thanks to you, Ron, for this opportunity. Please know how much I admire what you have meant to the Nashville jazz and blues scene through your works.

“I really feel it was a confluence of so many things I was exposed to as a child while listening to my transistor box radio in my room at night. My parents knew what I was doing, and they didn’t seem to mind I was curious about the world outside of Bowling Green, Ky. It was clear-channel radio with nighttime signals blasting from seemingly everywhere. Many a late night I would listen to legendary DJ John R. play R&B and soul music on Nashville’s WLAC 1510. I couldn’t get enough and needed to know about every artist.”

“Earlier that night and later, it might be the Grand Ole Opry on WSM 650, long before country pop became crap. I could hear Johnny Cash or Loretta Lynn in one ear and Muddy Waters or B.B. King in the other and really get it. What was coming out of Memphis on Stax Records was life changing. And there was WLS 890 out of Chicago keeping me up to date with all things popular, mostly good at the time.”

“A clear-channel station out of New Orleans introduced me to that historic jazz scene. Louis Armstrong was it! Made me buy a trumpet. I even played solo, “When the Saints Go Marching In” in church. The natural curiosity and enjoyment of many music genres as a youth allowed me to embrace nearly all kinds of music, and jazz blew me away later on as the deeper I got into it because the search for knowledge and understanding never seems to end. ”

Who were the artists that got you really hooked on the music?
“When I really got into jazz was the 1970s, when rock and jazz “fused” for the better or not. I was a little too young to experience firsthand Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” and contemporaries and anything prior, so as a teenager and early adult, Jeff Beck’s work with Jan Hammer was an eye opener. Return to Forever had the all-star lineup akin to Art Blakey and & the Jazz Messengers and ditto for  The Crusaders. Weather Report knocked it out of the park. Herbie & The Headhunters, oh yeah! But I needed to know more. Where did this originate? What’s this all about? Who are these artists?”

“The more I learned, the more I needed to know. I also really began to dig Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, which led to Ella Fitzgerald to Billie Holiday to Bill Evans to Charlie Parker to Dave Brubeck to Miles Davis to Count Basie, well, you know where I was headed. I was heading down that rabbit hole called jazz. I hope in my next life that I come back as a young and healthy Chet Baker with the world in front of him. Or maybe I’m one of the Rat Pack, just singing the night way with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra backing, sipping Jack Daniel’s Whiskey with Ol’ Blue Eyes and smoking cigarettes with adoring women on every arm. Dean Martin was the man! I could have lived just fine in the ‘50s. ”

In your time here in Nashville, how do you assess the jazz scene now from when you first arrived?
“Having been a longtime sports writer and editor for the Nashville Banner, The Daily News Journal and Fox Sports Tennessee, a sports talk radio show host in Nashville for 25 years, including a morning show for 13, being the Voice of TSU athletics and everything else I have been into, I leaned upon my best friend – Korlin “The Coach” Harrison — to keep me up with the jazz scene and what I needed to see and hear because he was so constant on the local scene as one of its most avid supporters. ”

“When we started Nashville Jazz on AcmeRadioLive.com, much of what we played of local jazz artists came from his library. But I do know now that if I want to go hear jazz any night and many days of the week, I have multiple choices of incredible talent. The universities have retained world-class talents as teachers, many of them their own alums, and are producing so much incredible talent. And jazz artists are coming here from everywhere to play and live. So right now, I think the Nashville jazz scene is the most under-rated and underappreciated in the country. Not many cities, if any, can line up the depth of world-class talent in jazz than Nashville. Now, it’s time to get the players heard and paid.”

“The loss of WMOT 89.5 FM at MTSU as a jazz station really hurt. It was one of the best jazz stations in the country and a local beacon for a long time, and those in power all the way to the top like school president Sidney McPhee – a professed jazz fan — should be ashamed. A friend, I’ve told him that on several occasions. From the time I arrived in Nashville in the mid-1980s and even after the station foolishly decided to go schizo by being classical weekdays and jazz at nights and weekends, I learned so much about the jazz scene both currently and historically and supported the station financially. At least now being “Americana” in full format, which I understand, the station has a true identity, even at the expense of losing a nationally respected and locally revered jazz outlet.”

