Jazz On The Web: Jazz From Lincoln Center
One of my favorite places is New York City. I write this, not in reference to the recent tragedies that have befallen it, but because it has been a significant factor in my education as a man who moves about the world with a sense of adventure. Its lofty place in my esteem has a lot to do with its polyrhythms: that is to say, the rhythm of the city is the fraternal twin of its polyglot culture. For anyone who values the great banquet of music that mere living affords us, that is no small thing.
Many years ago, it was my habit to hitchhike to New York for frequent weekend adventures that took me from the environs of Boston, where I lived. Saturday mornings would find me at Cambridge's Western Avenue on-ramp to the Massachusetts Turnpike, thumb out, pockets stoked with just enough cash to ward off charges of vagrancy -- in the New England of 30 years ago, the laws concerning vagrancy remained rather colonial -- and it never failed that I was headed for Manhattan within 15 minutes.
There were many like-minded Bostonians who shared my enthusiasm for the Big Apple, and my three hours in the passenger seat (assuming a single ride would get me there, as it usually did) generally added to my store of tales of interesting characters I have known. One of my kindly chauffeurs was a self-described "diesel dyke" who was headed to her hometown of Queens to help organize a boycott of a local day-care center for an infraction of sexual politics, the character of which I have long since forgotten. Another was an apparent lonesome traveler on amphetamines who plied me with marijuana all the way to Westport, Connecticut (which we made in record time), where he ordered me out of his decrepit station wagon for the crime of refusing to share the wheel because I was too high to drive. A third was a middle-aged female devotee of kundalini yoga who invited me to sample carnal delights with an eastern orientation. I declined, but she guided me to some interesting clubs on the Lower East Side and said, "Check out Lincoln Center. I think Duke Ellington is playing there tonight."
Well, Duke was there, but I wasn't, due to a paucity of funds and a failure of having booked a seat six months previously. However, I left my usual haunts in lower Manhattan and wandered up to the Upper West Side, to Lincoln Center, home of Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall. If memory serves, it was in the neighborhood of West 65th Street and I remember gasping at the modern architecture the first time I saw it. The destroyed World Trade Center towers were new then, John Lennon was getting ready to move into the Dakota on West 72nd Street at Central Park West, and a dive named Gordo's in Greenwich Village still served beer for $1.25 a pitcher.
Whenever I get a few minutes to myself, I like to spend some time on the Internet by investigating venerable musical programs by paying a visit to their websites. Lincoln Center's is such a one.
For several years now, I have been listening to National Public Radio's "Jazz From Lincoln Center" program, hosted by Ed Bradley, a CBS newsman who indulges his musicianly side in this gig. It's one that seems a labor of love, for Bradley knows his subject and sets a the material in a context that nudges the neophyte and delights the devotee.
Located at www.jazzradio.org, the site is an ever-changing repository of delights. In addition to a featured program, available in audio, there is an archive that, though it changes frequently due to bandwidth considerations, has something for anyone who cares to hear intelligent, informed performances of the music that thrills us all.
For example, the featured program, as I write, is "Groovin' with Ray Brown and Monty Alexander," and it is a program well worth hearing.
But consider these treasures from the current archive: "Betty Carter: The Music Never Stops"; "Fred Hersch: Solo Piano"; "Speak No Evil: The Music Of Wayne Shorter"; "The Good Old Good Ones"; "Joe Henderson Big Band With Freddie Hubbard"; "Con Alma: Afro-Cuban Big Bands"; "Marcus Roberts Trio"; "Singing With The Duke"; "Ten More Hands For Duke"; and "Uptown Blues."
The most noticeable characteristic of "Jazz From Lincoln Center" is its respect for the jazz tradition. Its very venue is a tribute to the respect for all the arts of which, as I am fond of saying, music is the greatest.
So give "Jazz From Lincoln Center" a regular visit. It always has something to teach and the programs are long on music.
It's happening. It's relevant. It's New York. It's jazz.