“Kudos to Acme Feed & Seed and AcmeRadioLive.com owner Tom Morales, director of entertainment and radio Carl Gatti and program director Justin Hammel for affording me a unique opportunity with Nashville Jazz. We’ll hit our 75th show in June. That will be 150 hours of recordings committed to Nashville Jazz artists and the scene here. As many local jazz artists know, Acme Feed & Seed has booked many local jazz artists and will continue to do so. I understand the show has listeners all over North America and the world in something like nearly 40 countries. Nashville Jazz on AcmeRadioLive.com is a key component of the station’s philosophy to take the real Nashville to the world and bring the world to the real Nashville. ”

“In essence, I consider myself a huge fan of and cheerleader for Nashville Jazz.”

Did you do jazz broadcasting prior to the ACME radio show?AcmeJazz
“During the late 1970s, I was music director at a progressive rock station in Bowling Green. We were the first “rock” station in the country to play New Grass Revival. I witnessed firsthand buddies Sam Bush and John Cowan – and later, eventual multi-Grammy winner Bela Fleck with his work with the Flecktones and Chick Corea – produce some of the most innovative music ever, a fusion of bluegrass and jazz and blues and reggae and rock and whatever else you wanna throw in the pot at its genesis. It was everybody in the pool, and it blew people away in its originality. Whatever it was, it blazed a trail and impacted me immensely. My radio station would play anything good, like a set that might range from Return to Forever to John Prine to The Who to Louis Armstrong to Bob Marley to George Jones to Leon Russell to Talking Heads to Jean-Luc Ponty to Yes to Joan Armatrading to Jerry Jeff Walker. It was the best radio station I ever listened to! ”

“During that time, I was approached by a friend who ran a local records store who wanted to do a Sunday night jazz show. I told him I knew just enough about jazz to be dangerous, but he said, “I’m the expert. You’re the announcer.” It didn’t hurt that his girlfriend at the time while she was attending WKU was Sue Mingus, daughter of Charles. Well, from there, it was game on. I targeted the late 1940s to the mid-1960s and dove head first into not only the music of that time, but the culture, especially in NYC and the West Coast. That was the golden era of jazz, and I still can’t get enough of it and try to learn something new about it every day.”

What are some areas that you haven’t yet covered on the show that you plan to in the near future?
“As previously mentioned, what’s happening at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music jazz program as well as at MTSU, Belmont, Lipscomb and TSU is world class. Just look at the teaching rosters at each school and search what they have done professionally. Go find another city other than Boston and its Berklee School of Music with that much teaching talent. They play around here, too, so go find them for your own good. Plus, I’m just scratching the surface in getting every notable Nashville jazz act as a guest on the show. ”

Who are some artists in the Nashville area that deserve wider recognition?
“This is tough because there are so many. You always have to start with what founders and directors Roger Spencer and Lori Mechem have done with the Nashville Jazz Workshop. They have opened the door for so many. Last fall, The Beegie Adair Trio became the first Nashville jazz trio to play Carnegie Hall to a sell-out crowd. What Jeff Coffin is doing with his Ear Up Records provides wonderful platforms for not only his great works but also for incredible talent like bassist Jonathan Wires and saxophonists Evan Cobb and David Williford. Oh, yeah, Jeff is saxophonist for The Dave Matthews Band, which shines a light on the Nashville jazz scene even more. ”

“On the verge of breaking through nationally are world-class singer Dara Tucker and the band Dynamo, which has a Snarky Puppy feel with amazing players out of Belmont. They both have new works out. Vocalist Stephanie Adlington, a vocal teacher at Belmont, has the credentials and chops to be a star, plus the business savvy to boot. Rahsaan and Roland Barber are amazing talents with a great understanding of the business and are in many ways the faces of Nashville Jazz. Groovy dude Rod McGaha is among the best trumpet players in the country. Pianists & vocalists Chris Walters and Jody Nardone are favorites. Bassist Jerry Navarro is Mingus cool and so talented. I gotta find more time to go hear wonderful vocalist Jason Eskridge. I wish Kandace Springs, whose debut album on Blue Note Records is amazing, would come out to play more in her hometown, but I know she’s busy with dad Scat’s health scare. Everybody loves Scat Springs.”

Who are some national artists that are your favorites today?
“Anything coming from The Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis and crew you know will be excellent. Kirk Whalum has many local and Memphis connections and is so fine. Gregory Porter blew me away when I saw him last summer at TPAC. Snarky Puppy is so much fun. Norman Brown is really good and makes “smooth” Jazz have an edge. Esperanza Spalding is so creative and talented. Her two gigs the past few years at 3rd & Lindsley were memorable. On the agenda to get into more is Cecile McLorin Savant. ”

What is your all time favorite album?
“Not fair! I really dig so many different things, so here are my top dozen plus one or a few in no certain order – Greatest Hits by Bob Marley & The Wailers, Mingus Ah Um by Charles Mingus, Quadrophenia by The Who, Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis, After The Goldrush by Neil Young, Those Southern Knights by The Crusaders, Late for The Sky by Jackson Browne, Joan Armatrading’s self-titled third album whose song “Love & Affection” is my second-favorite song ever, Aqualung by Jethro Tull, Blue Train by John Coltrane, Watchin’ TV with the Radio On by Barefoot Jerry with my favorite song ever “If There Were Only Time for Love,” Abraxas by Santana, A New Life by The Marshall Tucker Band, My Funny Valentine by Chet Baker, Barren County by New Grass Revival, John Prine’s debut album and Greatest Hits by Roy Orbison. I left out nearly 100 or so more … LOL!!”

What persons have you not seen would you really like to see come to Nashville?
“I really wish there was more of a jazz artists rotation between the top talent in Nashville and other cities of the region, including New Orleans, Austin, Atlanta, Memphis, St. Louis, Charlotte, Indianapolis, etc. How cool would it be to have our best jazz artists turn fans in those cities onto the Nashville jazz scene and then have theirs do the same in return with appearances in each city at like-minded venues? The answer is really cool.”

Side 2 – David Brent Johnson interview

David Brent Johnson is an incredibly talented jazz broadcaster who has two must hear shows broadcast from Indiana University’s WFIU (wfiu.org). One is titled “Between You and Me” that airs Monday through Thursdays from 2:30-4 pm CDT (3:30-5 pm EDT). The other is “Night Lights,” a syndicated show whose regular time is Thursday nights from 8-9 pm CDT (9-10 pm EDT). Both are theme-oriented programs, which spotlight jazz artists and events in a way that seamlessly blends informed commentary, insightful historical and social observations, and personal recollections. It’s detailed and comprehensive, but not so laden with facts and stats as to become overly inside baseball.

David and I have communicated online frequently, but sadly we weren’t able to meet during my time in Indiana (incidentally he’s also a longtime Celtics fan, something else we have in common). But we’ve stayed in touch, and I remain a faithful listener of both his shows. We did this online a few weeks ago.

What got you initially interested in jazz?
“My grandmother was an excellent ragtime pianist, and my best friend in high school was really into jazz, but I didn’t get into it myself until I was in my early 20s. I had picked up a few jazz albums here and there like “KIND OF BLUE” and “GIANT STEPS”, and I’d gone through a bit of a Billie Holiday phase, but I had this sort of light-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment one afternoon in a Bloomington coffeehouse when Count Basie was playing on the overhead speakers.”

“It was a late-1930s Decca recording with Jimmy Rushing singing (as I later learned) and something about the way the ensemble sounded behind him and his vocal inflections sparked some sort of jazz-satori moment in my brain. I went across the street to a record store and bought a compilation of Basie’s late-1930s Decca sides; not long after that I got hooked bad on Charlie Parker. Then Duke Ellington, then Bill Evans, then a thousand and more since.”

Who were the first artists that you enjoyed?
“Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell… can’t go wrong with any of that crowd!”

How did you get into jazz broadcasting?
“Very unexpectedly. I was working in a record store and in the first flush of my full-on jazz conversion, and I struck up friendships with pretty much anybody who came in to peruse the jazz section on a regular basis. One day I was at a nearby health-food co-op, picking up lunch on my break when I ran into one of those regulars, and we started talking about jazz as we always did. At one point he said, “Have you ever thought about doing a radio show?” I said that I hadn’t, but he planted the notion in my brain.”

“A couple of years later a friend of mine and I started hosting a vintage-American-music program that included jazz at our local, volunteer-operated community radio station, where you can host a show with no prior radio experience whatsoever. I did that for several years, and then a fellow volunteer who had moved on to a paying job at our local NPR station lobbied her boss to hire me as a backup for that station’s regular jazz host, who needed to go on family leave for a few weeks. I’m still at that station (WFIU) today!”

You do both an afternoon show and a special nighttime program. How do you decide on what would work best for daytime vs. nighttime?
“The afternoon show is looser, probably more mainstream in its approach. There’s still a framework for it, though: on Mondays I feature 21st-century jazz and new releases, on Tuesdays it’s classic jazz (anything from the 20th century now qualifies in my opinion, chronologically speaking), on Wednesdays it’s live recordings and call-in or email jazz requests, and on Thursdays it’s Indiana jazz, past and present — including artists such as Wes Montgomery, Freddie Hubbard, J.J. Johnson, and David Baker for the past, as well as songs by Hoagy Carmichael and Cole Porter –but there’s a lot of excellent modern-day talent in Indiana too, especially because of the IU Jacobs School of Music jazz studies program.

“Night Lights” has to follow a more set-in-stone time format, and I spend a lot of time doing research, writing the script, and trying to figure out how to best sequence the program, whereas the daily afternoon show usually requires two to three hours of preparation and often ends up changing as I’m broadcasting. “Night Lights” also always has a strong narrative theme, and the music nearly always comes from the 1945-1990 era (an era paralleling both Miles Davis’ career on record and the Cold War, as I’m always fond of pointing out).”

How long has “Night Lights” been going? At one time WBGO was airing it. Are there other stations now that air it via PBS?
“I started the program in 2004, and other stations started picking it up within the next couple of years. WDCB in Chicago carries it on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m.–that’s probably the most prominent station it’s on right now, but it’s carried by close to 20 others as well, some of them NPR member stations, some of them community or otherwise locally-connected stations.”

In your view, how important is being on free/terrestrial radio for the future of jazz?
“I think it continues to be important, though it’s clearly no longer the only source for people to listen, what with Spotify, Pandora, and other streaming services. Maybe it’s my own selfish professional interest speaking, but I think listeners still like a human host to connect with, particularly if you can be warm, engaging, accessible, and knowledgeable without being too pedantic or excessively talkative about it. There are still a lot of people listening via terrestrial radio, too! But it’s a definitely a much more varied audio landscape these days, in terms of how your listeners get their content. Jazz DJs also really need to be plugged into social media via Facebook, Twitter, and whatever similar communication vehicles come along.”

Were there any jazz broadcasters that influenced you?
“Joe Bourne and Dick Bishop, two of my predecessors here at WFIU, have been big influences. Both very knowledgeable, very warm on-air presences, created a real sense of friendship with the listener… Willis Conover, historically speaking. He was such an incredible and effective advocate for jazz.”

Have you ever or do you now play an instrument?
“I’ve played guitar off and on since I was a kid. I own an alto saxophone but have never learned to play it. There’s a lot of piano-playing talent in my family, and I still think perhaps I should give that a go at some point during my time on the planet.”

Who are your current favorites?
“Gregory Porter is my favorite contemporary singer (I’m surely not alone there!). I’ve been pretty crazy about vibraphonist Warren Wolf for the past several years, too. Not to sound like a rah-rah guy (though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a booster for jazz!), but there’s a lot of excellent jazz talent out there these days. Saxophonist JD Allen, guitarist Mary Halvorson, singer Jose James, composer and bandleader Maria Schneider are some others that immediately come to mind.”

Who would you consider all time favorites and what are you top albums?
“Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. Especially Duke Ellington, whom I seem to end up listening to at some point nearly every day. Also Bud Powell and Bill Evans–Powell’s Jazz Giant and Genius Of Bud Powell and Evans’ Portrait In Jazz were seminal jazz albums for me early on. Beyond the obvious Kind Of Blue and A Love Supreme, some favorite Miles albums are ESP, Miles Smiles and The Jack Johnson Sessions, while Coltrane’s Sound, Complete Live At The Village Vanguard 1961, and Crescent are some of my favorite Coltrane albums. Charles Mingus’ Mingus Ah Um is a landmark album that I love. It’s hard to narrow it down to just a few! ”

What are some future shows coming up that would interest the audience?
“I’m working on a show about Miles Davis’ final recordings, done for Warner Brothers in the mid-to-late 1980s, that I think will be of interest–also a show about the Five Spot, a legendary jazz club in New York City where Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane played regularly in 1957. I interviewed the author Dan Wakefield, who used to hang out there, for that one. There’s a show coming up about soul jazz from the late 1940s to the early 1970s with Bob Porter, the longtime producer and radio host who just wrote a book about the topic. Also a program about the great bassist Jaco Pastorius.”

Indiana has a rich jazz heritage. Do you think that heritage/legacy is being continued today?
“I do, primarily through the outstanding jazz-studies program that David Baker built up at Indiana University, as well as through the jazz community in Indianapolis. My notion of Indiana jazz is that it’s been a national road for nearly 100 years now–first through the Gennett label in Richmond in the 1920s and 30s, which recorded so many significant artists early in their careers, then through Indiana Avenue, the “main stem” in Indianapolis’ African-American community throughout the mid-20th century (Wes Montgomery, J.J. Johnson, Freddie Hubbard, David Baker, and Slide Hampton are some of the artists who emerged from that scene), and then, via David Baker, IU’s jazz-studies program from the mid-1960s on.”

How is press coverage there for jazz artists?
“It’s decent–the Indianapolis Star has an excellent music writer, Jay Harvey, who has often covered jazz events.”

What are the most important venues statewide, and does IU still present a lot of jazz artists in concert?
“The Jazz Kitchen and the Chatterbox in Indianapolis are very important–the Jazz Kitchen in particular often brings through national artists of note. Somebody like Wynton Marsalis or Wayne Shorter will probably end up playing Clowes Hall at Butler, though. IU presents its students and faculty quite frequently in concert, often with no charge for attendance. Bear’s Place in Bloomington is home to an important weekly series called Jazz Fables, which features many of the best locally-based musicians and occasionally someone like Dave Douglas or Dave Liebman, and there’s a collective called Btown Jazz that’s very active in organizing and promoting jazz events around town. I’m not as familiar with venues in other areas in the state, like the upper northwest (the “Region,” as its inhabitants all it), Evansville down southwest, or other places that might have jazz. Elkhart, which is to the manufacturer of saxophones what Detroit is to automobiles, hosts a pretty significant jazz festival.”

How do you see the future for jazz, both locally and nationally?
“Locally I think jazz will always be strong here, in large part because of IU’s jazz-studies program, and the widespread appreciation for the music around these parts–plus a sense of the music’s historical significance in this state. Nationally I’m more optimistic than a lot of other folks might be; I think our sense of what jazz is will continue to evolve and broaden, and that young people will continue to discover and enjoy it. (Witness the popularity of Kamasi Washington, for example.)”

“Even though jazz might not enjoy the kind of commercial popularity that those of us who love it would like to see, I think there’s a firmly-established sense now that it’s a really important and interesting music, with all kinds of significant connections to American culture and history, and creatively fascinating as well. I mean, jazz runs the gamut from Ellington and Basie to Weather Report and the Art Ensemble of Chicago and so much more. I still listen to indie-rock and other forms of music that I love, but man, jazz is just the endless odyssey of discovery for me. Hopefully, I can encourage others to start or carry on that odyssey as well.”

Side 3 – Jazz Plus Reviews

BillCunliffe

Bill Cunliffe
“BACHanalia”
(Metre)

While the concept of melding or mixing classical and jazz elements isn’t a new idea, it has seldom been done with the verve and creativity displayed in pianist Bill Cunliffe’s newest release “BACHanalia.” As radical and challenging musically as Gunther Schuller’s hybrid sound known as “Third Stream” sounded over 60 years ago, the main knock on it was that in too many instances it lacked swing and excitement due to the emphasis on idiomatic interaction. That is far from the case with Cunliffe, who’s able to be both meticulous in his interpretations and inventive in incorporating sizable doses of rhythmic ingenuity and flair into his interpretations and arrangements of compositions from Bach and Prokofiev as well as Cole Porter and his own vibrant original “Afluencia.”

Cunliffe also varies the settings between duos, trios and quintets, while utilizing exciting vocalist Denise Donatelli for a supreme version of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” that concludes the session, and some wordless improvisations to the Bach composition “Sleepers Wake” that opens it. Trumpeter Terrell Stafford is dynamic throughout the trio version of “Blame It On My Youth,” while guitarist Larry Koose, drummer Joe La Barbera, trombonist Bob McChesney, tenor saxophonist Jeff Ellwood (“The Three-Cornered Hat”) or Rob Lockhart (“I’ve Got You Under My Skin”) also provide sterling contributions. Dave Brubeck was another pianist who would work in this territory, but Bill Cunliffe’s approach is quite distinctive and enjoyable, and may even lead the curious novice to do more exploring in the world of classical music as well as jazz.

Jaco PastoriusJacoPastorius_Truth+Liberty+Soul
“Truth, Liberty & Soul – Live In NYC: The Complete 1982 NPR Jazz Alive! Recording”
(Resonance)

Anyone who remembers the wonderful (and sadly defunct) NPR show “Jazz Alive!” can recall a host of superb, memorable broadcasts. None was more explosive or musically impressive than a 1982 program that featured electric bass wizard Jaco Pastorius and the World of Mouth Big Band. That day there was a most special guest on board, the rollicking harmonica ace (and recently deceased) harmonica giant Toots Thielemans. That show was magical from beginning to end, featuring Pastorius and company from NYC’s Avery Fisher Hall.

It is now available on yet another gem from Resonance Records, complete with the incredible bonus of 40 previously unheard minutes that didn’t make it onto the original NPR broadcast, but other amenities like an exhaustive 100 page booklet and numerous interviews that include everyone from Metallica bassist (and Pastorius devotee) Robert Trujillo to writer/critic Bill Milkowski (probably the most knowledgeable Pastorius observer in the critical fraternity) as well as several musicians and his son John Pastorius, plus recording engineer Paul Blakemore and the great producer/advocate Zev Feldman.

Musically, there’s nothing to criticize as the 14 selections are uniformly magnificent. They show Pastorius’ range as a player, with the band doing everything from bop to blues, soul jazz to reggae. Session highlights include a nearly 11 minute medley version of “Giant Steps,” an amazing duo workout between Pastorius and drummer Peter Erskine that extends nearly 15 minutes, and several other compositions that feature a host of magnificent players doing an inspired mix of musical elements and references.

The two-CD (three vinyl LPs) also boast exceptional sound quality as Blakemore has remixed the session from its original 24-track tape reels. This ranks as an extraordinary release that captures both the majesty of Pastorius and this marvelous band, as well as the remarkable broadcast experience of hearing this live on radio. It is the work of greats and presented with the care and integrity that the music deserves, but certainly doesn’t always get these days.